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5 Most Eco-Friendly Cars of 2014

BOSTON (TheStreet) -- Whether you're looking to increase the amount of "green" on the planet or just in your wallet by reducing your gasoline consumption, here's a look at 2014's most eco-friendly automobiles.

"Consumers are becoming more savvy in understanding what a given car can offer in fuel benefits, and I think auto manufacturers are responding by providing a large array of [eco-friendly cars]," says Shruti Vaidyanathan of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, which recently released its 17th annual Greenest Vehicles list.

The ACEEE compiled this year's rundown by estimating how much pollution every 2014 model sold in America will create over the vehicle's lifetime -- not just on the road, but also during the car's construction and eventual disposal.

Vaidyanathan says consumers who buy eco-friendly models not only create less air pollution, but help make green cars more popular and encourage manufacturers to develop even-cleaner offerings.

"One more green-car sale might not make much of a difference to the environment in the grand scheme of things, but if you're helping to create a buying trend, that's significant," she says.

Read on for a rundown of the models that top of this year's greenest-car list.

Miles-per-gallon figures listed below reflect U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates, with "mpge" referring to "miles per gallon equivalent." That's how the EPA calculates fuel efficiency for electric cars, which use battery power rather than gasoline.

All vehicle weights refer to "equivalent test weights," the weight of a fully loaded vehicle plus 300 pounds to reflect occupants. Dollar figures refer to manufacturers' suggested retail prices for each model's base 2014 edition, including destination charges.

Fifth-greenest 2014: Honda Civic Hybrid
Base price:
$25,425 ���

The ACEEE gives this small sedan big marks partly due to the car's 3,000-pound test weight, which is well below the 4,000 pounds some other hybrids offer.

Honda also designed the Civic Hybrid to meet California's tough Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle standard, so the car puts out a reduced amount of air pollution.

Lastly, the model's 110-horsepower gas/electric propulsion system and continuously variable automatic transmission team up to produce a great 44 mpg/city and 47 mpg/highway.

Unfortunately, buying all of that green technology will take a fair amount of "green" out of your wallet, as a Civic Hybrid costs some $6,000 more than what comparable gas-powered Civic sedans run.������

Fourth-greenest 2014: Toyota Prius
Base price: $25,010 ���

The Toyota Prius has been the bestselling hybrid by far since coming to the U.S. market in the 2001 model year.

The 2014 version gets kudos from the ACEEE for complying with California's strict PZEV emissions standard and offering outstanding fuel efficiency.

The EPA rates the compact hatchback's 134 horsepower gas/electric system and continuously variable automatic transmission at 51 mpg/city and 48 mpg/highway.

But like the Civic, going green with a Prius requires plenty of greenbacks. A base 2014 Prius, which Toyota considers in between a gas-powered Corolla and a conventional Camry in size, costs more than both -- some $7,400 above the Corolla and $2,000 higher than the Camry.