Car To Get 70 MPG, Hybrid-Free
Japanese automakers are confirming what I've long suspected: Getting better fuel economy is a matter of trying harder. When the new Mazda 2 goes on sale in Japan next year, it's going to get 70.5 miles per gallon there. And it's not even a hybrid.
Technology Review's Kevin Bullis is careful to point out that the fuel economy rating stateside won't be as impressive since the requirements here are quite different. Michael Graham Richard of Treehugger is highly skeptical, estimating that the new Mazda's city rating would probably translate into 35 to 37 miles per gallon, although I think that will probably be true for the larger version that the company plans to introduce in North America next year.
I'm more inclined to trust the JD Power and Associates power train forecasting group manager Bullis interviewed who put the estimate at between 50 to 60 miles per gallon. That would put the Japenese vehicle head-to-head with the Prius.
Let's look under the hood and see what's going on with the Japanese version. Granted, we're starting with a subcompact car. Still, the new engine gets a 14-to-1 ratio for fuel-air compression, compared with the more common 10-to-1 ratio for engines. As Bullis explains, Mazda's direct injection system sprays fuel directly in the engine's combustion chamber, helping to prevent premature ignition and an effect called "knocking." A better design for the exhaust pipes adds to the efficiency, along with modified timing and pistons.
It drives me crazy that foreign car companies, and even some American ones, introduce tiny, super-fuel-efficient versions outside of the United States. There are probably myriad factors at play and more complication than I'm sure I can imagine, but still. Maybe we'll have to wait until gas prices go back up.
Photo: The North American version of the Mazda 2, which sadly doesn't get 70 MPG. Credit: Mazda USA.