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Toyota, Honda, Ford hybrids lead US EPA's fuel-economy list

Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. and Ford Motor Co. gasoline-electric vehicles led the US government's fuel-efficiency rankings for 2007 models, as Toyota and Honda accounted for seven of the top 10. Gasoline-electric models held the top four slots, with Toyota's Prius sedan first, followed by Honda's Civic small car, Toyota's Camry midsize car and Ford's Escape sport-utility vehicle with front-wheel drive. The Prius was second last year, behind Honda's two-seat Insight, which ended with the 2006 model after leading the list since it began sales in 1999. The US Environmental Protection Agency released the 2007 list today in Washington, saying the information will help consumers conserve energy and save money.

US fuel prices that rose above $3 in midyear helped sales of hybrids, sold by Toyota, Honda and Ford, rise 24% from a year earlier to 192,312 this year through September, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Total sales of cars and light trucks fell 3.7% to 12.7 million, while Toyota's rose 13% and Honda's gained 4.3% as they benefited from demand for fuel-efficient models. The EPA's rating for the 2007 Prius is 60 miles per gallon in city driving and 51 miles per gallon on highways. The Civic gets 49 miles per gallon in cities and 51 on highways, the agency said. It rates the Camry hybrid at 40/38 and the Escape with front-wheel drive at 36/31.

Volkswagen AG diesel cars that were in last year's top five, the New Beetle/Golf and the Jetta, aren't in the new list. The other vehicles in the 2007 top 10 are Toyota's Yaris subcompact car with manual transmission, fifth; the Yaris with automatic transmission, sixth; Honda's Fit subcompact with manual transmission, seventh; Toyota's Corolla small car with manual transmission, eighth; Hyundai Motor Co.'s Accent and Kia Motor Corp.'s Rio small cars, both manual, tied for ninth; and Ford's Escape hybrid and Mercury Mariner hybrid, both with all-wheel-drive, tied for 10th. Hybrids combine a gasoline engine with electric motors that run on batteries recharged during braking, reducing fuel usage and pollutant emissions. (Bloomberg)