Which Hybrids Improve Gas Mileage The Most? Lexus, Lincoln Win

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2011 Lexus CT 200h compact hybrid hatchback, road test, June 2011

2011 Lexus CT 200h compact hybrid hatchback, road test, June 2011

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The Union of Concerned Scientists thinks hybrid-electric vehicles are a good thing, because they use less gasoline.

But the savings in gas cost from that improved gas mileage varies enormously, and now the group has quantified the results.

In their annual Hybrid Scorecard this year, the UCS ranks hybrids on how much they reduce fuel consumption over comparable non-hybrid models.

It's an easy comparison for cars like the 2011 Ford Fusion Hybrid or 2011 Toyota Highlander Hybrid, since they're simply hybrid adaptations of regular gasoline models.

But it gets more confusing for so-called dedicated hybrids like the 2011 Honda Insight, the ur-hybrid 2011 Toyota Prius, and the new 2011 Lexus CT 200h compact luxury hybrid hatchback--which have no direct gasoline counterpart.

2011 Toyota Prius

2011 Toyota Prius

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Prius at the top, again

As it was last year, the 2011 Toyota Prius was the top-scoring hybrid car, for its top-of-the-EPA-charts gas mileage of 51 mpg city, 48 mpg highway, for a combined rating of 50 mpg.

The UCS compared the Prius to a 2011 Toyota Matrix, which is also a five-door hatchback that can be ordered with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine.

The Prius mileage contrasts with the Matrix's ratings of 26 mpg city, 32 mpg highway, and a combined mileage of 29 mpg--meaning the Prius was 72 percent more fuel efficient.

After the Prius, the UCS lauded both the 2011 Ford Fusion Hybrid and the 2011 Honda Civic Hybrid for their substantial gas-mileage increases over their non-hybrid counterparts: 50 percent and 41 percent, respectively.

Luxury winners: Lexus, Lincoln

2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid

2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid

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In the luxury sector, both the 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid and the 2011 Lexus CT 200h won high marks.

And, it turns out, those two cars--because of what they compare to--deliver even higher gas-mileage improvements.

At a combined 39-mpg rating, the MKZ Hybrid is the only four-cylinder model offered. It contrasts to the gasoline model, which has a 3.5-liter V-6 engine rated at only 21 mpg combined. In other words, it's 86 percent better.

Similarly, the UCS compared the 2011 CT 200h to a 2011 Lexus IS 250 sports sedan, the nearest comparable model in the Lexus line. The CT's combined rating of 42 mpg was 75 percent higher than the IS's 24 mpg.

No bare-bones hybrids

As it did last year, the UCS again slammed carmakers for loading luxury features into hybrids rather than offering stripped-down hybrid models that cost less.

This year's complete UCS Hybrid Scorecard can be viewed on the Union of Concerned Scientists' HybridCenter website.

[Union of Concerned Scientists, The New York Times, LA Times]


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Comments (5)
  1. Always want to hear what the Union of Concerned Scientists have to say - they're so concerned. Not too bright, perhaps (the Union is claiming that nuclear power is deadly. Hmmm...60 years of nuclear power in this country without a single death, injury or disabling accident. Yeah, I see your point Union, really dangerous stuff. I wonder if the Union knows that a hybrid is a car... Hmmm..

  2. Ramon: I'm curious. You're a frequent commenter on this site, which we appreciate. But your posts have been almost entirely negative. You seem to be angry about a lot of things relating to green cars, California, national and state government, and many other topics. What gives?

  3. I really hate the title. The article clearly points out that the Prius won.

    As for the Lincoln, here is what UCS had to say;

    "The 39 mpg Lincoln MKZ does rate a 9.5 Environmental Improvement Score, but does so because it downsizes from the conventional MKZ’s thirstier 6-cylinder engine to the hybrid’s 4-cylinder. The 50 mpg Prius manages its dramatic improvement compared with the 4-cylinder Matrix. "

    In other words, these comparisons are difficult to make and it might be better to look at these things in absolution terms. The Prius has the highest MPG (by far given that the next best is 42 mpg) and it also has a reasonable price at $23,500.

    Any good for UCS for calling on manufacturers to make hybrids less expensive.

  4. John: The title asks which hybrids IMPROVE gas mileage the most?

    The MKZ Hybrid (86 percent) and the CT 200h (75 percent) produce higher proportional improvements over the comparison car than does the Prius (72 percent).

    Now, you can certainly argue with the cars the hybrids were compared to. I could probably write a criticism along those lines. But I worded that headline very carefully to be accurate! It wasn't about overall gas mileage ratings, but improvement over the base case.

  5. Well, didn't say you were wrong. I just said that I hated the title.

    The takeaway message from your article and the UCS is that the Prius wins. Unfortunately someone reading the title is likely to come away with a different impression; subtleties not withstanding.

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