Last year’s Green Car of the Year award was a cynic’s dream come true. Bestowing the annual eco-accolades upon the ginormous, environmentally challenged Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid could persuade even the most optimistic tree hugger to hang up his Birkenstocks for good. (Full disclosure: I do not now own, nor have I ever owned, a pair of Birkenstocks.) The current roster includes nominees that are both more credible and more diverse than the last. The 2007 event provided the choice of a hybrid, a hybrid, a hybrid, a hybrid or a hybrid. Now we have a couple of oil burners (BMW 335d, VW Jetta TDi) and something that could fit inside a duffel bag (smart fortwo), as well as a pair of the customary gas-electric hybrids (Ford Fusion Hybrid, Saturn Vue 2). Drum roll, please: congratulations go to the VW Jetta TDi.
This new-for-America 2.0 liter model has finally discovered something that the red, white and blue version of the car has long been missing: power. Ponies have been bumped upward to 140hp. According to VW, you get 236 lb ft of torque, an MSRP starting at $21,990, and a low carbon footprint. According to the EPA, you can expect fuel economy of 30 city/ 41 highway if you choose a six-speed manual; shave 1 mpg from both figures if you’d rather remain shiftless.