- 4-wheel drive SUVs: the Mazda Tribute Hybrid gets 29 city and 27 highway, just like the Ford and Mercury Mariner Hybrids (identical to each other but for the brand name). These vehicles have enough interior space for the kids and the dog and the skis, and the sure-footedness of 4-wheel drive. Amazingly, Ford is making only about 20,000 of these a year, most of which seem to have been snapped up by NYC cabbies, so expect to wait six months if you want one.
- Wagons. The best mid-size is the VW Passat Wagon, which gets 20 city and 28 highway with an automatic transmission. The KIA Rondo (19/26) and Saab 9-5 Sport Combi (18/26) do slightly worse in the city but almost as well on the highway. Among the smaller wagons, the Honda Fit (28 city, 34 highway) comes out on top, but the Pontiac Vibe (23/33) and Toytoa Matrix (26/33) trail close behind.
- Large & Mid-Size Sedans. The large Honda Accord (22/31) and Hyundai Sonata (21/31) do a lot better than most. In mid-size cars, (size designations are based on interior passenger and cargo volume, not overall length or width), the hybrid Prius (48/45) is the hands-down winner, but the Nissan Altima Hybrid (35/33) and Nissan Versa (27/33) are also good choices. The Altima Hybrid, in fact, is luxurious and roomy inside, and would make a great choice for carpools. But don't expect much space when you open the trunk. The battery takes up much of the cargo space.
- Low-price compacts and subcompacts. The non-hybrid Honda Civic (25/36) is runner-up to the Toyota Yaris (29/36) in the subcompact class, although it is considerably more expensive at about $15,000 compared to $11,300 for the Yaris. The Scion xD is another good choice (27/33) and priced about the same as the Honda. Among the compacts, the Honda Civic Hybrid (40/45) is followed by the Toyota Corolla (28/37) and Kia Rio (27/32).
To check out fuel economy ratings yourself, see the Environmental Protection Agency's listings.