New passenger vehicles average about 21 miles per gallon and just 6 percent of the 2002 models headed for showrooms get more than 30 mpg, government statistics show. Americans' love affair with gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles again held down the overall numbers for the 865 cars, trucks and vans listed in the annual fuel economy statistics released Oct. 9 by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Only 48 models get 30 mpg or better. More than half -- 487 models -- get between 20 and 30 mpg. The remaining 330 models get less than 20 mpg. Average fuel economy for the 491 cars was 23.9 mpg, a slight decrease from 24.2 mpg in 2001. That compares with 17.9 mpg for 374 models or variations of SUVs, vans and pickup trucks, a modest increase from 17.3 in 2001. Last year's weighted average, based on sales for all new passenger vehicles, was 20.4 mpg -- the lowest in 21 years. Two hybrid vehicles, powered by combining of a gasoline engine and eletric motors -- the two-seat Honda Insight coupe and five-seat Toyota Prius sedan -- topped the list of fuel misers for the third year. The Insight had 64 mpg combined city and highway driving; the Prius had 48 mpg. The hybrids were followed by four Volkswagen diesel cars, the Honda Civic HX and Toyota Echo. EPA Administrator Christie Whitman and Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham unveiled the new figures Oct. 9 on a government Web site, www.fueleconomy.gov.
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