By on January 18, 2018

2018 Mazda 6

Every year, the Environmental Protection Agency tabulates all available data for new vehicles sold in the United States and prints colorful graphs showing the country’s progress — or in some cases, regression — in key areas of autodom. Areas like average fuel economy, vehicle weight, horsepower, and emissions.

It’s a tradition dating back to the heady, wide-lapelled days of 1975.

The most recent report on light-duty vehicles in the U.S. shows definite, albeit incremental, progress towards many environmental goals. While the auto landscape may not be advancing at the rate preferred by many environmentalists, urbanists, and the Tesla fan base, there’s cause for celebration within the report’s pages. There’s also a special prize in there reserved just for Mazda.

Why Mazda? Well, the slightly offbeat, lower-volume automaker managed to earn the title of greenest vehicle fleet without a single hybrid or electric car in its portfolio.

In terms of average adjusted fuel economy, Mazda’s 2016 fleet topped all others with a rating of 29.6 miles per gallon. Sales-weighted carbon dioxide emissions of 301 grams per mile also topped all other brands, including second-place Hyundai (the most-improved automaker for 2016).

While Mazda, with a helping hand from Toyota, plans to enter the electrified arena in the near future, its love of high-compression four-cylinders and lack of trucks or very large (or larger and strong-selling) SUVs earns it the top spot on the tree-hugging podium.

Dead last for both fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions was truck-heavy Fiat Chrysler. Compared to 2015, the average thirstiness of FCA’s fleet increased by 0.3 mpg, with CO2 emissions rising by 4 grams per mile. Also falling lower in the rankings for 2016 was Honda, Nissan, and BMW, all of which saw extra SUV volume in the last year with full data. Overall, the industry improved by 0.1 mpg and 2 grams per mile.

If that increase sounds pretty low, blame the consumer. The average fuel economy of all five classes of vehicle — car, crossover, body-on-frame SUV, truck, and minivan — rose in 2016, in some cases by a significant amount (both types of utility vehicle hit a record high, with pickups tying a 1986 record), but buyers took home many more large vehicles than the previous year. Combined market share of car-based and truck-based SUVs rose to 41 percent in 2016. Thus, the evolving mix decreased the fleetwide benefit of improvements made within each segment.

One thing that didn’t change in 2016 was average vehicle weight. Stable at 4,035 pounds, the  figure belies the fact that the average weight of a new truck dropped by 24 pounds (thank you, midsize class and aluminum F-150), while cars shed, on average, 23 pounds. Average horsepower rose by one stallion to 230 hp.

As trucks and SUVs make up more of the mix, the EPA predicts an average vehicle weight increase of 9 pounds for 2017, plus a 2 hp boost in average engine output. At the same time, it projects a 0.5 mpg average increase, and 7 fewer grams of CO2 per mile.

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57 Comments on “New Vehicles Are More Powerful and Efficient Than Ever, but the Greenest Automaker Only Sells Gas Models: Study...”


  • avatar
    Jeremiah Mckenna

    Sounds to me like the customer has it right.

    • 0 avatar
      Cactuar

      You got that right. We did a trip to Montréal today in a minivan as a family of 6. Tons of room to throw the kids’ large winter coats away, great heating, effortless V6 power, comfortable suspension and lots of room for bottles and snacks. It’s the quintessential North American lifestyle vehicle; quiet, roomy, comfortable, adequately powerful. And we don’t care one bit about fuel economy; we just refuel when the beast is empty. Don’t know the CO2 per mile, don’t care. We love it.

  • avatar
    gtem

    I just returned a 2.5L 4 banger Epsilon Impala this morning. Expected to loathe it and expected it to be a total slug. Not so. Not a hotrod by any means and not the most pleasant sounding thing, but entirely and wholly adequate both in town and on the highway. Serene 80mph cruising, an indicated 30.2mpg overall (90%+ highway). We’ve got it pretty good these days.

    • 0 avatar
      Jeremiah Mckenna

      “We’ve got it pretty good these days.”

      That makes me think. Growing up in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s the cars were larger, heavier and got decent MPG for their times, more so in the 90’s obviously as in the 70’s/80’s they were slugs mainly due to restrictive exhaust etc. But fuel didn’t cost a lot then, in fact I remember the day I turned 16 and got my real(non emergency/provisional/hardship) license and could drive my car when and where I pleased, the gas station across the street from my house raised the price to $1.00 a gallon. So much for ‘when and where’ I wanted as now my dollars would be stretched even thinner. I thought it was the end of the world since for so long, gasoline had been well under a dollar a gallon.

