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2011 Nissan Micra/March – Click above for high-res image gallery

The drive to develop fuel-sipping subcompact cars has taken over in Japan, according to a report released by the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA). JAMA declares that "a fascinating new form of competition seems to be brewing" claiming that "the trend towards ever better fuel economy is set, and these latest fuel-sipping offerings in Japan show how fast the technology is moving."

JAMA's report explains that Japanese automakers have targeted matching the fuel efficiency of the Toyota Prius, the "king of the hill" in terms of miles per gallon with a rating of 89 mpg in Japan's 10-15 test cycle. Of course, the Prius is a compact hybrid vehicle, but that hasn't deterred Japan's automakers from striving to develop gasoline-fueled subcompacts that come close to matching the Prius' fuel-sipping abilities.

For example, the non-hybrid Honda Fit posts a fuel efficiency rating of 58 mpg and the Nissan Micra/March returns 61 mpg in Japan's 10-15 test cycle. The Daihatsu Move, with its 0.66-liter engine, boasts an even more impressive 64 mpg rating. However, Mazda, with the introduction of its SkyActiv-G-equipped Demio (Mazda2) scheduled for later this year, will likely claim first place in Japan's subcompact, gasoline-fed, fuel efficiency wars with a rating of 71 mpg.

As JAMA's report concludes, "the competition is quickening" and Japan's subcompact cars continue to "set extraordinary new standards for fuel efficiency." This is a fight we can get behind.




[Source: Ward's Auto – sub. req.]


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 29 Comments
      • 3 Years Ago
      @Eric Loveday,
      "Of course, the Prius is a compact hybrid vehicle"

      Of course it isn't. The 2010 Prius is USA mid-size and Euro NCAP "Large family car".
      • 3 Years Ago
      My 15 year old (1996) Geo Metro averaged 44mpg US. How far we have come, not.
        • 3 Years Ago
        I share both your frustrations with the system and what JK alludes to as american entitlement. It is true, the metro was at the most basic transportation it was very reliable and while it did not have 10 air bags it was safe enough in an even matched collision.

        As for the MPG, that was my real world mixed driving with a stick shift. If it was just highway it was 48+.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Did it do that on the EPA test cycle, or in your experience?

        As completely lame as the EPA test is, at least it's consistent. It gives a basis for comparison. Larry Leadfoot can't compare his fuel economy to yours based on personal experience because you don't know how his driving differs from yours.

        Also, the EPA switched to a more pessimistic regime, and dry-labbed their old numbers downward, because morons who don't know that the gas pedal isn't an on-off switch could never achieve EPA economy. (When in reality, even the old figures were well below what was doable with only moderate economy measures.)

        Oh, and the Japanese tests tend to return much, MUCH higher figures than US ones. I think they may just run the car at a fixed speed or something.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Your 15-year-old Geo Metro was a tiny, lightweight car that would be squashed like a bug in a collision with one of the many behemoth passenger vehicles on the road today. The rise of the SUV forced all other cars to get bigger and heavier to remain sufficiently safe. Moreover, your Metro has very few creature comforts, and Americans like to have those in their cars, which has added weight, too.
      • 3 Years Ago
      The Mazda 2 I'm really excited about . It will have a d.i. motor with 14 to 1 compression , that means with compression that high it will be a torquey motor and get good gas mileage as well
      It will be nimble and fun to drive -- zoom zoom
      • 3 Years Ago
      Keep producing more fuel-efficient mid-size and heck even very improved SUV's. Last I checked, this site was about all cars, not just the 'politically correct' ones. Either make cars that people will buy, or they will go elsewhere. They don't want the Chinese model, oh that's right, they're not communist anymore either. So much for the 'force all Americans into tin-can underpowered deathtraps' attitude. Good luck with that.

        • 3 Years Ago
        Hmm, none of the compact cars i've driven have been underpowered or unsafe.

        Which cars are you referring to?
        BTW, people used to drive cars like the dinky Ford Model T back in the day and they got around just fine. Since when did we need something the size of a suburban to get back and forth to work... and take that boat down tho the lake a few times during the summer..?

