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To paraphrase the famous quote from astronaut Neil Armstrong, that's one small step for man and one giant leap for the Mazda2. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has weighed in on the new Mazda2 version, and says it gets a fuel-economy rating of 33 miles per gallon city and 43 mpg highway with a six-speed automatic transmission. Stick-shift gas-mileage figures are 31 city and 42 highway, which are still substantially better than the 29/35 rating from the most recent iteration of the model. That's about a 15-percent jump in fuel economy, people.

More importantly, the Mazda2 beats out competitors such as the Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio Eco and even the Honda Fit in terms of fuel efficiency, which is pretty good company. The Mazda2 boasts a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine. But it is the upgrade to six-speed transmissions in both manual and automatic versions that seem to be making the biggest difference in the ratings.

Mazda started unveiling details about the next-generation Mazda2 last year, and last fall began production of the model at Mazda's new factory in Salamanca, Mexico. At that time, the Japanese automaker had already sold more than 2.4 million Mazda2 vehicles since the model's introduction in 1996.

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