      But I guess what I am trying to say is, I believe it is all relative. Older, lower MPG but lower cost of fuel(and lower cost of new vehicles and especially used) compared to higher fuel costs but higher MPG(and higher purchase price new and used).

      So do we really have it good these days?

      • 0 avatar
        Bazza

        The inflation-adjusted cost of gasoline, pre-oil shock, was not significantly lower than it is now therefore not a significant addition to total operating costs in modern automobiles. In fact, when taken with significantly higher mpg figures our fuel costs per mile are lower, period. The higher costs of new and used cars today is a legitimate talking point, but comparing the equipment load, crashworthiness and sophistication of a modern automobile to a 70s-vintage rust bucket is like comparing an M3 “Grease Gun” to an MP5.

        • 0 avatar
          Jeremiah Mckenna

          A vehicle is a utilitarian device, nothing more. It goes from point a to point z with various points in between, taking you and your occupants or cargo along for the various rides. Sophistication doesn’t have anything to do with it, since with or without ABS, or even power steering/brakes, the job is still performed to the maximum duty cycle.
          As for the M3 to MP5, again, they both perform the same job, quite handily I might say. Although I prefer the larger .45 caliber, as the .9mm uses too many rounds to put the assailant down.

        • 0 avatar
          Jeremiah Mckenna

          As for your “gasoline, pre-oil shock, was not significantly lower than it is now” I will tell you that you are incorrect. “According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, prices for gasoline (all types) were 161.53% higher in 2017 versus 1988.”

          http://www.in2013dollars.com/Gasoline-(all-types)/price-inflation/1988

    • 0 avatar
      redapple

      Yeah. The Impala is a nice car BUT:
      1-I cant see out of the the thing g** Dammit.
      2- I got 30.4 MPG on a V-6 Chrysler 300. (~75 mph over 200 miles.). That car flies ! And it s closer to what a Cadillac should be than the Impala.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        Oh I agree there was nothing “standout” from a performance perspective, just that it wasn’t as horrible as I thought a 3800lb+ fullsize sedan powered by a 4cyl gas motor sounded like on paper. 2 lane passing was a non-issue.

        Worth noting too, that with 39k rental miles under the belt, aside from worn/noisy sounding tires, and a few barely perceptible dash noises over really bad pavement in near-zero cold, there was nothing about the car that differentiated it from a brand new Impala. Interior held up great.

        Yes rear sightlines suck. Interior isn’t bad IMO although the vinyl+scratchy cloth combo that is all-too common across the board these days I really don’t care for. The only jarring “classic GM” moment was the way the plastic fit around the ignition cylinder on the steering column. Two pieces of mismatched crappy plastic that didn’t fit together quite right.

        For motoring around Iowa and ferrying a weary traveler to a Texas Roadhouse and then back across the frigid Midwestern expanses, it was a reliable and comfortable partner.

        If I were Impala shopping I’d get a V6 variant with peanut butter leather interior and the wonderful (and elusive) shade of emerald green.

      • 0 avatar
        MoparRocker74

        I have a friend in my car club who has a ’17 Charger Scat Pack 392 with MDS. He consistently logs 27 mpg freeway on that car at 70 mph. That’s a 485 hp muscle sedan. For what you get, you can NOT beat that.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      My Mom has the LaCrosse 2.4l without thr battery assist and see 26 mpg all city or mid-30’s highway. I like the lightweight front end that is more toss able compared to my XTS Vsport with 3.6TT.

      I have bumped timing and reduced torque management and while quick, no v6.

      Car & Driver got a Avalon Hybrid beating 38 mpg @ 75 mph for the 2017 LaCrosse with EAssist.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      Meh. I unironically think they should have just attached a 6-speed to the 3800 and made that the base Impala engine. Jonny Lieberman, Doug DeMuro, and VWVortex would have blasted GM for it, but they make fun of the Impala 2.5L anyway.

      caranddriver.com/reviews/2014-chevrolet-impala-25-lt-test-review

      motortrend.com/cars/buick/lesabre/2000/2000-buick-lesabre-limited

    • 0 avatar
      SatelliteView

      people like you surprise me. Did you think it was going to be a 1991 Geo Metro? What’s wrong with you? It’s like going to Mexico city and be surprised they have electricity

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        “What’s wrong with you?”

        Calm down bro, do you own one of these things?

        I just expected it to feel slower than a typical 3200-3300lb midsizer with a similar powerplant, and I suppose it did, but not as noticeably as I thought it would.

