Mazda3 hybrid will get more than 50 mpg, but sadly won't be sold in U.S.
Hybrids remain a niche market in the U.S., but a growing number of carmakers are launching gas-electric versions of their cars. Sadly, though, Mazda apparently doesn't want to be one of them.
The company has just unveiled a Prius-beating fuel-efficient hybrid version of the Mazda3 compact car at the Tokyo Motor Show, but won't sell this car in the United States at any point in the immediate future.
Calling it "another major milestone for Sustainable Zoom-Zoom," Mazda describes the new hybrid as "an uncompromising hybrid from an uncompromising carmaker."
It's rated for the equivalent of 72 miles per gallon in Japanese testing, which allows for higher ratings than American EPA testing. The standard Mazda3 is rated for the equivalent of 44 mpg in that same test, and 34 mpg in the EPA tests.
Running a mathematical correction, that would give a very rough estimate that the Mazda3 hybrid would get 55 miles per gallon in U.S. EPA testing. For another metric, it edges out the best-selling Toyota Prius in the Japanese test (the Prius is rated for the equivalent of 71 mpg in that test); the Prius has an EPA rating of 50 miles per gallon.
The Japanese market, where fuel costs are higher and small cars are more popular than here, is perhaps a better fit for a new hybrid than the U.S. But Mazda's SKYACTIV fuel-saving technology is getting a lot of attention here, and a fuel-efficiency flagship would fit beautifully into that line.
Mazda has some limited experience selling hybrids -- the Tribute SUV, a mechanical twin to the Ford Escape, was sold with the Ford-developed hybrid mechanicals from 2005 to 2009. But this Mazda3 was developed by Mazda itself.
Fortunately, even American Mazdas have had excellent fuel-saving technologies lately. SKYACTIV saves on gas without the complexity of electric motors -- the Mazda3, Mazda6 and Mazda CX-5 all have EPA ratings at or near the tops of their respective classes, without needing to sacrifice power either. And a diesel-powered Mazda6 is due in the U.S. in spring 2014.
But hopefully Mazda recognizes the value of selling a hybrid in the U.S. and corrects this omission before Toyota or another competitor has a chance to raise the standard.