03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Early Odds for Green Car of the Year

This week, the Green Car Journal released its finalists for the Green Car of the Year.

Naturally, high mileage numbers equate to standings this year.

  • The 2010 Audi A3 TDI: 30 mpg city / 42 mpg highway
  • The 2010 VW Golf TDI: 30 mpg city / 42 mpg highway
  • The 2010 Mercury Milan hybrid: 41 mpg city / 36 mpg highway
  • The redesigned 2010 Toyota Prius: 51 mpg city / 48 mpg highway
  • The all-new 2010 Honda Insight: 40 mpg city / 43 mpg highway

For the 2010 model year consumers have lots to choose from, but my odds on favorite for this year's award, which will be handed out Dec. 3 at the Los Angeles Auto Show is the Toyota Prius.

Simply put, it is the only vehicle to get a combined 50 mpg.

While I'm not a betting man, but if I worked in Vegas, here are my odds for winning the green honor.

  • Prius: Even money (Big improvements inside and out. The only thing that could hurt it are those annoying Wizard of Oz commericals.)
  • Milan: 3:1 (It would be a nice political nod to Ford's efforts, and all awards are politics.)
  • Insight: 2:1 (It's affordable, kind of cute and the very first hybrid in America. But then it went away, so will this year's award.)
  • Golf TDI: 5:1 (Glad to see the Golf cross the Atlantic, but it's not likely to take home an award so soon.)
  • A3 TDI: 7:1 (Those cool TV commercials might sway a few judges, but not enough.)

Really, this race comes down to the Insight and the Prius. The Milan is the sister of the Ford Fusion hybrid, so it may have the hottest spokesmodel, but it doesn't have that much original to it.

The A3 and Golf TDI vehicles are both fairly affordable and excellent choices, but VW picked up the honor last year with the Jetta TDI so diesel is just not going to win it this year. Last year, it was a pleasant surprise for people like me who like diesels.

Now the Insight made a splash when it arrived in the spring because it has a starting price under $20,000 and offers both excellent city driving and highway numbers. But it also looks like a little Prius - so it doesn't score too many points for originality. It's a fine machine but lacks that punch to push it over the top.

The Prius, however, entering its third generation, was redesigned with drivers in mind. It keeps its iconic shape but adds much needed refinement to its interior and high performance figures. During my test drive of the Prius, I intentionally tried to get the absolute worse gas mileage possible and still managed 26.8 mpg. The car is just that good.