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Hot Wheels At N.Y. Auto Show

Anyone with a car has seen the upward drift of gas prices, which have jumped an average of 17 cents in the past two weeks. And the auto industry is watching that trend closely, rolling out a variety of more economic, fuel-efficient vehicles.

They're on display at the New York International Auto Show at the Jacob Javitz Center. Hybrids are getting a lot of attention this year, offering electric power assist for lower gas usage. And the other flavor of the moment is the crossover utility vehicle, or CUV. This is the fastest-growing sector in the United States, outpacing even the remarkable growth of SUVs in the 1990s. A cross between a station wagon and an SUV, their attraction lies in spacious and flexible interiors, all-wheel drive, and better fuel efficiency than larger vehicles.

Courtney Caldwell, editor in chief of Road and Travel magazine, highlighted some of the hottest newcomers for The Early Show Wednesday.

Saturn Vue Green Line Hybrid
The Vue Green Line is expected to be the lowest-cost hybrid-powered SUV on the market, and advertises a combination of fuel savings, value, and utility. The company says it will deliver an estimated 20 percent improvement in fuel economy, depending on driving conditions. It is expected to carry an EPA fuel economy rating of 27 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway, which would make it the best highway fuel economy of any SUV currently on the market.

Electric Motor/Generator improves fuel efficiency by:

  • Fuel shuts off upon deceleration
  • Engine shuts off when vehicle is stopped
  • Promptly restarts engine when brakes are released

    Other features:

  • OnStar, an in-vehicle navigation, safety and security system.
  • Price: $23, 000

    The Vue Green Line's 2.4 liter hybrid powertrain provides approximately 170 horsepower, 27 more horsepower than the 2.2 liter engine that powers the conventional Vue. The Green Line Vue's acceleration is comparable or better than similarly equipped non-hybrid SUVs. Its 0-60 time is actually one second faster than the non-hybrid 4-cylinder Vue.

    For more information, go to www.saturn.com

    Dodge Caliber Crossover Utility Vehicle
    This CUV offers the functionality of an SUV, but the fuel efficiency of a smaller car.

    A five-door vehicle that combines a sporty coupe-like profile with the strength, stance and functionality of an SUV. Caliber is an affordable and fuel-efficient entry-level compact car.

    Other features:

  • Chill Zone refrigerated glove box
  • iPod flip storage compartment
  • Illuminated cup holder
  • Miles per gallon: 28/32
  • Price: $14,000

    For more information, go to www.dodge.com

  • Nissan Versa
    Named for its interior versatility, it offers plenty of leg room in the rear, rare for compact cars, and can seat five comfortably. Versa is available with a standard 120-horsepower 1.8-liter DOHC 4-cylinder engine and a choice of three transmissions, including Nissan's advanced Xtronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) that provides smooth shifting and enhanced fuel efficiency.

    Other features:

  • Roof mount side impact bags
  • Bluetooth connection for hands-free cell phone use
  • Large cargo area
  • Miles per gallon: 38
  • Price: Starts at around $12,000
  • On sale in early June

    For more information, go to www.nissanusa.com

    Honda Fit
    Offers exceptional legroom for a subcompact and standard features usually only found on more expensive cars. Unique seating configuration allows for four different modes of seating in the rear. The 2007 Honda Fit is designed to take the subcompact market into new territory with its highly refined and adaptable functionality, sporty driving demeanor and high levels of standard safety equipment. Building on Honda's reputation for dependability, quality and reliability, the Fit is being promoted for its style, technology and value, as well.

    Other features:

  • Standard 5-speed manual transmission and available 5-speed automatic transmission
  • Anti-lock brakes and side curtain airbags
  • Miles per gallon: 33/38
  • Power windows, mirrors and door locks
  • AM/FM/CD audio system with four speakers (six speakers on Fit Sport)
  • Price: Starts at $14,400

    For more information, go to www.honda.com

    Ford Edge SUV
    The 2007 Ford Edge is equipped with an all-new 250-horsepower V-6 engine and 6-speed automatic transmission. The Edge promises performance and fuel efficiency and is packed with innovations such as a panoramic glass roof and laptop-friendly center console, as well as fuel-saving engine and advanced safety features.

    Features include:

  • Vista Roof — like convertible without the wind
  • Automatic button folds down rear seats for hands-free loading
  • Removable console for purse or laptop
  • Miles per gallon: not rated yet but expected around mid 20s
  • Price: not yet released but expected to be in mid 20s
  • On sale in the fall

    For more information, go to www.ford.com

    There's more information on the New York International Auto Show, go to www.autoshowny.com.