      • 3 Years Ago
      I wish we had this problem.
      I would feel a hell of a lot safer on the road with more small cars everywhere, and we could use half the oil per year..

      I guess i can dream.. until then i'll be drooling over a Scion IQ and 2012 Civic HF.
      • 3 Years Ago
      If Japan's 10-15 cycle is indicative of what driving is like on the island.... uhhh, thanks but no thanks, I might as well not even own a car. Blech! Thats 25mph-25mph-25mph-40mph average.... Thank god my commute is more like 40mph-80mph-80mph-80mph.
        • 3 Years Ago
        And perhaps that is why Japan equates tiny+hybrid to most fuel economic, since they are testing stop and go bicycle speeds. When you get up to highway speed, aerodynamics matter so more than diminutive size, and turbo-diesels become amazingly efficient.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Ducman: " "That *one* stop dropped your average speed from 80 to 73.8."

        Thats a valid point, however, in the context of fuel economy is mostly irrelevant.

        While coasting to a stop from higher speeds, you are using very very little to no fuel depending on the model."

        Only true unless you never accelerate back up to 'speed', i.e. once you stop, you're not moving the vehicle 'ever' - seemed as likely as some pies in the sky.

        In the end, stop and go is the biggest reason why fuel mileage suffers in city/heavy traffic.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Ducman69: I think your concept of average speeds is probably a bit off. If you drive for 12 minutes at 80 mph, then spend one minute stopped at a traffic light, your average speed is

        total distance 16 miles
        total time 13/60 h
        -> 73.8 mph

        That *one* stop dropped your average speed from 80 to 73.8.

        As for city driving - you'd be lucky to average 3/4 of your top speed, usually it's more like 1/2. My average speed in the city is typically 28 km/h (17.5 mph). That's in North America, city driving. Even "freeway" speeds in some U.S. cities can have surprisingly low average speeds. It took me an hour to drive 25 miles down 880 once - that's an average speed of, you guessed it, 25 miles per hour, with no traffic lights at all!

        And either you're Lance Armstrong or you've never been on a bicycle. Most people can't average better than 20 km/h (12.5mph).
        • 3 Years Ago
        The EPAs test isn't very high speed either, but better.

        The Prius is generally not considered a subcompact and it has a .26 drag coefficient with narrow low roll resistance tires.

        The VW Jetta Wagon is bigger, has a superior power to weight ratio, and larger regular tires and gets 42mpg.

        So imagine what a smaller turbo-diesel with a similar power to weight ratio as the Prius inside a Prius chassis could achieve on the highway.... yup, thats what I thought. ;)
        • 3 Years Ago
        Ducman: "The Prius is generally not considered a subcompact and it has a .26 drag coefficient with narrow low roll resistance tires."

        Oh, let's see.

        Tires of Prius (except Prius Five): 195/65R15
        Tires of Jetta S: 195/65R15
        Tires of Jetta TDI: 205/55R16

        How much can the width of tire be a factor of Prius's fuel efficiency?
        • 3 Years Ago
        "That *one* stop dropped your average speed from 80 to 73.8."

        Thats a valid point, however, in the context of fuel economy is mostly irrelevant.

        While coasting to a stop from higher speeds, you are using very very little to no fuel depending on the model. MTX Ford small engines for example will cut fuel flow entirely, and keep the engine running from the tires alone unless you put the vehicle in neutral. So that deceleration while lowering average speed is irrelevant to fuel economy.

        If you idle at the stop light for five minutes, average speed is greatly affected, fuel economy is not as engines use very little fuel idling compared to accelerating and cruising at highway speed. Otherwise my average fuel economy trip meter would take a massive dump for any stoplight.

        So that one stop, for all practical purposes, matters only in the respect that you have added one acceleration round into your thirty minutes of highway cruising average.
        • 3 Years Ago
        My gf's Prius has 185mm special low rolling resistance Goodyear 15" tires, I know because I bought the replacements myself. And that was half the statement, the other half is that the Prius has an extremely aerodynamic body which I praise, and if mated with a fuel efficient diesel would provide tremendous highway fuel economy.

