No Fueling: Hybrids, diesels, EVs lift ‘best’ mpg figures for an array of cars but not most trucks and vans

The new Lincoln MKZ hybrid racks up 45 mpg in city driving and on the open road. (Provided).

With regular gas priced around $3 a gallon and falling, talk of an SUV electric vehicle boasting 78 mpg city, 74 mpg highway isn’t quite so dramatic.

Yet the EV edition of the Toyota RAV4 cites those mpg numbers, which are double the mileage totals of the most efficient hybrid and all gas-powered SUVs.

Meanwhile, luxury cars such as the BMW 3 Series diesel, Lincoln MKZ hybrid and Mercedes E-Class diesel and gas versions post 45 mpg on the highway. And, while convertibles aren’t typically associated with fuel sipping cars, the Volkswagen Beetle and Fiat 500 reach 40 or more mpg in highway driving.

As it turns out, shoppers looking for most any type of car can find at least one or two models that list fuel numbers in the high 30s or 40 mpg on the highway and in some cases, in the city, too. The fuel efficient list includes SUVs, crossovers, wagons, hatchbacks, coupes and sedans.

Still, two types of vehicles – built for moving people and hauling goods – seem mired in the 20-something or lower mpg figures.

The most fuel-efficient pickups are the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Hybrid and its sister GMC Sierra at 20 mpg city and 23 highway, according to mileage estimates on auto information company’s website.

Similarly, the best minivans in terms of fuel economy are the Mazda 5 at 21 mpg city, 28 highway and the Nissan NV200 at 24 mpg city and 25 highway.

It doesn’t really matter value-wise if vehicles are a few mpg apart. But a 20 or 30 mpg gap can add up to real money.

For instance, the Toyota Prius hybrid posts 51 mpg city and 48 mpg highway. Assuming the vehicle were averaging 50 mpg, each 10 gallon fill-up at $3 a gallon would cost $30 and would take the motorist 500 miles. The yearly fuel bill for driving 10,000 miles would be $600.

By comparison, a vehicle averaging 20 mpg that travels the same distance and sips fuel priced at $3 a gallon would cost $1,500.

One mitigating factor involves the purchase prices of hybrids and EVs, typically costing 10 percent or more than a similarly designed gas-only car or truck. Figures on back that up. The Silverado and Sierra hybrid trucks each cost more than $40,000. And the Toyota Highlander Hybrid SUV lists a $40,170 sales price while averaging 28 mpg on the road. The Highlander fuel figures stand only slightly better than the Nissan Rogue’s numbers, and the Rogue can be acquired for $22,490.

Here’s a closer look at the “best” fuel sippers based on the car categories Edmunds uses on its onsite site at Purchase prices are also included.

• Convertible: VW Beetle, 28 mpg city, 41 mpg highway – $28,495; smart for two, 34 mpg city, 38 mpg highway – $17,890.

• Crossover: Mazda CX-5, 26 mpg city, 35 mpg highway – $21,195; Toyota Highlander Hybrid, 28 mpg city and highway – $40,170. (The Toyota RAV4 EV posts 78 mpg city, 74 highway and sells for $49,800).

• Coupe: Hyundai Elantra, 28 mpg city, 38 mpg highway – $17,595; Honda Civic, 28 mpg city, 36 mpg highway – $17,965.

• Hatchback: Toyota Prius c, 53 mpg city, 46 mpg highway – $19,080; Toyota Prius, 51 mpg city, 48 mpg highway – $24,200 (The Honda Fit EV tops four electric vehicles in fuel economy at 132 mpg city, 105 mpg highway. It sells for $36,625).

• Luxury: Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, 45 mpg city and highway – $35,925; BMW 3 Series, 32 mpg city, 45 mpg highway – $38,600.

• Sedan: Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, 42 mpg city, 48 mpg highway – $25,195; Ford Fusion Hybrid, 47 mpg city and highway – $26,200. (The Tesla Model S electric vehicle priced at $69,900 gets an equivalent 94 mpg city, 97 mpg highway).

• SUV: Mazda CX-5, 26 mpg city, 35 mpg highway – $21,195; Lexus RX450h, 32 mpg city, 28 mpg highway – $46,410.

• Truck: Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Hybrid, 20 mpg city, 23 mpg highway – $41,135; GMC Sierra 1500 Hybrid, 20 mpg city, 23 mpg highway – $41,555.

• Wagon: Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagon diesel, 30 mpg city, 42 mpg highway – $26,250; Ford C-Max Hybrid, 45 mpg city, 40 mpg highway – $25,200.

Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or