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Hybrids Will Face Competition from 40-MPG Gas Cars

fiesta-ad-610The small Fiesta delivers better mileage than most hybrids, but only on the highway and in a small package.

TIn 2010, automakers announced the introduction of the first super-efficient small gas cars—not hybrid and not diesel—rated above 40-mpg on the highway. Those models, just starting to appear on U.S. roads in early 2011, include the Ford Fiesta, Ford Focus, Chevy Cruze Eco, and Hyundai Elantra.

In 2011, reporters will be quick to say that gas engines—enhanced with turbocharging and direct injection—will mean the death of hybrids (considering that those models will be, on average, cheaper than models with gas-electric powertrains). However, two factors belie that argument. These fuel-frugal models barely squeak by the 40-mpg mark on the highway, but their city ratings are well below that mark. In fact, the most efficient Fiesta, Cruze and Elantra fall below 30 mpg in the city—leaving only hybrids with city/highway averages above 40 MPG. Furthermore, all of these models are compacts—while hybrids can deliver those industry-leading efficiencies in models as big as the mid-size hatchback Prius (which averages 50 MPG) or the even bigger Prius V (which is expected to average 40 miles per gallon).

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