We keep hearing about advanced electrified tech as the means to meeting government fleet economy averages – and it yet may be – but at present the class leader is a non-hybrid and non-EV manufacturer, Mazda.

Mazda’s 12 models listed by the EPA’s fueleconomy.gov site total only a third as many models as Toyota offers, for example, so it has fewer cars to make efficient.

Nonetheless, Mazda for the past three years has been number one – except maybe for Hyundai which along with sister company Kia was not listed due to uncertainties following an ongoing EPA investigation.

With these qualifiers stated, according to the just-released U.S. EPA Trends data, Mazda’s fleet-wide fuel economy and emissions output beats that of 10 other major manufacturers.


Mazda’s average mpg is 27.5, beating next-up Honda’s 27, and third-place Toyota’s 25.2. Its CO2 emissions is estimated at 324 grams per mile, compared to Honda’s 329 and Toyota’s 352 – and incidentally, Nissan is on the verge of taking Toyota’s place.

The EPA’s chart however is not based on window sticker economy ratings that consumers normally see, but on “real world” data the government derives.

“Adjusted CO2 values are, on average, about 25-percent higher than the unadjusted laboratory CO2 values that form the starting point for GHG standards compliance” says the EPA in a qualifying footnote, “and adjusted fuel economy values are about 20-percent lower, on average, than unadjusted fuel economy values.”

This said, without benefit of hybridization or electric cars, Mazda’s modest number of model offerings is quietly beating competitors that normally gain great credibility for their yet-small electrification efforts.

“That’s pretty impressive, huh?” said Mazda’s Dan Ryan manager, Government & Public Affairs today of its being on top of the government’s list.

Ryan attributes the high average to SKYACTIV technology, “our biggest R&D program ever,” which the company officially describes as an approach to improving overall vehicle efficiency.

“SKYACTIV TECHNOLOGY is a blanket term for Mazda’s innovative new-generation technologies that are being developed under the company’s long-term vision for technology development, Sustainable Zoom-Zoom,” says the automaker.

In essence, it’s Mazda’s marketing term for optimization of existing tech.

And, it’s being blended into Mazda’s model range to achieve decent if not chart-topping efficiency for any one stand-out model. None of Mazda’s cars beat a Prius or a Volt, for example, but for all the internal combustion-only cars Mazda sells, their fleet-wide average adds up to a better score.

The “SKYACTIV” nomenclature applies to not just gas and diesel engines – the latter is not yet available in the U.S., but will be – but also transmissions, body and chassis.

Ryan said 75 percent of Mazda’s product sales are now SKYACTIV, indicating a fast take-off since the 2012 Mazda 3 became the first car to utilize it.

Since then, the 2013 CX-5 and Mazda 6 also include it at no extra price premium like hybridization typically does, said Ryan.

“I sort of characterize it as fuel economy for everyone,” he said.

Ryan noted SKYACTIV improved the Mazda 3’s highway fuel economy from 32 mpg to 40, and the Mazda 6 from 30 mpg to 38. Similar improvements are experienced in any model receiving the SKYACTIV treatment.

But then you have Kia and Hyundai, currently in the EPA’s detention hall, and separated from their peers due to allegedly inaccurate claimed numbers. This may be so, but despite its alleged naughty or careless behavior, Hyundai may yet be the current over-achiever, if the EPA’s grading on a curve is itself accurate.

“On November 2, 2012, EPA announced that Hyundai and Kia would lower their fuel economy estimates for many vehicle models as the result of an EPA investigation of test data,” said the EPA. “Based on these corrected data, Hyundai’s values are 27.2 mpg and 327 g/mi CO2 for MY 2011, 28.3 mpg and 314 g/mi CO2 for MY 2012, and 28.3 mpg and 315 g/mi CO2 for MY 2013 (preliminary) [emphases ours]. Kia’s values are 25.8 mpg and 345 g/mi CO2 for MY 2011, 26.5 mpg and 336 g/mi CO2 for MY 2012, and 27.3 mpg and 326 g/mi CO2 for MY 2013 (preliminary).”

If indeed the EPA’s preliminary correct numbers are accurate, this would mean Kia is holding down third place behind Mazda, and Hyundai’s 2012/2013 scores make the Korean automaker’s fleet the most efficient of all.