  • avatar
    Jeremiah Mckenna

    Then again, this is average. So when you have 5 cars to choose from and they are small with small engines, there should be a low MPG average.

  • avatar
    ACCvsBig10

    No wonder the engines keep getting smaller and smaller. Cant wait to see that fullsize with a 1.0 liter twin turbo powerplant

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Mazda has the lowest output engines today alao.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        Which is all that really matters, mpg wise in the real world. All engines are very efficient these days. Engines are a pretty mature technology, after all. Ditto drivelines and aerodynamics. Almost all driving in the US can be done well below almost all engines’ peak output. As well as below peak torque, hence peak efficiency. Which, in the real world, translate to less power meaning less fuel used. The idiocy that some artificial loop driven at a, varying to boot, fraction of available power, makes much difference at all in the real world, is just more silly folly. By and for the usual gaggle of sillies and follies.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    You mean Mazda, with a bunch of smaller cars/CUVs with only 4 cyl engines (turbo or not), gets better average MPG than companies that sell 6 or more cylinder engines and trucks? Shocker.

    Next it’ll be the revelation that Subaru has a better average of inclement weather grip/traction than other automaker’s car lineups.

    • 0 avatar
      Jeremiah Mckenna

      Or Tesla has more BEVs…

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        Speaking of BEVs – Tesla doesn’t have a decent coffee mug holder. If I can’t bring my fave mug with the sippy lid, what good is the car? The mug fit my ’73 Monaco, in the ash tray.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, this greenest automaker thing is tinged with “only because they have limited opportunities” to me. Because all the sudden if Mazda had access to a big V6, and a truck which would sell xx,xxx units, you telling me they wouldn’t put it on sale immediately?

      The only reason they have the best MPG is because they aren’t owned by Ford anymore, and don’t have access to large things to sell.

    • 0 avatar
      TW5

      It seems so obvious, but tomorrow everyone will go back to proclaiming BEVs and hybrids as the saviors of the planet, though they are really energy-intensive indulgences sold by manufacturers that make inefficient cars.

      • 0 avatar
        MoparRocker74

        Theyre nothing but status symbols for the anti-car crowd to show how much they ‘care’ on the consumer side. The ONLY real world, hard reason to consider a hybrid or BEV should be to save $$ on fuel. But the cheapest Tesla is what, $80K not counting that mythological entry level one?

        If youre a skinflint looking to come out dollars ahead, then he elephant in the room is the 10 year old Corolla. For $5K you can easily find a low mileage granny-owned variant of one of these, and its a reliable 35mpg commuter pod that is $15K cheaper on the front end than the bottom basement EV or hybrid. That’s a LOT of headstart on savings…but you wont have the treehuggers at the farmers market or whole paycheck foods cooing about what a responsible little greenie you are…

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      I think contrary. If all manufacturers dropped v6/boats, we would be saving a lot of fuel

      • 0 avatar
        Jeremiah Mckenna

        But then we’d have to drive two cars to get all of our family around, since not all of the kids and other family members will fit into one of the small cars.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      I believe Ford has the most turbocharged engines.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    One horsepower per cubic inch of displacement is a pretty good rule of thumb If you want decent power. Obviously there are other factors but it’s good for a jumping off point.

    • 0 avatar
      Jeremiah Mckenna

      So, a 5.7 liter 350 cubic inch engine should have 350 hp? I agree, but then you throw out the MPG advantage.

      • 0 avatar
        Sub-600

        Oh, yeah, the mpg’s are toast. My small Hemi is 345 c.i. and produces 370 hp, not crazy fast but I can merge and pass without worrying. The weight of my car kills the mileage. There are going to be trade-offs if you want power, I’m not crazy about really small cars but that’s where the power/mpg ratios are best it seems.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Um you guys realize that the GM 5.3 V8 puts out 355 hp?

        Many engines are greater than 1 hp per cubic inch, even under our current fuel economy rules and without resorting to turbos.

        • 0 avatar
          Sub-600

          Yeah, some are well over 1 to 1, the Dodge 392 makes 483 horsepower and it’s naturally aspirated. That’s the problem with FCA, they have no “loss leaders” when it comes to CAFE standards. If Trump doesn’t help them they’re in trouble.

        • 0 avatar
          Jeremiah Mckenna

          Being with in the “current fuel standards” and getting great MPG are two different things. Don’t forget that engine (5.3l) is in the truck line up, not a Malibu, or Impala or even the Camaro or completely vanilla SS and not in any of their mid-sized SUV’s, only the F/S SUV’s.

