Over the coming weeks, the fuel economy numbers will be updated to reflect the release of the remaining 2011 model year vehicles.
I say “updated” because the 2011 models have been released throughout 2010, with the last of them expected to roll out in December. Automakers can call whatever comes out in a calendar year the following year’s model year, even if the car goes on sale on January 1.
The top fuel efficient cars will once again be hybrid models with the Toyota Prius retaining its position for a few more months. Come December, the pure electric Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt will debut, with the former expected to dethrone the Prius. Figure that the Leaf’s equivalent fuel economy numbers will be in excess of 100 mpg when the calculation methods have been finalized. The Volt may also edge out the Prius although it is an electric car with a supplemental gas engine.
Other winners are likely to be as follows:
Ford Fiesta — Its 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine already provides best in class (subcompact) fuel economy, 40 mpg on the highway or 33 mpg combined.
Chevy Cruze — Its 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is lighter and more powerful than the Fiesta and it, too, should deliver 40 mpg on the highway, clearly the leading vehicle in the compact class.
Hyundai Sonata — Relying exclusively on four cylinder engines hasn’t hurt the Hyundai Sonata which gets a class-leading (midsize) highway fuel economy rating of 35 mpg on the highway. Expect the Ford Fusion Hybrid to retain its best in class honors of 41 mpg city, 36 mph highway until the Sonata Hybrid debuts later this year. That car may get 40 mpg on the highway!
Toyota Avalon — For 2011, the Avalon gets 20 mpg city, 29 mpg highway edging out the Chevrolet Impala which gets 19 mpg city, 29 mpg highway. Breaking the 30 mpg threshold may be a year of so away unless Ford figures out a way of sticking in a 2.0-liter Ecoboost four-cylinder engine under the hood of its Ford Taurus.
Mazda 5 — By offering one of the smallest minivans, Mazda has enjoyed an edge no one else can touch. Powered by a 2.3-liter four cylinder engine the Mazda 5 gets 28 mpg on the highway, 22 around town.
Ford Ranger — A 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine will likely allow the Ranger to retain best in class fuel economy for small pickup trucks — 27 mpg on the highway. Not far behind is the full-size Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid, getting 23 mpg on the highway.
Among sport utility vehicles, there is a three way tie thanks to the Ford Escape, Mercury Mariner and Mazda Tribute sharing the same hybrid system. Getting 34 mpg city, 31 highway isn’t likely to be challenged although gas powered Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain get 32 mpg on the highway, 22 around on town.
As far as diesel powered vehicles go, Volkswagen continues to lead all comers. Its diesel Golf and Jetta models get 30 mpg city, 42 mpg highway by far the best in class fuel economy for any diesel models.