• The new BMW 328i achieves up to 36 mpg on the highway.
  • The powerful 335i was rated at 33 mpg.
  • The 3 Series offers far better fuel economy than rivals.

The new sixth generation BMW 3 Series will boast the best gas mileage in its segment when it debuts later this year. That's the latest from the EPA, who recently rated the upscale sport sedan's fuel economy well ahead of several key rivals.

According to the EPA, the most frugal 3 Series model is the 240-horsepower 328i, which features a new turbocharged 4-cylinder powerplant in place of last year's six-cylinder. The EPA says 328i models equipped with the standard 6-speed manual transmission return 23 miles per gallon in city driving and 34 mpg on the highway, while the available 8-speed automatic boosts gas mileage to 24 miles per gallon in the city and a stellar 36 mpg on the highway.

Enthusiasts will be happy to note that stepping up to the muscular 335i doesn't cause a significant decline in efficiency. Despite its 60 horsepower boost over the 328i, the 300-horsepower 335i returns 20 mpg in city driving and 30 mpg on the highway with its standard 6-speed manual transmission, or a surprisingly frugal 23 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway with its newly available 8-speed automatic.

While the 3 Series' fuel economy figures are certainly impressive on their own, they're even more remarkable when stacked up against the sedan's major rivals. The Mercedes C250, for instance, is rated at 21 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway despite just 201 horsepower - a far cry from either 3 Series model. Likewise, the Audi A4 is rated at just 21 miles per gallon in the city and 31 mpg on the highway with its standard manual transmission and 211-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine.

So what's BMW's secret to wringing so many miles per gallon from its new 3 Series? According to the automaker, several factors are at play including weight reduction, new engine technology and the new 8-speed automatic transmission. But regardless of the reason, we applaud BMW for bringing such exceptional fuel economy to a performance sedan - and we can't wait to see the gas mileage numbers of the upcoming 3 Series diesel and hybrid variants.

What it means to you: BMW's new 3 Series proves you don't need to sacrifice fuel economy for an exciting driving experience.

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Jeffrey Archer is fortunate to have turned a passion for cars into a career. His wide-ranging automotive experience includes work for automakers and dealers in addition to covering the news. When not writing, he spends his time searching for unique cars on AutoTrader.com.

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