          Reason is, trucks have a different(lax) standard.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Mazda might be the MPG leader, but its US market share continues to slide.

    • 0 avatar
      stingray65

      When fuel prices are low and the economy is strong, virtually nobody wants to penalize themselves with the slow (relatively), small (relatively) vehicles that Mazda makes. When times are good, most people want all space and pace they can almost afford, which is why everyone is introducing the fanciest (King Ranch Titanium Diamond version) and biggest (at least since the 1970s) and most powerful vehicles ever produced.

    • 0 avatar
      TW5

      It’s a shame. Their cars are quite good, but nobody thinks Mazda when they go shopping. I’m in the market for a bare bones commuter. I drove the Mazda 3 Sport. It wasn’t the nicest, fastest, or newest, but it was the most balanced. Everything worked the way it should. I didn’t have to learn any new lame infotainment. Dealer was eager to sell.

      • 0 avatar
        brn

        People who do cross shop Mazda are disappointed in the interiors (for many trims), the ride, and the noise. Many enthusiasts are willing to put up with this for other advantages (they sure are pretty). The average consumer is not.

        • 0 avatar
          TW5

          I suppose those are legitimate criticisms. I wouldn’t know because the Sport trim has squishier, narrower higher profile tires than the touring trims. They must have suppressed road noise and harshness. The engine makes noise, but that’s Atkinson for you.

          The new Mazda interiors are excellent compared to the older models, and they are comparable to most new vehicles. The main complaint against Mazda is that if you’re above average height, the interior will feel cramped. Previous gen Mazda 3 was a joke. I could never have owned that car even if I wanted it.

  • avatar

    PS. That sedan has a nice, stylish, and reasonable front end.

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      I really agree. By and large Mazda’s are great looking vehicles. That being said, Mazda need to do something underneath that good-looking skin to market vehicles that are able to attract more than 1.7 people out of each 100 in the US – this just pretty much covers the die-hard fanbois. The problem is more and deeper than just selling from few dealers situated in poor locations.

      • 0 avatar
        TW5

        Critical mass is the issue, imo. They don’t spend much time or energy advertising, at least in my area, and I almost forgot about Mazda when I started looking for a new commuter 2 weeks ago. The Mazda fanboi phenomenon works against them a bit as well because people buy and hold, which makes it difficult to find anything other than clapped-out, decade-old, non-certified used cars.

        The have regulatory problems as well. The footprint-specific CAFE regulations are putting immense pressure on Mazda though they are the most fuel efficient manufacturer. If the Trump admin wants to do something good for the industry, they should back the NHTSA away from footprint regs.

      • 0 avatar
        grinchsmate

        That 1.7% is interesting.

        In Australia Mazda is the second largest seller at roughly 9%. They basically position them self like a Toyota but not as boring.

  • avatar
    Fred

    I suspect that for the majority of car makers, electric and hybrids are but a small percentage of their total production.

  • avatar
    cheezman88

    Thing is, Mazda pretty much only sells naturally aspirated 4-cylinder engine cars. They only have 2 (Just 1 not very long ago) cars that have a larger engine as an option. I also realized, after owning a miata NC and my current Mazda3, that they tend to tune their engines for performance at a very specific and narrow RPM range. Which is how they get their high HP/TQ values without sacrificing fuel efficiency. For example, before I got my current Mazda3 skyactiv tuned for 93, the car really only made good power between 3250-4500 RPM. Everywhere else it was pretty weak. On top of this, the tuning in their skyactiv tech makes it so the engine only is in it’s performance fuel map in specific conditions. At other times it’s on a lower performance fuel map that emphasizes fuel efficiency and reliability. So it’s not consistent, and hard to get the level of performance you expect from the marketing numbers.

  • avatar
    Jeremiah Mckenna

    Can we see another irrelevant article/study on the same subject, only removing the trucks from the line up of those companies that have trucks in them? Chrysler only sells two vehicles but Ram only has trucks, Dodge doesn’t have trucks, but has all of those power houses. Chevrolet has several to choose from when you remove the truck line up, but GMC only has a few cross overs when you remove the truck line up. Toyota, Nissan, Honda also have trucks(even though a lot don’t consider the Ridgeline a truck, it still has an open bed. The only companies I can think of that don’t have a truck would be Hyundai, Mercedes(F/S vans though), BMW, Jaguar. How would the end be when the game is fair?

  • avatar
    PandaBear

    I don’t think Mazda is intentionally doing that, but rather they have no budget building trucks and SUVs that makes a lot of money and has to settle for the low margin high mpg cars.

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