Mazda has taken its own road toward boosting the fuel economy of its vehicles, and its latest small SUV manages to break the critical 30-mpg combined rating barrier.
The 2016 Mazda CX-3 subcompact crossover utility is rated at 31 mpg combined with front-wheel drive, and 29 mpg combined with optional all-wheel drive.
DON'T MISS: 2016 Mazda CX-3: Full Review
Those ratings are identical to the 31 mpg achieved by one front-wheel drive model of the 2016 Honda HR-V, another subcompact crossover introduced this year, and its 29 mpg for the all-wheel-drive version.
Every Mazda CX-3 is powered by a 146-horsepower 2.0-liter SkyActiv four-cylinder engine, paired to the company's six-speed automatic transmission.
2016 Mazda CX-3
No manual gearbox option is currently offered for the CX-3, unlike the HR-V, which can be ordered with a six-speed manual in certain models with front-wheel drive.
The Honda HR-V, however, uses a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that adjusts its drive ratios to the most efficient engine speeds, while Mazda's automatic works in the conventional way.
The full ratings for the CX-3 are 31 mpg combined (29 mpg city, 35 mpg highway) for the 2WD model, and 29 mpg combined (27 mpg city, 32 mpg highway) for the AWD version.
Ratings above 30 mpg for any utility vehicle at all underscore the steadily rising fuel economy required even of tall, wagon-like SUVs and crossovers of all sizes.
2016 Mazda CX-3 - Los Angeles Auto Show Live Photos
And it's all due to annual increases in corporate average fuel economy rules that were enacted in 2009 and 2010.
Those rules took effect with the 2012 model year, and will continue to rise through 2025.
Subcompact SUVs are one of the hottest sales categories for U.S. buyers these days, as utility vehicles of all types continue to surge in popularity.
As well as the CX-3 and HR-V, the Chevrolet Trax was introduced for 2015, as was the Jeep Renegade, and the Fiat 500X joins the category for 2016.
2016 Mazda CX-3
Earlier pioneers in the category included the Suzuki SX4 (no longer sold in the U.S.), the 2011 Nissan Juke, and the 2013 Buick Encore.
The 2016 Mazda CX-3 will go on sale late this summer.