Mazda3 joins the 40-mpg club

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.