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So What Will Those 42-MPG Cars Actually Look Like? (Hint: Not Golf Carts) Page 2

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HOWEVER ... there will be downsides, no question about it. The main one will be cost; each of these technologies adds costs to the base price of a conventional, gasoline-engine car.

President Obama said in his address that any cost increase would be paid back by reduced fuel cost within three years: "So this is a winning proposition for folks looking to buy a car. In fact, over the life of a vehicle, the typical driver would save about $2,800 by getting better gas mileage."

Until we see the president's math, we'll reserve judgment on that one.

Meanwhile, the auto industry's McCurdy told The New York Times that 130 current models already get 30 miles a gallon or better on the highway. By our count, that's a bit less than half the 300 or so models on the US market. Of those, just nine get better than 30 mpg in the city as well.

Raise the bar to 35 mpg or better in both city and highway tests, and only two cars qualify:  the 2009 Toyota Prius (48 city / 45 highway) and the 2009 Honda Civic Hybrid (40 city / 45 highway). The 2010 Toyota Prius does better yet, with a combined 50-mpg rating, and the 2010 Honda Insight gets a combined 42 mpg.

That list of high-mileage cars was always destined to grow. The new regulations ensure it will grow much faster.

Note, by the way, that the 2010 Prius counts as a midsize car based on interior space. Not quite a golf cart, hmmmm?

2007 Honda Civic Hybrid 4dr Sdn w/Navi exterior front upper left

2007 Honda Civic Hybrid 4dr Sdn w/Navi exterior front upper left

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