The award for most-improved fuel economy in a single model year goes to the 2016 Mazda 2. Or rather, two model years. There is no 2015 version of the wee zoom-zoom hatch, and we still don’t have confirmation from Mazda on the timing of the 2016 model’s U.S. arrival. But the Environmental Protection Agency has the numbers for the new car, and they’re 23-percent higher (combined rating) versus the outgoing 2.
With the six-speed automatic, the 2016 Mazda 2 gets 33 mpg city and 43 mpg highway, a major jump from the old car’s 28/34 mpg. The six-speed manual isn’t far off at 31 mpg city, 42 mpg highway, again a major improvement over the 2014 five-speed model’s 29/35 mpg. The Mazda 2 uses the company’s new 1.5-liter Skyactiv four-cylinder, which boasts direct injection, high compression, and other internal tricks. It’s shared with the overseas-market Miata and makes 129 horsepower at 7000 rpm and 111 lb-ft of torque at 4800 rpm. Likely, we won’t see the diesel or the smaller 1.3-liter engine, which musters only 91 ponies and 89 lb-ft. That’s way too slow for us Americans.
On the EPA’s list of small cars, the new 2 ranks third overall behind the untouchable Toyota Prius C hybrid (53/46 mpg) and the miserable Mitsubishi Mirage (37/44 mpg with the CVT). The miniscule Scion iQ (36/37 mpg) beats the 2 in the city. Among teeny stick-shifts, the Mirage (34/42 mpg) trumps the Mazda in the city, and 1.0-liter three-cylinder Ford Fiesta SFE (31/43 mpg) beats it by 1 mpg on the highway.
The base manual Fiat 500 nudges close (31/40 mpg) while the row-your-own Hyundai Accent trails behind (27/38 mpg). The Mazda 2 automatic beats the Honda Fit by 2 mpg highway (33/41 mpg with the CVT), the Volkswagen Golf TDI DSG by 2 mpg in town (31/43 mpg), and it trounces the slushbox 500 (27/34 mpg).
We don’t have numbers for the 2’s sedan clone that will be built on the same Mexican assembly line, the 2016 Scion iA, but we’d swipe left on that thing.
Even with the baby Mazda’s improved numbers, it’s worth noting that subcompacts don’t bring the huge fuel savings over larger cars that they used to. A Mazda 3 hatchback with the 2.0-liter engine and the automatic nets 30/40 mpg (giving up just 3 mpg to the Mazda 2), and it’s roomier and better equipped for just slightly more.