To join the growing club of compact cars that can touch 40 mpg in the U.S. government's highway driving tests, Mazda tweaked the 2012 Mazda3 with aero changes and a new 2-liter engine. The LOLs are still intact.


The "Skyactiv" engine — Mazda's name for its bags of non-hybrid tricks — churns out 155 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque (California buyers sacrifice one horse for emissions), slotting it between the carryover 2-liter and 2.5-liter fours. Combined with reworked transmissions and an exterior redesign that shaves drag, the Skyactiv-equipped Mazda3 sedan can hit 28 mpg city/40 mpg highway with a six-speed automatic; the six-speed manual is one mpg less in both cycles.

The Mazda3 hatch loses a little efficiency due to its size - 28/38 automatic, 28/37 manual — but both can now travel more than 500 miles before someone has to pay $4.00 a gallon of gas.