msnbc.com
updated 10/8/2004 11:17:45 AM ET 2004-10-08T15:17:45

Gas-electric hybrids and diesels took nine of the top 10 spots in the U.S. government's annual fuel economy guide. Released Thursday, the report also looked at 2005 models by vehicle class.

In releasing the guide, the Environmental Protection Agency noted that a new gas-electric, Ford's hybrid Escape SUV, had joined the guide at number 12 in overall mileage.

"The Ford Escape joins the Honda Insight, Civic Hybrid and Toyota Prius in the hybrid market," the Environmental Protection Agency said in releasing the guide. "In addition to being fuel-efficient, hybrids are among the cleanest running vehicles available."

Hybrids use a gasoline engine as well as a large battery pack, which captures energy from braking. That energy powers an electric motor that helps turn the wheels, reducing overall gasoline consumption.

The two-door Insight again took the highest mileage spot, followed by the four-door Prius and then the four-door hybrid Civic.

The guide did not include Honda's hybrid Accord, which is set to debut this December.

Volkswagen diesels — the Beetle, Golf and Jetta sedans as well as the Jetta wagon — also made the top 10.

The only non-hybrid or diesel to make the top 10 was Honda's manual Civic, which took the 10th spot.

The guide also rated the highest mileage vehicles by class:

  • Two Seater: Honda Insight (manual) 61/66 (city/highway)
  • Minicompact Car: Mini Cooper (manual 5-speed) 28/36
  • Subcompact Car: Volkswagen New Beetle Diesel (man.) 38/46
  • Compact Car: Honda Civic Hybrid (automatic, "lean burn") 48/47
  • Midsize Car: Toyota Prius (hybrid) 60/51
  • Large Car: Chevrolet Malibu Maxx 22/30
  • Small Station Wagon: Volkswagen Jetta Wagon Diesel (manual) 36/47
  • Midsize Station Wagon: Passat Diesel Wagon 27/38
  • Sport Utility Vehicle: Ford Escape Hybrid (2WD) 36/31
  • Minivan: Honda Odyssey 20/28
  • Pickup Truck: Ford Ranger Pickup (2WD) and Mazda B2300 (2WD) 24/29
  • Cargo Van: Chevrolet Astro (2WD) and GMC Safari (2WD) 16/22
  • Passenger Van: Chevrolet Astro (2WD) and GMC Safari (2WD) 16/21

The Sierra Club criticized the guide for not considering some of the largest vehicles, such as the Hummer H2 and the Ford Excursion, because federal law exempts vehicles that weigh more than 8,500 pounds from fuel economy standards.

“The Bush administration should be trumpeting new technology, not helping automakers hide their dirtiest vehicles,” said Dan Becker, director of the Sierra Club’s global warming program.

Environmentalists also 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 to more accurately reflect current conditions, said agency spokesman John Millett.

The full 2005 model guide is online at www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/feg2000.htm

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