10 Fuel-Efficient Cars Debuting This Week in New York

It’s that time of the year again – that’s right, the New York International Auto Show is upon us and blooming with spring are 17 world vehicle debuts including at least 10 with a focus on efficiency.

Press days begin April 1, and we’ll have more on each, but here in descending order are vehicles of varying degrees of interest to those watching the inexorable move toward higher mpg and lower emissions.

10. Cadillac CT6

cadillac-ct6

Who cares about a 420-horsepower big luxury Cadillac? A lot of people actually, as the brand continues its saga of wanting to compete with the Germans even on its home turf.

This one will be a no-compromise engineering thesis intended to do just that, says Cadillac, but unclear as of yet is whether a reported plug-in hybrid variant will be included.

A far cry from a compact Chevy Volt-based ELR, the PHEV CT6 – whether or not mentioned this week – is to be based on the new flagship model.

9. Mercedes-Benz GLEe

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Whatever GM is up to in the upscale electrification space, Mercedes-Benz is playing its hand much less close to its chest.

In fact, as true of all the Germans, Mercedes has discovered the wonderful benefits of PHEVs to allow it to pass emission regulations and still deliver big powerful gas engines paired with an electrified side, and the GLE550e is one of 10 plug-in models to be launched by 2017.

This will be its first plug-in hybrid SUV, it joins other battery electric and plug-in hybrids just coming along, and looks to be quite the opulent people hauler.

8. Scion iA

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Not known to be a hybrid, the first sedan from Toyota’s Scion division is instead expected to be filed under the economical small car segment, and – like the iM also being launched – aimed at younger buyers or anyone on a budget.

The iA is based on the Mazda2 with SkyActiv motive power from the same. The vehicle will also share elements with the revised Toyota Yaris.

7. Scion iM

2015_NYIAS_Scion_iM_Teaser_001

The iM, although gussied up like a hot hatch last year in Los Angeles, will be toned down and essentially a Toyota Auris hatchback variant with appropriate Scion badging.

It too will not likely be a hybrid but will fill a needed gap in the brand’s lineup among relatively fuel-efficient cars.

6. Lexus RX

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Along with the long-anticipated RX lineup’s revision for 2016 should be mention of the new hybrid version.

The RX crossover from Toyota’s upscale division is the brand’s top seller. The hybrid is a relatively popular alternative for the car line that accounts for one in three of every Lexus vehicles sold.

Lexus has also just launched the NX compact crossover line with hybrid variant making the need for the RX to be updated all the more glaring. Hopefully we won’t be disappointed.

5. Mitsubishi Outlander

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One more revised gas-powered SUV may not be that exciting, but when the plug-in hybrid variant gets to the U.S. after long delay, that ought to be.

Mitsubishi has sold over 50,000 plug-in Outlanders in Japan and Europe while announcing and then postponing the plug-in hybrid that reportedly gets more electric range than Ford Energi products – high 20s or even low 30s has been reported for the Mitsubishi.

For 2016, styling elements will be updated, possibly from the Concept-S shown last year in Paris, and Mitsubishi says it’s the first to debut the brand’s new design language and features over 100 engineering and design improvements inside, and out.

The PHEV may be here by next year, potentially as a 2017 model.

4. Chevrolet Spark

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The gas-powered Spark subcompact is growing up – at least design-wise if not in dimensions so much – and rightly so being this has been a relative huge global success with 1.1 million variants sold in 71 markets since 2009.

Its global debut will be mirrored by one in Seoul April 2 but for alternative energy fans, the electric “compliance” version sold in Oregon, California and now Maryland may not be revised.

Instead, Chevrolet is preparing the Bolt EV, but officially, it has not said this will be the case.

As for the gas version, the economical Spark will be less “youthful” oriented with more upscale feel here and there inside and out.

Power will be by GM’s Ecotec family of small engines for various markets in three- and four-cylinder versions from 1.0-1.5 liters.

3. Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

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Gone is the Tesla-co-built RAV4 EV built for California, and back to its roots, Toyota is transplanting a hybrid powertrain into the new RAV and this one will be made available nationwide.

To be revealed April 2, the RAV4 Hybrid makes good also on the brand’s promise to roll out hybridized versions of all its Lexus and Toyota models this decade.

Despite a weakened conventional hybrid market – plug-ins have beaten a downward trend and did increase in share last year – and now Toyota is adding this hybrid to its growing stable.

The company already owns about 69 percent of the U.S. hybrid market, and while having revealed very little except some styling differences, it is speculated the RAV4 will get the 2.5-liter Lexus NX Hybrid’s powertrain.

2. Kia Optima

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To be revealed April 1, the midsized Optima has been revised and follows its overhauled not-so-distant cousin, the Hyundai Sonata which also comes in conventional, hybrid and now plug-in hybrid variants.

Could Kia surprise us with a plug-in? This it has not said, but a new hybrid ought to be at least expected, and new gasoline powertrains are otherwise promised as is updated but still-recognizable styling, more room inside, and more.

The car will also have a few more upscale cues to help fortify it as a mainstay for the Korean automaker being its top seller in the U.S.

1. Chevy Malibu Hybrid

2015-Chevrolet-Malibu

The big news from GM which had industry observers wondering how much it really cares about electrification and hybrids is its Malibu is being revised in a big way with a full hybrid version.

Until now only a mild hybrid version was available that did not hold a candle to offerings by several competitors such as Toyota, Honda, Ford, Hyundai, Kia, Volkswagen – nearly anyone –  but the new Malibu is borrowing system architecture from none other than the Chevy Volt.

Unlike the Volt, it won’t be a plug-in, but like the competitors, it does promise respectable mpg – around 45 mpg from a direct-injection 1.8-liter four-cylinder merged with hardware borrowed from the Volt.

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Total output will be 182 horsepower, many questions remain, but perhaps most promising is the commitment to a full hybrid and validation of the Volt’s system as seed stock for more electrified models hoped to follow.