The United States Environmental Protection Agency released a new report this week citing an annual overall improvement in new car fuel efficiency from 20.6 miles per gallon in 2007 to a projected 20.8 miles per gallon for 2008—a jump of 0.2 miles per gallon. These figures reflect real-world driving results, which differ from Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) guidelines imposed upon car manufacturers. The study includes new cars, trucks, and SUVs with Gross Vehicle Weight Ratings of less than 8,500 pounds.

The projected 2008 numbers for the top three foreign carmakers put Honda and Toyota in the lead, with 23.6 miles per gallon and 23.4 miles per gallon, respectively—while Hyundai came in at 22.6 miles per gallon. Among Detroit’s Big Three, General Motors came at 19.6 miles per gallon, with Ford averaging 19 miles per gallon, and Chrysler placing a close third with 18.9 miles per gallon. Automakers across the board are aiming to meet new CAFE standards of an average of 35 miles per gallon by 2020 for their cars and light trucks.

The EPA report entitled, “Light Duty Automotive Technology and Fuel Economy Trends: 1975 Through 2008,” says its 2008 projection will most likely be even better once the final data for the entire year is compiled—taking into account the influx of smaller, more efficient vehicles due to loftier fuel prices. The initial estimates for 2008 were calculated during a period when fuel prices were 15 to 25 percent lower than they are now.

The survey also reports that eight percent of new vehicles are equipped with a continuously variable transmission, a setup favored by many hybrids; manual transmissions, often associated with performance vehicles, have dropped from 23 percent down to seven percent.