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driving it home

Richard Buchan

Hyundai has the most fuel efficient passenger car fleet overall in Canada and the United States, but that doesn't mean the race to cut fuel bills for consumers is over between auto makers.

In fact, it's only starting.

Among the Detroit-based car companies, I think it's fair to say Ford Motors has put the most muscle behind improving the fuel economy. In fact, Ford's global product czar, Derrick Kuzak, has made no bones about the company's goal of earning fuel economy leadership with every new model.

Well, Ford is not quite there. So far, Hyundai is winning, but with a much, much smaller lineup. But in places where Ford and Hyundai go head-to-head… Well, Hyundai's new Accent subcompact has better fuel economy than the Ford's Fiesta runabout, if only by a small margin. And the Hyundai Elantra has better fuel economy than the Ford Focus.

That said, the battle continues. Yesterday, Ford took a new stab at pushing its fuel economy message. The company announced an EcoBoost engine lineup in the all-new Ford Escape which will have its debut next month at the Los Angeles auto show. Ford then added that the all-new C-MAX Hybrid will be 25 per cent more fuel efficient than the current Escape Hybrid.

In a Webcast, Kuzak said buyers want fuel economy more than anything else in a new vehicle and his company is bent on meeting that need more efficiently than any other car company.

So here's what coming from Ford:

* The new Escape will have three four-cylinder options -- 1.6- and 2.0-litre EcoBoost engines and a 2.5-litre Ti-VCT four-cylinder.

* Next year, Ford will launch the C-MAX Hybrid and C-MAX Energi plug-in. The five-passenger C-MAX Hybrid has Ford's own in-house hybrid transmission and lithium-ion battery system. Ford was quick to point out the C-MAX will have an 800-km driving range using the battery and engine, "more than any other plug-in or extended-range"

A few other details: The 1.6-litre EcoBoost engine uses turbocharging, twin independent variable camshaft timing (Ti-VCT) and direct injection and should deliver 31 mpg (7.58 L/100 km) in the new Escape. Ford said the new 2.0-litre EcoBoost will "have better fuel economy than competitors' V-6 engines."

All this is good news for consumers being battered at the fuel pump these days. According to the weekly Pump Price Survey from MJ Ervin and Associates/Kent Marketing Services, a litre of regular gas is selling for $1.36.2 in Vancouver and $1.38.9 in Yellowknife.

So of course fuel economy matters.

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Correction: 31 miles per gallon (U.S.) is equivalent to 7.58 litres per 100 km. The story above has been corrected.

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