Friday, October 8, 2004

Honda hybrid once again
tops EPA fuel-sipper list

By Dee-Ann Durbin
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Japanese vehicles dominate the government's annual list of vehicles with the best fuel economy, but Ford Motor Co. can claim the most fuel-efficient pickup and sport-utility vehicles.

The manual version of the hybrid Honda Insight tops the list of 2005 vehicles with 61 mpg in the city and 66 mpg on the highway, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy said Thursday. Eight of the top 10 cars are made by Honda and Toyota; the other two are Volkswagens.

The Big Three U.S. makers fared well in some individual categories. The new Ford Escape hybrid is the most fuel-efficient SUV, with 31 mpg on the highway, and the Ford Ranger is the most fuel-efficient pickup with 29 mpg on the highway. Chevrolet makes the most fuel-efficient large sedan, the Malibu Maxx, as well as the most fuel efficient cargo and passenger vans.

The automatic version of the Dodge Ram pickup, which gets 12 mpg on the highway, was least fuel-efficient vehicle in this year's survey. Luxury cars, including models from Lamborghini, Ferrari and Bentley, rounded out the list of the 10 least fuel-efficient vehicles.

The Mercedes G55 AMG, which gets 14 mpg on the highway, had the worst fuel economy among SUVs.

The EPA and the Department of Energy compile the annual list based on information from manufacturers. Fuel-economy estimates are determined by averaging numbers from a specific set of tests.

The Sierra Club criticized the list, saying it focuses too much attention on vehicles most Americans don't buy, such as the Bentley, and not enough attention on popular gas guzzlers like the Range Rover, which gets 16 mpg on the highway.

It also faulted the list for not considering some of the largest vehicles, such as the Hummer H2 and the Ford Excursion, because the law exempts vehicles that weigh more than 8,500 pounds from fuel economy standards.

"The auto industry should put technology to work so Americans can reduce our oil dependence, spend less at the pump and curb global warming," said Dan Becker, director of the Sierra Club's global warming program. Environmentalists have said the EPA's tests are inaccurate and overstate fuel efficiency. The tests, which have been in use since 1985, continue to assume a national speed limit of 55 mph and don't take into account increasing congestion in cities.

EPA is planning to propose changes to its fuel economy tests in the coming year.

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