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New Volt and Prius better than predecessors
<p><strong>New Volt and Prius better than predecessors.</strong></p>

Volt, Prius, Sonata Triple Green Threat

The Volt and Prius represent big leaps forward in fuel economy (unsurprisingly), performance and reduction of noise, vibration and harshness, while the Sonata PHEV overshoots its specs like no PHEV we can recall.

It finally happened. Somehow, after all my years of whining about cars that were good for the environment, I convinced my fellow 10 Best Engines judges that green is where it’s at.

I got them to agree to three green cars on this year’s list! Three!!

But seriously, I didn’t have to do too much arm-twisting to get the triple threat of the ’16 Chevrolet Volt, ’16 Hyundai Sonata PHEV and ’16 Toyota Prius propulsion systems on our 2016 list.

The extended-range electric vehicle, plug-in hybrid electric vehicle and plain ol’ hybrid showcase how, through different degrees of electrification, there can be a green vehicle for every taste and temperament.

The next generations of the Volt and Prius represent big leaps forward in fuel economy (unsurprisingly), performance and reduction of noise, vibration and harshness vs. their previous generations, which we loved and awarded in 2011 and 2010, respectively.

However, after experiencing the ’16 models, we can now see how far the Prius and Volt have come.

The ’10 Prius noticeably transitioned between electric and gas power. Our ’16 Prius Two Eco model? Not so much, says Editor Jim Irwin, who also praises the ability to “dart around traffic, annoying other drivers with confidence” thanks to a more robust Power mode.

In the ’11 Volt, the engine was loud and rumbly. Now it operates inconspicuously, says Editor Bob Gritzinger, a current first-gen Volt owner (as is yours truly) who also loves the electric motor’s “gobs of torque.”

And the never-before-seen Sonata PHEV knocks our socks off by besting its specs like no other plug-in we can recall. When we handed the keys back to the fleet company, we were getting 80 mpg (2.9 L/100 km) in a vehicle estimated to achieve 40 mpg (5.9 L/100 km) in combined driving. Crazy, but possible, thanks to regular stationary charging and the ability to recharge while driving via a special mode.

Editorial Director Dave Zoia also likes the unobtrusiveness of the Sonata PHEV’s 2.0L engine, calling it a “pretty smooth operator.”

Folks, this is the area where the innovation is happening in the industry. And we can tell you, if automakers keep putting out propulsion systems like these, there is no reason to fear stricter fuel-economy and emissions rules.

Yes, the Volt and Sonata PHEV have a higher MSRP than similarly sized internal-combustion-engine-only models. But with government incentives and alluring leases from manufacturers, both cars are comfortably within reach of average Joes and Janes.

And the Prius Two Eco, at $24,700 to start, is the steal of the century.

Green is good.

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