In a typical year, Mazda sells fewer total vehicles in the U.S. than Toyota sells Camrys, or Honda sells Accords. Or Civics, for that matter.
In 2010, in the heart of the Great Recession, Ford and Mazda unwound their longtime partnership, casting a shadow of the brand's future here. Still, in 2011, Mazda introduced a new efficiency initiative called Skyactiv, which it implemented partially on the 2012 Mazda3 compact and then fully on the CX-5 crossover.
Skyactiv doesn't re-engineer the internal combustion engine as much as refines it. Piece by piece, system by system, Mazda engineers seek out inefficiencies to resolve. Weight and friction are the two biggies and receive a lion's share of the attention.
In the end, both cars achieve high levels of efficiency and neither compromises Mazda's focus on performance.
Now, the end-of-year sales numbers are in and the company's future looks brighter than it has in a good long time.
Total sales were 277,046, Mazda's best since 2007 and second-best since 1994.
The 3 sold 123,361 units, of which 69 percent were Skyactiv models.
At 43,319 units, the CX-5 was Mazda's second-best-selling vehicle and is a finalist in the North American Truck/Utility of the Year competition, the winner of which will be announced Jan. 14.
I recently spent a week testing a Mazda3 sedan (it's also available as a hatch), and once again was taken both with its lively, responsive attitude and its 28/40 fuel efficiency ratings. I reviewed the original Skyactiv 3 this time last year and I'm not sure I'll do a full review this time around.
However, if you're shopping in the compact segment, it deserves a serious look.