        As evidence of that, a vehicle that doesn't have an aerodynamic body or special narrow low RR tires and a greater power engine the VW Jetta wagon gets great fuel economy, which would be even better inside a Prius and downsized to similar performance levels.

        And the Prius is not a tiny car, it is an aerodynamic car, which reinforces the statement I made that a regular size aerodynamic turbo-diesel vehicle would be amazing for mostly highway cruising. A tiny hybrid on the other hand would only appear very fuel economic when subjected to the Japanese 10-15 cycle, which is so slow you might as well just get out and rollerskate. ;)
        • 3 Years Ago
        keep in mind that 42 mpg diesel is roughly equivalent to 37 mpg gasoline since diesel is a denser fuel. Diesels are still generally more efficient than gas cars but not by as much as it would appear.
        • 3 Years Ago
        And yet, even the EPA rates hybrids like the Prius before turbo diesels....(Yes, on Highway too)
        • 3 Years Ago
        I forgot to mention, the Jetta isn't particularly aerodynamic, w/ a .36 drag coefficient. That difference is massive on the highway, where over 80% of required power is just to overcome drag. That is one of the reasons my 460hp Corvette w/ massive 325mm tires still gets 28mpg on the highway, its fairly aerodynamic at .28Cd. The same engine in a Dodge Ram would suffer greatly.
        • 3 Years Ago
        I have to agree, going thru a city to get to a highway, and doing 65, can lower your average speed to 24mph. My typical commute to work is in the 21-22 mph range, with a "top speed" of 45 mph in some sections.

        As for the VW, also remember aerodynamics have two components.
        - Drag
        - Frontal Area: the VW has more frontal area.

        That's why I say Pickup's and SUV are Specifically designed to BURN GAS.
        Everything about them is wrong.
        - Large Frontal Area
        - Brick Aerodynamics
        - Huge heavy tires, require huge suspensions.
        - Huge Engines: requiring huge cooling system, braking and exhaust systems, with more platinum in the exhaust system.
        [ And then they complain about gas prices, the high prices they create with their huge demand for gas. ]

        There ought to be an HP gauge in modern cars as well.
        It would show most of the time your in the 1-25 HP range of engine demand.
        Which might give some buyers incentive to stop buying 300+ HP vehicles.

