Once again, Green Car Reports is deciding which of this year’s new vehicles are cleanest, greenest, and best for treading lightly when thinking about the whole ownership experience.
One of these will be named Green Car Reports Best Car To Buy 2024 on Jan. 3.
To kick off the competition, we’ll explore each of these models in greater depth over the next couple of weeks—and if you have a favorite, or a favorite argument about why one of them should win, please do discuss in the comments below.
2024 Hyundai Ioniq 6
The Ioniq 6 makes a daring design statement, and whether you see its teardrop tail and low-wedge front end as Porsche-like or an homage to Art Deco streamliners, it’s refreshing in an EV cohort containing too many look-alikes. That standout aero work and the 800-volt Hyundai E-GMP platform it’s built on help achieve great efficiency and range ratings beating those of the Tesla Model 3. It’s also the first of Hyundai’s EVs to enable full-vehicle over-the-air updates. Hyundai is following Tesla on the price cuts too, with a 2024 Ioniq 6 starting price well under $40,000.
2024 Kia EV9
A big, comfortable electric SUV with three rows? Bidirectional charging for home backup and powering stuff? Over-the-air updates? Fast roadside charging at 10-80% in less than 25 minutes? Turns out, the Kia EV9 delivers all of those things without a luxury price tag, even with the $56,395 base model. Opt for the bigger battery pack (up to 304 EPA miles) and dual-motor all-wheel drive, and you get a quicker all-weather machine with some level of off-road ability, that altogether could work well as the primary family vehicle.
2023 Nissan Ariya e-4orce
The Ariya arrived late last year, and while that front-wheel-drive model is smooth and refined, it’s the Ariya’s e-4orce all-wheel drive system that puts this model’s best foot forward. With chassis smarts derived from Nissan’s GT-R supercar, adapted to the reaction times of electric motors, e-4orce has a way of using its dual-motor system not just for traction but to neutralize choppy backroad ride quality and help the SUV through corners. The Ariya looks great from the outside, but it’s even better inside, with a super-quiet cabin, a warm ambience, and an upscale look and feel that extends from the interface to what elbows rub up against. There hasn’t been a more cohesive Nissan, electric or not, in a generation.
2023 Toyota Prius Prime
In its two previous generations, the plug-in Prius hasn’t managed to deliver enough electric miles to cover the average American daily commute of about 32 miles. But this time around, the numbers are more attractive for those who simply do not want to burn gasoline on the weekdays. The 2024 Prius Prime delivers up to 45 electric miles, according to the EPA, and it returns an EPA-rated 52 mpg combined after using that charge—something to compare versus the 2016 Chevy Volt and its 53-mile, 42-mpg ratings. The Prius also manages to hit that sweet spot for households at a price starting under $34,000—about the same numerical base price that the Chevy Volt got for 2016, but a much better deal adjusted for inflation.
But that’s only part of the story. The latest Prius Prime offers sexier styling, a futuristic design that returns to Prius form, and much-improved performance that breaks the mold for this eco-warrior. Numbers or not, how does it all add up in 2024?
2024 Green Car Report Best Car To Buy testing
How we decide on Green Car Reports’ Best Car To Buy
What’s green and what’s not?
We know that assembling an electric vehicle, making the battery, and sourcing the materials for it adds to the vehicle’s carbon footprint. These impacts are offset versus gasoline models within a few years of the EV’s service life.
Plus, in averting tailpipe emissions, the effects on your community’s health are immediate and positive.
A series of amassed peer-reviewed papers and respected scientific sources agree that in the vast majority of typical use cases, electric vehicles are better for the environment.
Putting PHEVs on ice
Green Car Reports continues to cover various kinds of hybrid and plug-in hybrid technology in vehicles. While it gets complicated, we respect that an all-or-nothing approach isn’t always the best way to electrify the fleet, and for the greater good the next-best option is often better than not opting for a greener pick at all.
Based on pending California requirements, many PHEVs in coming years will keep shifting in two directions. On one side, there will be efficiency-focused PHEVs aimed at sidelining the internal combustion engines by offering more electric miles. There will also be greener-but-not-green options—other high-performance PHEVs that use charge ports essentially in place of big-displacement engines, providing electric miles under modes owners might never use.
2023 Ford Escape Plug-in Hybrid
Cutting out the latter, plug-in hybrids remain an intriguing pick, especially when the charging infrastructure just won’t meet needs for weekend trips but drivers are dedicated to keeping zero-tailpipe-emissions for the commute.
All that said, placing another internal combustion vehicle into service, as a potential emissions source for decades, carries with it a high bar for making our Best Car To Buy shortlist.
Range matters, but efficiency is key
In the past, we limited our list of qualifying EVs to those EPA-rated for at least 125 miles of range. But with a wider deployment of fast-charging—including the federally supported fast-charging network, with chargers every 50 miles—shorter-range EVs with smaller battery packs can be among the greenest picks in some households, too. With familes making second (and third) vehicles fully electric too, who needs all that range in every vehicle?
Yes, we chose the reigning range champion, the Lucid Air, two years ago, but it wouldn’t have made it to the top had it not also been one of the most efficient EVs.
Plugging into the market impact
The Best Car To Buy needs to make a big impact (short- or long-term) on the market. That could be interpreted as going for volume and affordability, making a new segment of the market electric, or setting a new standard for efficiency or technology. It needs to be the best, but as we’ve seen over a baker’s dozen of past Best Car To Buy winners, that can take many different forms.