A plucky Prius? A mod Mercedes hybrid? A dynamic diesel from Jaguar? Yes, it really is possible to find fuel-sipping green rides that mix in plenty of pizzazz.
Mpg: 54 city/50 highway
Zero-60 mph: 10.5 seconds
From butt-ugly to beautiful, the Toyota Prius has blossomed since it first arrived in the United States in 2001. Sure, some drivers may opt for a more conventional look, but kudos to Toyota for pushing the design envelope once again.
Today’s fourth-generation model, with its severe karate chops to the sheet metal, was introduced in 2016 and combines origami-like styling with high-tech glitz, especially those elongated, Z-shaped tail lights that look like bolts of lightning.
This year, the higher-end models get an 11.6-inch touchscreen infotainment system, similar to what you find in a Volvo and other more expensive rides. While this is no Lamborghini, acceleration is peppy around town, just not so much on the highway.
And the Prius is quiet, with very supportive seats and despite all the plastic, a nice interior finish. Lots of high-tech gizmos are all standard, including keyless entry, push-button start, rearview camera, lane-keeping assist and a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection. A big plus: the Prius has exceptional resale value.
MERCEDES C 350e
Mpg: 45 city/61 highway
Zero-60 mph: 5.8 seconds
For a step up in price and panache, there’s the Mercedes C 350e plug-in hybrid. It looks like your typical cocky C Class, with a premium cabin full of high-quality aluminum, natural-grain wood and subtle soft-edge plastics.
And it drives just as well, too, with frisky acceleration, grabby brakes and impressive maneuvering, especially when battling traffic or navigating nasty roads. This isn’t a high-performance AMG model, but it sure tries to act like one. The heart of this hybrid is the gutsy four-cylinder turbo paired with an efficient electric motor.
An air-spring suspension works nicely with the various drive settings: eco, comfort, sport, sport+ and even an individual mode that can be customized. Plenty of amenities, of course, including a power trunk lid, ambient lighting, smartphone integration, panoramic sunroof, head-up display, heated/ventilated seats, and an air purification system with fragrance enhancer.
JAGUAR F-PACE DIESEL
Mpg: 26 city/33 highway
Zero-60 mph: 8.2 seconds
It’s called the Jaguar F-Pace 20d R-Sport. A clunky name, to be sure, but this is one very sophisticated ride.
Inspired by the sleek and sexy F-Type sedan, the F-Pace crossover has received rave reviews since it debuted last year. This is the diesel version — the 20d — with almost 20 percent better fuel mileage than the traditional gas model. The engine is so quiet, smooth and clean, you don’t even notice this is a diesel.
Standard features include power liftgate, automatic wipers, heated windshield, heated steering wheel, emergency communications system and a panoramic sunroof that seems to stretch forever. The R-Sport trim level adds 20-inch wheels, special bumpers, foglights and exceptional, form-fitting front seats.
But it’s the handling and pricing that are the real stars here. Few crossovers can corner and glide through traffic as well as the F-Pace, which is priced less than similar offerings from BMW, Land Rover and other trés chic automakers.