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  • Average new car fuel economy is 23.8 mpg.
  • That's an increase of 1.4 mpg over 2011.
  • It's the highest jump since the EPA began tracking.

The average fuel economy of a new car recorded a huge jump last year. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), average gas mileage jumped 1.4 miles per gallon in 2012 for an overall average of 23.8 mpg. That's the largest increase measured by the EPA since it began tracking fuel economy in 1975.

According to the EPA, the increase of more than 6 percent over 2011 was led by Honda, Volkswagen and Mazda. Honda was the 2012 fuel economy leader, recording an average 26.4 mpg among its entire fleet. Volkswagen was close behind at 26.2 mpg, while Mazda finished third at 25.9 mpg. Hyundai would've topped the charts, but the brand was left out due to a recent fuel economy inquiry.

Among domestic automakers, Ford was the highest, with a 23.2 mpg corporate average -- a major increase from last year's 21.1 mpg. Chrysler finished last among domestics and overall, with its truck-heavy lineup averaging just 20.6 miles per gallon.

And it wasn't just average fuel economy on the rise last year. The EPA also announced carbon dioxide emissions were reduced, dropping from 398 grams per mile in 2011 to just 374 in 2012. That's important, since carbon dioxide accounts for a large portion of greenhouse gas emissions.

The fuel economy figures promise that automakers will reach the lofty gas mileage goals set during 2011 in conjunction with the Obama administration. Those goals say that, by the 2016 model year, U.S. cars and light-duty trucks have to average 35.5 miles per gallon. By 2025, that number rises even higher to a whopping 54.5 miles per gallon.

The EPA says that 25 percent of today's cars already meet or exceed the 2016 standards. Undoubtedly, fuel efficiency will continue to improve as the future draws nearer and the fuel economy standards loom even closer.

What it means to you: Although cars are more efficient than ever, fuel economy will only continue to rise in the coming years.

author photo

Doug DeMuro has a wide range of automotive industry experience, from work at a Ferrari dealership to a manager for Porsche North America. A lifelong car enthusiast, Doug's eclectic vehicle purchases include a Porsche 911 Turbo, an E63 AMG wagon, an old Range Rover and a Mercedes Benz G-wagen.

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