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More car buyers eyeing gas mileage

December 26, 2007 12:00:00 AM PST
With gas prices at $3.22 cents a gallon for regular unleaded in L.A., many people are thinking about buying a new car with better gas mileage. Get a closer look at what's on the market for 2008.As high pump prices keep taking a toll on consumers' budgets, more people are saying they want more efficiency in their next new car purchase.

Forty-four percent of buyers have either changed their mind on the vehicle they are buying, or would consider changing their mind, based on fuel economy," said Kelley Blue Book editor Micah Muzio.

The team at Kelley Blue Book showed Eyewitness News the top miles-per-gallon vehicles in seven different categories.

For sedans, there was no surprise, as the Toyota Prius Hybrid leads the pack (48 mpg city/45 hwy.). If a wagon is in your car buying plans, the compact Toyota Matrix and its mechanical twin, the Pontiac Vibe, are both rated well (26 mpg city/33 hwy.).

"Regardless of what class of vehicle you are looking in, there's an economical choice for the consumer to consider," said Muzio.

Convertibles can be fun -- and miserly with fuel, too. The Mini Cooper Convertible (27 mpg city/35 hwy.) wins this category. But that's with the standard manual transmission. If you want an automatic, you lose one mile per gallon in the city, and two on the highway.

For SUVs, the top one is actually the top three -- the Ford Escape Hybrid, Mercury Mariner Hybrid, and new Mazda Escape Hybrid. They are all mechanically identical in two wheel drive form (34 mpg city/30 hwy.).

For a different kind of utility, Ford's Ranger Pickup and its twin, the Mazda B-Series, tie for first (21 mpg city/26 hwy.).

Experts say you also need to factor in your driving habits and driving conditions, and not just look at the fuel economy numbers on the window sticker. And you may have noticed that those numbers have changed for the '08 model years. That's because the EPA refined the way it test vehicles to better reflect actual driving conditions. The EPA lists all new vehicles on its Web site, which is another place you can compare fuel economy figures.

There are even fuel efficient vehicles in the luxury category, topped by the Lexus RX400h Hybrid (27 mpg city/24 hwy.).

And if you want a minivan to carry the family, the news isn't all bad. The Honda Odyssey (17 mpg city/25 hwy.), Chrysler Town & Country (17 mpg city/24 hwy.), and Dodge Caravan (17 mpg city/24 hwy.) each get respectable mileage, even on the government's new stricter test cycle.

Shopping for a car always involves some calculation and research. And more and more buyers are factoring the fuel mileage into the equation.

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