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Transportation & Fuel Source Technology

Volkswagen Golf and New Beetle Most Fuel Efficient Among Gasoline-Only Vehicles

Autobytel Inc today released its Q2 2006 Quarterly QuickView(1), powered by its Automotive Information Center (AIC) division. This quarter the QuickView examined which gasoline-only(2) vehicles ranked highest for fuel economy in a breakdown of 20 classes. In addition to studying gasoline-only vehicles, Autobytel analysts compiled a supplementary list of the most fuel-efficient hybrids in seven classes. The QuickView also presents data on the availability of alternative fuel ethanol (E85) vehicles.

"Consumers are making a dramatic shift to more fuel-efficient vehicles which has been confirmed by recent Autobytel car shopper polls," said Autobytel Automotive Editor Chris Wardlaw. "Autobytel's QuickView helps guide today's fuel conscious car shoppers by giving them expanded gasoline-only vehicle options. The best in class ranking of gasoline-only vehicles is particularly unique because while many shoppers want more fuel-efficiency, they may not realize they have options to consider within their current vehicle class."

Most Fuel Efficient Gasoline-Only Vehicles by Class

This extensive list ranks vehicles in the following categories for a total of 20 classes:
  • Coupe (Economy, Family, Sports, Luxury)
  • Sedan (Compact, Midsize, Luxury, Large, Sports)
  • Convertible (Compact, Sports, Luxury)
  • SUV (Small, Midsize, Luxury, Full Size)(3)
  • Pickup (Compact, Full Size)
  • Minivan
  • Wagon
From the top of the list to the bottom, Autobytel analysts found a 22 MPG/highway difference, giving consumers a number of choices as they face rising fuel costs. (See Most Fuel Efficient Gasoline-Only Vehicles by Class graphic.) The Volkswagen Golf and Volkswagen New Beetle rank most fuel-efficient at 44 MPG/highway(4). Full Size Pickups rank least fuel-efficient with the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Regular Cab 2WD and GMC Sierra 1500 Regular Cab 2WD both tying for 22 MPG/highway.

The complete list of the 20 best in class gasoline-only vehicles can be found at Clearing the Air,

Hybrids Still Reign Most Fuel Efficient Overall

Predictably, hybrids continue to rank higher on fuel efficiency than the best in class gasoline-only vehicles. The soon-to-be-furloughed Honda Insight scored as the most fuel-efficient hybrid, within the Economy Coupe class, at 66 MPG/highway.

The most fuel-efficient hybrids in the seven available vehicle classes include:
  • conomy Coupe: Honda Insight at 66 MPG/highway
  • Compact Sedan: Honda Civic Hybrid at 51 MPG/highway
  • Midsize Sedan: Toyota Prius (hatchback) at 51 MPG/highway
  • Small SUV: Ford Escape Hybrid at 31 MPG/highway
  • Luxury SUV: Lexus RX 400H at 28 MPG/highway
  • Midsize SUV: Toyota Highlander Hybrid at 28 MPG/highway
  • Full Size Pickup: Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid and GMC Sierra at 21 MPG/highway(5)
Hybrids dominated three classes within the SUV category affirming that car shoppers who desire an SUV for additional passenger and cargo room have increasingly more options. However, all hybrids still only account for one percent of U.S auto sales and are outsold by gasoline-only SUVs 23-1(6).

E85 Gaining Attention as an Alternative Fuel Source

A 2006 poll of car shoppers at Autobytel's car-buying Web sites showed a burgeoning interest in E85 vehicles compared to hybrids and bio-diesel vehicles.

There are several options in the 2006 and 2007 model years for those car shoppers considering an E85 vehicle. Of the 203 available trims for the 2006 and 2007 model years, 84 percent are Full Size Pickups and 12 percent are SUVs. Those car shoppers in the market for a smaller model have more limited options with only three percent of all E85 vehicles available in the Sedan or Coupe class. The Large Sedan class features the Chevrolet Impala and Ford Crown Victoria. The Chevrolet Monte Carlo is the only Family Coupe available in E85. All three models, however, are flex-fuel vehicles, meaning they can operate either with E85 or gasoline, making them more attractive for shoppers who haven't yet committed to using only E85.

"E85 will be an interesting alternative fuel source to monitor over the next few years," added Wardlaw. "The pros and cons of E85 as a mainstream vehicle fuel will continue to play out with scientists, activists and policy makers debating its future, as well as automakers' production of 'flex-fuel' vehicles (with E85 capabilities) which will both play a large role in whether consumers adopt or dismiss the source."

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