Improvements in vehicle fuel economy seldom make giant strides. Instead, manufacturers use numerous technologies that, individually, make only minor changes in the consumption figures. Add them all together, though, and they can make quite a difference at the gas pump.


That’s the idea behind the brakes on the all-new 2011 Mazda2, which save a fractional amount of fuel that then adds up alongside other improvements throughout the car.


Although they don’t look any different from those on other vehicles, there is a tiny gap between the Mazda2’s brake rotors — the metal discs that sit behind each wheel, and which turn with them when you’re driving — and the metallic brake pads that are squeezed against them when you hit the brake pedal, which brings the car to a stop.


Normally, the pads always rest lightly against the rotor, which requires energy to overcome the drag.


The new Mazda system eliminates the contact between pad and rotor.

“The basic concept was to reduce the frictional losses that are attributable to the drag between the rotor and the brake pads when you’re driving,” says Ruben Archilla, group manager of advanced engineering and program promotion for Mazda North American operations.

“On the Mazda2, we were able to reduce the amount of drag from the brakes by about 50 per cent.”