2010 New York Auto Show: Fuel economy hasn’t lost its charm

Ford and General Motors were quick to highlight their latest efforts to enhance their image as fuel-economy champions during today’s press conferences. Ford showed its new Lincoln MKZ hybrid, claiming that it’s the “most fuel-efficient luxury sedan in America.” Ford says it will get similar mpg as its Fusion hybrid–but with lots more luxury features. We got 34 mpg overall in our test of the Fusion hybrid–very impressive for a family sedan and second only to the Toyota Prius in this class. Ford made a point to say how the new MKZ will get better fuel economy than its targeted rival–the Lexus HS 250h (31 mpg overall). Time will tell if the market will embrace paying extra for upscale fuel sippers…I’m not so sure.

Also, GM took the wraps off its Chevrolet Cruze Eco. This model of the upcoming small sedan features a 1.4-liter, four-cylinder turbocharged engine that, when mated to the six-speed manual transmission, is supposed to deliver “hybrid-like fuel efficiency…without the price tag.” GM claims the Cruze Eco will get 40 mpg on the highway. It seemed as if GM was going out its way to explain how it wasn’t steering the Cruze down the hybrid path–“hybrid levels of fuel efficiency, without the cost of a battery.”

Maybe they have a point: We weren’t overly impressed with the Malibu hybrid we tested, calling it a “hybrid lite” since its system only shut off the engine when stopped and couldn’t power the car by battery alone. Plus it gained only 2 mpg over our tested four-cylinder model–and cost more. We were more impressed with the Tahoe hybrid, which got 19 mpg in our tests, a significant jump from the 14 mpg we recorded in the 5.3-liter V8 version.

GM has a decidedly mixed record on hybrids, but we’re eager to see how the Eco stacks up against the best and brightest competitors.

—Mike Quincy

www.consumerreports.org

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