The Nissan Leaf on display at last month's Geneva International Motor… (Chris Ratcliffe / Bloomberg )
In the end, it was a very close call, but the less-expensive and longer-ranged 2013 Nissan Leaf edged out a best-ever field of competitors to win top honors on Kelley Blue Book's newest 10 best "green" cars list.
"We went round and around on which car would be No. 1," Jack Nerad, KBB's executive editorial director and executive market analyst, said in an interview.
"It was a very difficult choice," Nerad said of the decision to put the Leaf just ahead of the Tesla Model S sedan, which came in at No. 2.
PHOTOS: Kelley Blue Book's top 10 'green' cars for 2013
"We went with the Leaf because it was so much improved, with a lower price and better battery range," Nerad said.
The 2013 Leaf has a range of 75 miles. Its mpge, or miles per gallon gasoline equivalent, ratings for city/highway/combined, respectively, were 130/102/116.
Overall, Nerad said, there has never been a better green car list, noting that in some previous years, there were so few green offerings that some high-mileage, conventionally powered cars had to be added.
Not so this year. "This year we had an embarrassment of riches," Nerad said.
The U.S. won the battle of the automakers, with five on the list, compared with four for Japan and one for Europe.
The Tesla Model S didn't win, but the Palo Alto-based company's employees might be assuaged by KBB's description of it as "the electric car most likely to gain mainstream success."
As in previous years, these are hardly the most affordable cars on the market. Most were in the $30,000+ range. The Tesla S was most expensive with an MSRP of $71,070.
The two exceptions were the Leaf, which can be had for $22,000 "after the $7,500 federal tax savings," KBB said, and the Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid. The rebate helped the Leaf edge out the Jetta Hybrid (No. 7, $25,790) for affordability.
Ford Motor Co. and Toyota had special bragging rights. Ford got three vehicles on the list: the Lincoln MKZ (No. 10), the Ford C-Max Energi (No. 6), and the Ford Focus Electric (No. 3).
Toyota had two -- the Avalon (No. 9) and the Prius Plug-In (No. 5).
Rounding out the Top 10 were the Chevy Volt (No. 4) and the Honda Fit EV (No. 8).
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