The 2012 Green Car of the Year award was snagged from the electric and diesel jaws of its competitors by the Honda Civic Natural Gas. In a year full of standard gasoline powertrain alternatives, the Civic beat out the Ford Focus Electric, Mitsubishi i, Toyota Prius V and the Volkswagen Passat TDI.

Green Car Journal hands out the award and its rules state that the GCOTY needs to have a "quantifiable environmental achievement," market significance and "newness." Any car that has these clearly defined features and is available for sale by January 1, 2012 can be a nominee, and the list of finalists is whittled down by GCJ editors and selected industry and environmental experts.

Over the last four years, the GCOTY was won by a hybrid (the Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid in 2008), diesels (the Volkswagen Jetta TDI in 2009 and the Audi A3 TDI in 2010) and a plug-in hybrid (the Chevrolet Volt in 2011). In our informal poll we put up when the five finalists were announced a month ago, the Focus Electric dominated the field.