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Most fuel-efficient vehicles in every category

You don't have to buy a hybrid or an econobox to get decent fuel mileage. While there's no argument that bigger, heavier, more powerful vehicles tend to get worse mileage, savvy customers can usually find a happy medium that gives them good mileage in a vehicle that still offers the utility, comfort and safety they want. Here are some examples of best-in-class vehicles:

Small cars: The Nissan Leaf and Smart ForTwo electric vehicles use no gasoline. But neither is available yet in Florida, and electric cars, and their range limitations, aren't for everybody. Similarly, the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid hasn't reached Florida dealers. Otherwise, the EPA's top mileage in small cars goes to Honda's Civic and Insight hybrids, both rated at 40 mpg city, 43 mpg highway.

Family sedans: The Toyota Prius hybrid tops the mileage list, with a rating of 51 mpg city, 48 mpg highway. The next four vehicles are also hybrids (versions of the Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry). The highest-mileage nonhybrid is the Hyundai Elantra, which is rated at 29 mpg city, 40 mpg highway. If you're willing to drive a diesel, the Volkswagen Golf and Jetta come in at 30 mpg city, 42 mpg highway.

Pickups: The aging Ford Ranger with the 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine and manual transmission leads trucks at 22/27 mpg, followed by the Toyota Tacoma at 21/25. In full-size pickups, the Ford F-150 with the 3.7-liter V-6 is rated at 17 mpg city, 23 mpg highway. That's on gas; the truck will also run on E85 ethanol, but that drops the mileage rating to 12/17.

SUVs: The Ford Escape hybrid remains the thriftiest SUV, with an EPA rating of 34 mpg city, 31 highway, followed closely by the pricier, far more luxurious Lexus RX 450h hybrid at 32/28. The EPA says the best mileage for a nonhybrid SUV goes to the Nissan Juke, at 27/32. In slightly larger SUVs, the Chevrolet Equinox and its twin, the GMC Terrain, get 22 mpg city, 32 mpg highway with the four-cylinder engine. The diesel version of the Volkswagen Touareg may be worth a look, too, with mileage of 19 mpg city, 28 mpg highway.

Minivans: Though it's one of the biggest in its class, the Honda Odyssey minivan is rated at 19 mpg city, 28 mpg highway, aided by a conservation-minded six-speed automatic transmission. The EPA's comparisons don't include 2012 models, but the new Mazda5 minivan is already on the market, and it's rated at 21 mpg city, 28 mpg highway, with either a manual or automatic transmission. The Mazda5 is smaller than the Honda Odyssey, but it will carry six people.

Convertibles: The EPA gives top honors to the Smart ForTwo, but if you want an actual car, the next step up is the Mini Cooper convertible, rated at 28/35 with the manual transmission, 27/36 with the automatic. If you want something larger, the Audi A5 cabriolet is rated at 22 mpg city, 30 mpg highway.

Most fuel-efficient vehicles in every category 04/05/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 5, 2011 4:30am]
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