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Top 10 2016 Best-Selling High-MPG Cars & Trucks

Record Sales in 2016 Didn’t Translate to Hybrids

Clean Fleet Report occasionally takes a look at how the vehicles we focus on—electric cars, hybrids, plug-in hybrids, clean diesels and high-mpg gasoline cars—are doing in the marketplace. The end of the calendar year is always a good time to take stock. Let’s look back at 2016 and see how they treated our favorite vehicles.  In this case we’ll leave out the pure gas cars since they don’t have similar charts.

  1. Toyota Prius – Still number one, but sliding. Toyota redesigned the Prius this year to give it a little more personality—and even improved the fuel economy, which already stands at the top of non-plug-in cars. The market response has not been overwhelming. Prius sales dropped 13 percent year-over-year and failed to cracked 100,000 units. But Prius sales of 98,863 still dwarf anything else on this list, outselling the entire category of battery electric vehicles. Two Clean Fleet Report staff took a spin in the new Prius and left their opinions here and here.
  2. Ram 1500 EcoDiesel – With Volkswagen out of the diesel picture, a new sales leader has emerged—the Ram pickup. Probably reflecting the market shift to trucks, the Ram outsells what the VW sedans did in their heyday. In 2016 55,209 Rams were sold, down slightly from 2015 (3.2 percent). Word in the industry is that production capacity of the 3.0-liter V6 is the only thing limiting Ram diesel sales. We drove a model recently and were impressed.

    2016 Ford Transit

    Ford Transit buyers are taking the diesel option

  3. Ford Transit – Ford claims the number three spot with the diesel models of its European-based passenger/cargo van. Three engine options are offered, two gas V6s and the five-cylinder inline turbodiesel featured here. The 3.2-liter diesel’s more than holding its own, selling 50,127 units last year. Its sales were a 22 percent boost from 2015. We’ve been in the Transit, but haven’t had a chance to fully test one yet.
  4. Toyota RAV4 Hybrid – The RAV4 Hybrid is a newcomer to this list, confirming three things—Toyota’s continuing expansion of its hybrid offerings, buyers’ shift to crossovers and SUVs and the popularity of Toyota compact crossover. The fact that the RAV4 Hybrid outsold the established Camry Hybrid may be one of the biggest news stories of the year in out part of the market. Toyota moved 45,070 RAV4 Hybrids in 2016. We tested the model recently.
  5. Ford Fusion Hybrid – Ford’s leader in the hybrid market had a good year in 2016, posting a 36 percent sales gain and ending with 33,648 sales. The midsize car, which Ford offers in regular, hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions, is Ford’s best-selling car model. We’ve spent plenty of time in both the hybrid and plug-in hybrid models and understand their popularity.
  6. Tesla Model S – Here’s where this chart gets interesting. This is the high-water mark for all-electric cars to this point. And it is happening with a car that retails for twice what any of the others on the list cost. There’s no question the Model S has made an impression, even while it is not on sale in every state. We’ve ridden in the car, but haven’t had the chance to put the car to a full test. Its owners love them, Consumer Reports and Motor Trend both raved about them, and the company has great plans to continue to expand its model lineup. Model S sales of 29,156 in 2016 were up 16 percent compared to the previous year.
  7. Chevrolet Volt – The second generation Volt has been a big success for GM, boosting sales by 60 percent compared to 2015 to 24,739. We’ve had a chance to spend some time with the new
    2016 Chevrolet Volt

    The Chevy Volt plug-in gets a big boost in 2016

    model and like the upgrade from the previous edition in both looks and performance. We aren’t surprised at the sales jump, but wonder what happens when the all-electric Bolt joins the showroom.

  8. Toyota Camry Hybrid – The best-selling midsize car (actually the best-selling car–#4 again this year outsold only by the top three pickups from Ford, Chevrolet and Ram) dropped 9.5 percent in sales in 2016 from 2015. The Hybrid model dropped more than 27 percent, ending up with 22,227 sales. The sales drop is even harder to take as the car received some solid upgrades this year, as we noted in our road test.
  9. Toyota Prius c – The “baby” Prius, like its Prius siblings, suffered a big drop in sales in 2016, ending up selling only 20,452 units. That’s a drop of 47 percent from last year for the little economy car, probably a clear commentary of the low price of gasoline and a move away from sedans. We tested the c awhile ago.
  10. Hyundai Sonata Hybrid – Hyundai joined this hit parade by selling 18,961 of its hybrid Sonatas. Like the Fusion, the Sonata now comes in three flavors—regular, hybrid and plug-in hybrid—and is edging up in sales, though it had a slight dip in 2016. Unlike the Camry, though the Sonata Hybrid’s drop was on par with the regular gasoline version’s sales drop. We think we know why, this version of the Sonata Hybrid fixes many issues we found in earlier models. We also liked the plug-in hybrid version.

So that’s the Top 10, an eclectic mix of six hybrids, two diesels, one plug-in hybrid and one pure electric model. Also of note is the inclusion of three trucks in the mix. It wasn’t the strongest year for our favorite cars:

  • The biggest category, hybrids, dropped almost 10 percent from last year, ending at just over 347,000 units.
  • The second biggest category, diesels, continued to suffer from the absence of VW, Audi and Porsche from the market, dropping30 percent to just over 137,000 vehicles.
  • Plug-in hybrids were the stars of 2016, boosting sales by 69 percent compared to 2015 and ending up selling more than 72,000 vehicles.
  • Battery electric cars also had a good year, up 18 percent from last year and selling more than 84,000 cars.
  • Besides low gas prices, the increased fuel economy from gas models makes picking an alternative with a different powertrain a more difficult choice. We’re seeing more and more 40 mpg sedans and 30 mpg AWD models that don’t need electrification or diesel engines.
  • In spite of that, more electric, plug-in hybrid, hybrid and diesel models will be hitting the market during the coming years.

Five More Bubbling Under

2016 Nissan Leaf SL,EV, electric car,mpg,fuel efficiency

The Nissan Leaf continues to sell the EV life

Some interesting cars are bubbling right below the Top 10 and could punch into the top rung next year. The next five in sales are the Ford Fusion Energi, a plug-in hybrid, the Tesla Model X, a battery-electric SUV, the hybrid Toyota Prius V, the all-electric Nissan Leaf (which we took an additional look at) and the hybrid Ford C-Max. We’ve linked to our tests of these models, which are all worth a look.

Other new models to look out for in 2017 are the previously mentioned Chevrolet Bolt EV and the Toyota Prius Prime plug-in hybrid. We’ll have more news on them when they hit the market. The Chevrolet Cruze diesel also should return to the market with a new edition.

As always, we tip a hat to Hybridcars.com and Baum and Associates for digging into the numbers, which are not always readily available from the manufacturers.

Related Stories You Might Enjoy:

Road Test: 2016 Toyota Prius

Road Test: 2016 Toyota Prius (Second Look)

Road Test: 2016 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel

Road Test: 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Road Test: 2014 Ford Fusion Energi

Road Test: 2016 Chevrolet Volt

Road Test: 2016 Chevrolet Volt (Second Look)

Road Test: 2016 Toyota Camry Hybrid

Road Test: 2014 Toyota Prius c

Road Test: 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid


Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class. We also feature those that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

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About Author: Michael Coates

is editor and publisher at Clean Fleet Report and an internationally recognized expert in the field of automotive environmental issues. He has been an automotive editor and writer for more than three decades. His media experience includes Petersen Publishing (now part of The Enthusiast Network), Green Car Journal, trade magazines, newspaper and television news reporting. He currently serves on the Board of the Western Automotive Journalists.

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