      • 3 Years Ago
      Very boring-looking car. Which is to say it's an improvement over the godawful current March. (The one before that looked pretty good.)
      Rajev Naik
      • 3 Years Ago
      (CONSTANT TORQUE RECEPROCATING IC ENGINE) In all IC engines built so far, the reciprocating motion of the connecting rod is converted in to rotary motion for wheel through crankshaft. This was most appropriate technology when the engine was invented. However, with continuously rising fuel prices around the world, many attempts are being made for improving engine efficiency. I have studied existing technology in detail & have found out following disadvantages with existing system. DISADVANTAGES IN EXISTING SYSTEM 1. The torque generated is always in a sine wave form. 2. Although, fuel combustion exerts tremendous force on piston from TDC to BDC (can be considered constant for any particular power stroke); all of it is never converted in to desired torque. When piston is near TDC or BDC, the force is wasted in compressing / stretching crankshaft radial arms towards / away from crankshaft bearings. Due to this repetitive cyclic force, crankcase is required to be designed adequately strong & robust for bearing non converted force from Pistons. 3. Due to sine wave nature of torque conversion, maximum torque is available ONLY AT CRANKSHAFT ROTATION AT MULTIPLES OF 90 deg. For all other times, the torque available is LESS THAN MAXIMUM POSSIBLE. 4. For a 4 cylinder engine with cranks placed at 90 deg apart & firing order 1,3,2,4; cylinder 1 (say) has power stroke from 0 deg to 180 deg of crankshaft rotation; then other cylinders will fire as under • Cylinder 1: 0 deg to 180 deg. • Cylinder 3: 180 deg to 360 deg. • Cylinder 2: 270 deg to 450 deg. • Cylinder 4: 450 deg to 630 deg. For cylinder 1, next power stroke starts at 720 deg only & hence it can be seen that from 630 deg to 720 deg, there is no power available in any of the cylinders. Engine has to cross this zone only by means of inertia of the over all system. Considering all these disadvantages, I have developed a new concept in IC Engine, which WILL NOT HAVE ANY OF ABOVE DISADVANTAGES. I have named it TEJJ IC ENGINE having following advantages: ADVANTAGES OF TEJJ IC ENGINE 1. This Engine WILL PRODUCE CONSTANT TORQUE OVER ALL POSITIONS OF CRANKSHAFT ROTATION. Torque wave will be a rectangular one. 2. The torque will be comparable to that of ELECTRIC MOTOR. 3. As no force from piston will be wasted in exerting undue force on crankshaft bearings, crankcase design can be made relatively lighter. 4. Torque available will be EQUAL TO MAXIMUM POSSIBLE TORQUE of existing sine wave torque at 90 deg multiples. 5. This engine can be easily made in existing plants since It is only addition / modification of components & rearrangement of existing engine using ALREADY PROVEN COMPONENTS ELSE WHERE. 6. No new technology yet to be tasted is used for this invention. 7. Work done PER POWER STROKE of ENGINE WILL BE ALMOST 55% HIGHER THAN THAT IN AN EXISTING SINE WAVE IC ENGINE. 8. This will lead to TREMENDOUS INCREASE OF ENGINE EFFICIENCY / MILAGE FROM VEHICLE. 9. This Engine can be used for all IC engine applications as at present. 10. Due to lower forces involved vibrations & sound from engine will be minimised. Above information along with graphical comparison of torque waves is available at http://www.scribd.com/doc/49011286/TEJJ-IC-ENGINE-Constant-Torque-IC-Engine.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Ducman69:

      Why is it that people who love diesels and/or dislike hybrids always insist on bragging about their Highway MPG? Sure, a Jetta Sportwagen with a 6-speed manual rates 42 on the highway, but it only rates 34 Combined because its City MPG is just 30. The combined MPG of the 2011 Prius is 50, nearly 50% more MPG, and a 32% reduction in gallons of fuel consumed per car. And that's without taking into account the fact that it takes more oil to make a gallon of diesel than a gallon of gasoline, as Sean pointed out.

      Yes, it's true that the Jetta Sportwagen has half-again as much cargo volume as the Prius (33 vs. 22 cu. ft., though much of that is vertical space and not terribly useful if you want to see out your back window), but it has a bit less passenger volume (92 vs. 94 cu. ft.). When the new Prius v goes on sale this summer, the Jetta Sportwagen will lose the cargo volume advantage because the v has 50% more cargo volume than the standard Prius. The difference in fuel economy ratings will be significantly smaller since the Prius v will get more like 40 MPG combined, but that's still a win for Hybrid Synergy Drive, as is the much higher EPA Air Pollution Score for the Prius.

      Oh, and the starting price of the diesel version of the Sportwagen is nearly $2,000 more than the starting price of the Prius.
        • 3 Years Ago
        That 6 speed is significant in highway mileage. Gearing is important.
        • 3 Years Ago
        I am IN the oilfield industry, and you aren't understanding refining processes. When you process a barrel of crude, you do not get 100% of any particular resultant products such as gasoline and they are not mutually exclusive, and the quantity produced of each depends on the plant optimization and feedstock used. Yes, US refineries are optimized for gasoline production compared to European ones for example, but each barrel will produce gasoline and diesel as well as kerosene, grease, etc. Diesel production itself requires less processing.

        Biodiesel is also far more environmentally friendly than gasoline and corn-based ethanol blends combined with battery recycling.

        Hybrids are excellent for inner city stop-and-go conditions, I was merely remarking that I am glad I don't have to deal with such horrid bumper-to-bumper conditions and generally set my cruise control to 80mph. Nothing beats a diesel at that thanks to single stage energy conversion (remember, "you can't even break even"), high compression ratio efficiency, and high caloric density of diesel fuel.

