By Steven Bochenek

The 2014 Canadian Green Car Award (CGCA) winner was announced on Friday, April at the Green Living Show amid the asphalt jungle of Toronto’s Canadian National Exhibition. But you’d be forgiven for not noticing—it’s only their second year.

You’d also be forgiven for not knowing what the award celebrates.

To wit: “vehicles with the greatest potential to minimize the overall impact of automobiles on our environment.” Points were awarded for ecological merits and “mass–market potential.”

That last bit was crucial, and not all judges were in agreement over its interpretation. I know, because I am one of those judges. There were 19 of us, most being members of the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), including your author. Initially we were polled online about which rides we thought should make the shortlist.

Ask 19 car geeks any question, you’ll get at least 38 opinions. CGCA’s steering committee decimated the resultant catalogue to 16 nominees.

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There were five vehicle categories (see subheads below) and each nominee was judged seven ways: overall green appeal; driving experience; green features outside of the drivetrain; corporate environmental sensitivity; perceived quality; overall features for this price; and comfort.

Question: When you’re bestowing environmental garlands, should relative trivialities like ‘comfort’ equal ‘green features’ in importance? Answer: No! Those first three categories were 10 percent each, the other four were worth five percent.

Which totals—50 percent? Yes.

The remainder was determined by objective facts, which judges did not vote on: fuel economy; range; emissions; price; and, interestingly, popularity. Why? To make a difference, a purportedly green car needs mass appeal.

So while you’d love to save the world with, say, your Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid, you’d number among a rarefied few. So, spoiler alert: the Porsche didn’t make it past this long-list, below, broken down by category. Each contender’s summarized with its own ‘green’ story.

The Chevrolet Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel’s NRCan rating is 4.2 L/100km. But it’s no sack-cloth-and-ashes ride. That turbocharged four-banger produces 264 lb-ft of torque.

The Volkswagen Jetta TDI Clean Diesel is highway rated at 4.6 L/100 km, with a range of 1195 km. And popularity? This year, VW estimate more sales of these than all hybrids in Canada combined.

The finalist: The Mazda3 (2.0L AT) offers hybrid-esque fuel efficiency without the premium charge. At AJAC’s 2013 Eco-Run it averaged 5.28 L/100 km, well under its decent NRCan rating of 6.1. Its drag coefficient is just 0.255.

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The Infiniti Q50 Hybrid AWD’s six-cylinder engine and compact battery are matched with a one-motor/two-clutch motor control. The suspension uses numerous aluminum components, lightening the thirst for fuel.

Finalist tied: The Volkswagen Jetta Turbo Hybrid’s a win-win: The tiny 1.4-litre engine is turbocharged for both fuel efficiency and performance. The seats fold better than many other hybrids, reducing the need for an aerodynamically inefficient roof rack.

Finalist tied: The Honda Accord Hybrid Touring’s unique two-motor powertrain is highly efficient. Indeed, its combined ratings of 3.8 L/100 km are comparable to a smaller vehicle class.

The Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid’s regenerative braking recharges the battery. Its clever dual-clutch system efficiently governs both the gasoline engine and electric motor.

The Kia Rondo EX-Luxury’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine is gasoline direct-injected for better efficiency. A choice of drive modes, including ECO, allow for reduced consumption.

The finalist: The Mazda5’s aerodynamics produce a low drag coefficient of 0.3. It’s won NRCan’s ‘Most Fuel Efficient Minivan’ title every year since 2008 (except 2011, when not offered).

The Cadillac ELR’s extended driving range is 480 km. How? Its regenerative driving mode recharges the electric battery by, of all things, paddling! Cool!

The Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid nets up to 135 km/h in pure electric mode (cooler!) for people in a hurry to save the planet.

The finalist: The Ford C-Max Energi also attains highway speeds in electric mode. Gasoline plus electric, its overall range extends beyond 1,200 km.

HeapMedia206828 The Tesla Model S boasts an EPA-certified range of 425 km. Its Supercharger plug-in stations replenish half the battery in about 30 minutes. Imagine the possibilities for travel beyond the city.

The Ford Focus EV’s Ecoguide and SmartGauge features give feedback on your driving in real time (not unique but well executed). So you can learn and continue improving fuel economy.

The Kia Soul EV’s third-generation regenerative braking bags nearly 12 percent of kinetic energy. Some bio-based plastics come from cellulose and sugar cane. Sweet!

The finalist: Twenty percent of the Nissan Leaf SV is made from recycled materials. Engineers cut its charging time by almost half, to around four hours.

Last year, the CGCA’s inaugural, the Ford Fusion Hybrid took the ribbon.

This year’s award was presented by former Toronto mayor and renowned environmentalist David Miller (pictured, above right) to – drum roll please – the Honda Accord Hybrid.

Now, turn off your device and go for a walk in the woods.