Ford Motor Co's new Fiesta, which is the only of the five not to use electric drive, is in the group because it can achieve 40 miles per gallon in highway driving, the Green Car Journal said in announcing the finalists.
The winner will be revealed at the Los Angeles Auto Show in mid-November.
Two hybrid versions were named, the Hyundai Sonata, and Lincoln MKZ.
Ron Cogan, editor and publisher of Green Car Journal, said the finalists "reflect an auto industry in transition. It wasn't long ago when electric drive was a novelty. Now, it's expected that auto manufacturers will include electric drive in some form among their model offerings."
Two of the models are designed to primarily use electric drive -- the Nissan Leaf and the Chevrolet Volt.
The Volt is the much-anticipated General Motors Co plug-in vehicle that is designed to run on electric power for up to 40 miles and then rely on a gasoline engine to charge the battery.
The Nissan Motor Co Leaf is a plug-in that runs fully on electric power. The Leaf will, on a full charge, run for 100 miles or so, depending on road and weather conditions, says the Japanese automaker.
Both the Leaf and the Volt will be available in some areas of the United States later this year.
The two hybrids are from Korea's Hyundai Motor Co Sonata and Ford's luxury brand Lincoln MKZ.
Ford says the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid has the best fuel economy ratings for luxury sedans in North America, at 41 mpg for city driving and 36 mpg on the highway.
The Sonata sedan will be the first Hyundai hybrid for the U.S. market. Hyundai says the sedan will get 36 mpg in city driving and 40 mpg on the highway.
All five of the finalists are 2011 models