        Cliffs notes: drive in horrid inner city conditions with constant stop and go traffic = take a bus or buy a tiny hybrid. spend most of your time cruising at speed, get an aerodynamic vehicle w/ a diesel engine.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Ducman69:

        I don't doubt you know more than I do about the refining process.

        I'm totally opposed to corn ethanol, but I don't favor growing crops to make diesel, either. Though it has a much better energy-return-on-investment (EROI) than corn ethanol, it still mines the soil to produce fuel for our cars - albeit more slowly - and soil is far more precious than auto-mobility. Diesel made from waste veggie oil may be useful when it can be done without expending too much energy collecting it (again, EROI), but we're not going to produce more than a tiny percentage of the liquid fuels we currently use that way (Americans love their fried foods, but we consume roughly 13 million barrels of oil a day for transportation in the U.S.), and only a small percentage of U.S. passenger cars can burn it at the moment.

        It's a pity that - at least as far as I know - there are no super-aerodynamic diesels on the U.S. market. If one drives the vast majority of their miles on the highway, such a vehicle might well be the best choice right now, though it will still emit significantly more air pollution than hybrids do. While diesels have been made cleaner in recent years, they are still much dirtier than the cleanest gasoline vehicles.

        To my mind, we're simply going to have to use cars and trucks of all kinds a lot less in the future, and those we do use are going to have to be electric, with the electricity generated through clean energy. This is why I favor hybrids: they are a stepping-stone to full electrification, providing the real-world experience necessary to drastically improve the performance of electric motors and battery packs and the manufacturing economies-of-scale that will bring down costs over time.

        Here's a stumper: Why doesn't the 2012 Jetta TDI sedan achieve higher Combined MPG than the TDI Sportwagen with a manual transmission? Seems like it should, but both the auto and manual versions rate just 34 Combined.

        If you are interested in increasing your MPG, try setting that cruise at 65 MPH. Fuel economy plummets above 65 due to the increasing effects of drag at high speeds.

        • 3 Years Ago
        @Ducman69, nothing in John's comment suggest that he misunderstands the refining process as you suggested. It does in fact take more oil to make a gallon of diesel than a gallon of gasoline. Crude oil is broken up into various products, but that does not change the fact that diesel weighs more, takes more raw resources to make and contains more energy than gasoline.
        • 3 Years Ago
        " It does in fact take more oil to make a gallon of diesel than a gallon of gasoline. Crude oil is broken up into various products, but that does not change the fact that diesel weighs more, takes more raw resources to make and contains more energy than gasoline."

        I don't believe you read or at least accepted a single thing I just said. Yes, diesel is a heavier hydrocarbon, which means it requires much less refining to produce than gasoline. The actual breakdown of output from crude depends on what the plant is optimized for and what feedstock is used, so to base a comparison on US plants that are geared to maximize gasoline output by every means possible including cracking is quite obviously a nonsensical comparison, as the opposite would apply if the emphasis were placed on diesel output. It is a safer fuel, it does not readily evaporate, and there is less waste due to contamination with longer shelf life compared to gasoline-ethanol blends. Gasoline and especially ethanol have much reduced caloric density, absolutely, and that is a tremendous plus to the diesel fuel. I means that the vehicle can have a smaller lighter fuel tank and carry less weight in fuel for a given range.

        And as was mentioned, ethanol production using corn is highly inefficient and beyond the aspect of wasting and escalating food prices and contaminating grounds waters due to the need for heavy pesticide use, by most counts doesn't even break even on oil replacement value.

        A 10% biodiesel blend on the other hand from food industry waste be it fat from animal slaughters or vegetable sourced is more environmentally friendly and efficient.

        Europe understands this, and therefor taxes gasoline at a higher rate than diesel.

        Unfortunately in the US, the corn industry is such a political powerhouse, that such common sense legislation gives way to special interests. It is especially disconcerting considering that diesel engines are even more efficient on the average American roads which are mostly high-speed highway linked compared to the stop-and-go traffic of the more densely populated and winding urban European streets.
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