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Your Leanest And Greenest Weapons In The Battle Against The $4 Gallon
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Stingiest Sippers: 10 Most Fuel-Efficient VehiclesFirst Place: 2008 Toyota Prius
City: 48 mpg
Highway: 45 mpg
Combined: 46 mpg
Base Price: $22,160

Second Place: 2008 Honda Civic Hybrid
City: 40 mpg
Highway: 45 mpg
Combined: 42 mpg
Base Price: $23,270

Third Place: 2008 Smart Fortwo
City: 33 mpg
Highway: 41 mpg
Combined: 36 mpg
Base Price: $12,235

Fourth Place: 2008 Nissan Altima Hybrid
City: 35 mpg
Highway: 33 mpg
Combined: 34 mpg
Base Price: $26,140

Fifth Place: 2008 Toyota Camry Hybrid
City: 33 mpg
Highway: 34 mpg
Combined: 34 mpg (Ratings from 2008 model year)
Base Price: $25,860

Sixth Place: 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
City: 30 mpg
Highway: 41 mpg
Combined: 34 mpg
Base Price: $22,640

Seventh Place: 2009 Ford Escape Hybrid
City: 34 mpg (est)
Highway: 30 mpg (est)
Combined: 32 mpg (est)
Base Price: $29,000

Eighth Place: 2008 Toyota Yaris
City: 29 mpg
Highway: 36 mpg
Combined: 32 mpg
Base Price: $12,210

Ninth Place: 2008 MINI Cooper/Clubman
City: 28 mpg
Highway: 37 mpg
Combined: 32 mpg
Base Price: $18,700

Tenth Place: 2008 Honda Fit
City: 28 mpg
Highway: 34 mpg
Combined: 31 mpg
Base price: $14,620

In the past 17 years, no vehicle in America outsold the Ford F-150 on a monthly or yearly basis — not once. In May of this year, however, Honda moved more Civics and Accords and Toyota more Corollas and Camrys than Ford moved of its bestseller. This shift has less to do with a change in Americans' vehicular preferences than the fact that trucks guzzle fuel, the cost of which has doubled in the past three years.

America has been sideswiped by the $4 gallon of gasoline, and auto industry heads believe the higher gas prices are permanent, not just a temporary shift or spike. Companies have been reconfiguring their lineups accordingly. GM has green-lighted the electrically motivated Volt plug-in hybrid for a 2010 release, and in addition to ceasing production of trucks and SUVs at four U.S. plants and idling thousands of workers, it is considering selling off the iconic Hummer brand.

From a manufacturing perspective, it's increasingly difficult to build fuel-sipping vehicles, as current safety and emissions technologies add weight, a primary nemesis of fuel economy. Hybrid technology and low mass are the most cost-effective strategies to better fuel economy, and the bulk of our list of the 10 most-fuel-efficient vehicles utilize one or both. Toyota plays both sides, managing to field three of the top 10 — four if you count the Nissan Altima, which uses the Toyota Camry's hybrid drive system under license.

That five of the vehicles on our list are hybrids is a harbinger of things to come. Although there's only one diesel in this group, expect that to change. The following vehicles are ranked according to their EPA combined fuel-economy ratings. Since the EPA calculation favors city mileage, that number is used here as a tiebreaker.

     
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