New Vehicles Offer Easy Handling, Better Fuel Economy

With sales of small sport utility vehicles on the rise, auto-makers are preparing a new generation of SUVs that are more car-like and as fuel efficient as the cars they are replacing in family garages, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association.

"New SUVs coming to market are more car-like, and will likely get more car-like mileage of 21 to 26 miles per gallon on the highway," said NADA Chief Economist Paul Taylor. "SUVs are likely to remain popular with car buyers as more of these new products hit the road." New, smaller or mid-size SUVs soon to hit the market include offerings from Pontiac, Mazda, Ford and Hyundai.

The fastest growing sales of SUVs is in the mid-sized category (such as Chevrolet Blazer, Ford Explorer, Lexus RX300 and Nissan Xtera) which have highway gas mileage ratings of 20 or more miles per gallon. Higher fuel prices are not currently hampering sales of these relatively economical SUVs. The next fastest growing segment is smaller SUVs (Chevrolet Tracker, Suzuki Vitara, etc.) which have a highway mileage rating of 27 miles per gallon.

The largest SUVs (Chevrolet Suburban, Ford Expedition, etc.) have seen only modest, single-digit sales growth. These larger vehicles have highway fuel economy ratings of approximately 16 to 18 miles per gallon.

The National Automobile Dealers Association represents 19,500 franchised new-car and -truck dealers holding nearly 40,000 separate franchises, domestic and import.