Car owners have long complained that the EPA's gas mileage estimates are too high. And finally the government has listened: The revised 2008 test is designed to better reflect real-world driving. Translation: Mileage ratings are down across the board.
For the six repeat models on our list, the drop averaged 2.5 mpg. But the fuel-efficiency ratings of hybrids -- which were ill-suited to the old tests -- took an even bigger hit: The Toyota Prius, for instance, fell from a combined city-highway average of 55 mpg to 46 mpg, while the Honda Civic hybrid declined from 50 mpg to 42 mpg.
Despite these big decreases (and their substantially higher price tags), eco-friendly hybrids -- which combine a gas engine with an electric motor -- are gaining traction among buyers. Hybrid versions of popular vehicles such as the Toyota Camry, Toyota Highlander, Nissan Altima, and Ford Escape are already available, and new ones -- including the Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Yukon, and Dodge Durango -- are on the way. Even with the more modest mpg numbers, hybrids will still save you hundreds of dollars at the pump every year while significantly reducing emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants.