SUVs still gas-pump nightmares

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — While a handful of small cars are getting 40-plus miles per gallon, the vast majority of new vehicles coming into showrooms get about half that, the government’s latest automobile fuel economy statistics show.

For the second year, a hybrid gas- and electric-powered vehicle — the two-seater Honda Insight — topped the list of biggest fuel misers with 64 mpg combined city and highway driving among 2001-model vehicles. It was followed by another hybrid, the Toyota Prius, and three Volkswagen diesel cars.

The huge popularity of sport utility vehicles again drove down the overall numbers of the more than 800 cars, trucks and vans listed in the annual fuel economy statistics released Monday by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Average fuel economy for 358 models or variations of SUVs, vans and pickup trucks was just over 18 mpg, compared with 23.6 mpg for nearly 500 cars on the EPA list.

King-size SUVs such as the Ford Expedition, Lincoln Navigator and Dodge Durango and their twin pickups accounted for 12 of the 36 vehicles on the list with the worst gas mileage, all with 12 mpg or less in city driving and 17 mpg or less on the highway.

The luxury sport import Ferrari 500 Maranello was the biggest guzzler (8 city and 13 highway) followed by the Lamborghini Diablo (10 city, 13 highway).

With the growing popularity — even with high fuel costs — of minivans and SUVs, the overall fuel economy for all vehicles continued a steady decline that has been under way since the late 1980s, when average fuel economy for all vehicles was nearly 26 mpg.

In the latest statistics, mileage ranged widely even within various size classes, and in some cases even within like groups of cars made by the same manufacturer. Among compacts, for example, the Volkswagen Passat average 20 mpg, compared with the Volkswagen Jetta and Golf diesels’ 45 mpg average.

Among midsize cars, the Mazda 626 and Honda Accord reported the best combined city-highway mileage of 29 mpg, while the worst in that category were the luxury Rolls Royce Silver Seraph and Bentley Arnage, both at 13 mpg. Most cars in the category came in the low- to mid-20s mpg.

"Choosing the most fuel-efficient vehicles in a class can save the owner at least $1,500 in fuel costs," said EPA Administrator Carol Browner.

But automakers and groups such as the Coalition for Vehicle Choice, which lobbies against government fuel-economy rules, have long argued that consumers want larger vehicles and not small minicompacts and compacts that consume less gasoline.

Three similar minivans from General Motors — the Oldsmobile Silhouette, Chevrolet Ventura and Pontiac Montana — had the best mileage (19 city and 26 highway) in the passenger van category. Chrysler’s all-wheel-drive Town &amp Country van had the worst (17 city, 22 highway).

Mileage among SUVs also ranged widely with small models, led by the Toyota RAV4 (25 city, 31 highway) doing well. However, most SUVs were under 20 mpg in combined city-highway driving, with the worst fuel economy recorded by Land Rover’s Range Rover (12 mpg city, 15 highway).

Slightly better were the king-size SUVs — the Ford Expedition, GMC Yukon and Chevrolet Suburban — which all got 15 mpg in combined city-highway driving.

Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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