For the third year in a row, the three-cylinder Chevrolet Sprint has captured the top rating in the annual mileage tests of the Environmental Protection Agency.
The 1,875-pound Sprint Metro model was rated at 54 miles per gallon in city driving and 58 mpg on the highway, the same figures recorded for the Sprint ER last year. The Honda Civic CRX HF tested out at 50 mpg city, 56 mpg highway.
The Lamborghini Countach, a pistol-hot sports car from Italy appearing on EPA's list for the first time, was rated at 6 mpg in the city, the lowest figure EPA has ever recorded, and 10 on the highway. Last year's biggest guzzlers, several Rolls-Royce models, appeared on the list again just ahead of the Lamborghini at 8 mpg city, 10 mpg highway.
There is no list of top domestic cars this year. EPA said it stopped producing one because of the increasing confusion over what a domestic car is, since Japanese car makers Toyota, Nissan, Honda and Mazda now produce cars in the United States, sometimes in joint ventures with U.S. companies.
In some years, the list of the best mileage ratings has been an all-Japanese affair, but not this year. Ford's Festiva, made in Korea by Ford's 10 percent-owned affiliate, Kia Motors Co., was ranked fifth at 39 mpg city, 43 mpg highway. The car weighs less than 1,800 pounds.
Counting sister models sold as the Pontiac Firefly and the Suzuki Forsa, the Sprint captured seven of the top 12 positions.
At the bottom of the list, buyers of six of the thirstiest 11 cars will have to pay the variable "gas-guzzler" tax imposed in the mid-1970s, when Congress required all cars to meet certain mileage standards. The Rolls and the Bentley escape the tax, however, because of a quirk in the law -- it applies only to cars weighing less than 6,000 pounds, and they weigh more. The Lamborghini bears the most tax, $3,850