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Beating the EPA numbers is nothing special the EPA lists my Impreza as 18/26 even though I consistently get 25 mpg with my commute being 100% city. Cressida exceeded EPA numbers significantly especially on highway. The only reason to use them is all cars are put through the same conditions to produce those numbers, they tend to give a good idea which model will be more efficient over the other for the regular driver who's not very good at driving.
As for the 2nd gen getting lower mpg, you can't make a blanket statement the car produces worse mpg when the engine choices aren't the same. The only conclusive way to note the car is worse on fuel economy is using similar engines and the only similar engine is the 1.8L and they can be compared and in this case the 2nd gen is better, albeit slightly. Using the 2.4L and saying this is the reason its worse on mpg is just silly, you note most of the Matrix's in your area are 2.4Ls but I see more 1.8s. The 1.8 engine is there for those concerned about fuel economy, if Toyota eliminated this engine then yes you can technically conclude the car is worse on fuel economy for the lack of engine choice as the reason.
1986 MX-73 Cressida 5M-GE 290,000+ kms - SOLD 1986-2013
2004 GD-67 Impreza EJ25 240,000+ kms - SOLD 2011-2014
2014 ZN6 FR-S FA20 17,000+ kms - Daily