SUVs have been the top trend in the car world for a while, but their large dimensions tend to hinder their fuel efficiency. By this time, the world is shifting towards rides that are comfortable and powerful, yet are easy on the environment. When you choose a fuel-efficient car, you are not only lowering the negative environmental impact but at the same time, you are also saving a ton of money in the long run.
When you think of fuel economy, you are less likely to consider an SUV. However, with time, SUVs have evolved, and some of the latest options are quite fuel-efficient, compared to their ancestors, and even electric SUVs are now a reality as well. Let’s take a look at what the industry has done to work around that and make them irresistible.
What is a good fuel-efficient SUV?
Good fuel-efficient SUVs are those with more technology working in favor of lowering fuel consumption– cylinder deactivation, direct injection, low-friction engine parts, optimized tires, and so on. Innovative mechanisms and electronics are the two most important that can make an SUV somewhat more fuel-efficient nowadays.
External design no longer plays a primary role here because it has been standardized – nowadays, cars, in general, have so many requirements to fulfill that the industry is left with little freedom to develop innovative bodies or upgrade the existing ones. Aerodynamics is still important, of course, but it has been executed mostly through aftermarket accessories such as air diffusers and spoilers.
What is the most fuel-efficient SUV?
For a long time, Ford has made a big effort to be a reference when it comes to electrification. That goal becomes even more beautiful when we remember that it is a generalist brand: it is always more difficult to offer new technologies, whether about electric powertrains or anything else when you have a limited budget.
While the F-150 honors that initiative in the pickup market and the Mustang Mach E does the same among crossovers, the brand is best represented in the SUV segment by the much more mundane Escape. Its sporty silhouette helps the plug-in SUV hybrid reach 37 miles in fully electric mode and the impressive combined mileage of 102 MPGe.
Which one has the best gas mileage?
Among gas-powered SUVs, the Nissan Kicks makes a combined 33 mpg. When it comes to regular hybrid models, the Ford Escape has a version capable of a combined 41 mpg. The same model wins the plug-in hybrid gold medal since its dedicated version makes 102 MPGe. The Toyota RAV4 Prime, on the other hand, is the only one to reach 42 miles in fully electric mode.
What is the most fuel-efficient non-hybrid SUV?
The Nissan Kicks makes 31/36 mpg (city/highway), which grants it a combined mileage of 33 mpg.
Being a subcompact model is a great start, of course, but the Japanese model also benefits from a small engine and a modern platform that has low weight among its qualities. As if that was not enough, it only uses front-wheel drive and comes with a CVT.
As you can imagine, such construction makes its performance subpar at high speeds, but that loses importance when we remember that this is an essentially urban car: when driven inside its habitat, it behaves more like a compact hatchback than any typical SUV.
List of Top 24 Most Fuel-Efficient SUVs
Here we have listed down the top 24 most fuel-efficient SUVs, divided into subcategories Hybrid, Plug-in Hybrid, and Petrol.
1. Ford Escape Hybrid (41 mpg)
The car-like design makes it aerodynamic and helps the hybrid powertrain reach a combined 41 mpg. You should only stay away from the base trim levels, as they cost too much for their cheap trim.
2. Lexus UX (40 mpg)
Low weight to move and low height to make it as sporty as an entry-luxury crossover can be. If you like the company’s unique visual language and overlook the coarse operation of its engine, you are going to have a great urban car.
3. Toyota RAV4 (40 mpg)
The RAV4 features imposing looks and a list of versions made to please everyone – especially if you focus on the mid-level ones, which are neither poorly equipped nor too expensive.
4. Toyota Venza (39 mpg)
If you are willing to trade some of the RAV4’s sensibleness for sportier style Toyota can still cater to you. On the other hand, the Venza’s design also reduces its internal room and is not backed by its driving dynamics.
5. Honda CR-V (38 mpg)
Honda’s interpretation of the people-pleaser SUV has a big cabin and fills it with high-quality materials, but all that appears to take a toll on its performance. The hybrid powertrain helps it reach great mileage but the batteries reduce the cargo volume.
6. Toyota Highlander (36 mpg)
How many three-row SUVs do you know with hybrid powertrain? That is great for the Highlander because it is quite unimpressive at everything else. The equipment list matches that of Lexus models at the top trims, but even the entry-level is well served.
7. Lexus NX (32 mpg)
The NX is taller, older, and more spacious than the UX, which gives it a more mature feeling. On the other hand, that maturity also makes it show its age. The hybrid powertrain is definitely focused on saving fuel above anything else.
8. Lexus RX (30 mpg)
The RX seems perfect for people who want an edgy style just for show; inside, they still enjoy an old-school, comfortable family car. The hybrid setup is also focused on fuel efficiency, leaving sportiness aside even with the F Sport package.
Plug-in Hybrid SUVs
1. Ford Escape Plug-in Hybrid (102 MPGe)
Ford’s current line offers your desired car in several powertrain options to let you decide how to balance selling price and estimated yearly fuel cost. The Plug-in Hybrid version is the least thirsty.
2. Toyota RAV4 Prime (94 MPGe)
With handsome design, proven reliability, well-rounded equipment list, and a cutting-edge plug-in hybrid setup that gives it 302 hp, it is simply difficult to resist Toyota’s crossover in this version.
3. Subaru Crosstrek Plug-in (90 MPGe)
Like the previous model, opting for the plug-in hybrid powertrain greatly increases the Crosstrek’s fuel efficiency. Nevertheless, the fully electric range is 17 miles, too low for everyday commute.
4. Lincoln Corsair (78 MPGe)
The most fuel-efficient version bundles a plug-in hybrid engine, CVT, and all-wheel drive to create a more sophisticated use of the Escape’s platform – not to the point of its European rivals, though.
5. Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (70 MPGe)
It is no longer among the most efficient options available because it is no longer one of the newest ones. While it still makes interesting mileage, you should wait for the next generation to come.
6. BMW X3 (60 MPGe)
This model honors BMW’s tradition with so many sedans and delivers quite an interesting dynamic behavior, especially considering it is a taller and heavier model. All-electric range is 18 miles.
7. Volvo XC60 (57 MPGe)
Volvo XC60 boasts a handsome design, well-equipped cabin, and 400 hp of combined power. The XC90’s little brother may not be as refined, but the tech specs it delivers are interesting even outside the Polestar trim.
8. Lincoln Aviator (56 MPGe)
Think of it as a more maneuverable Navigator. That means classy design, upscale cabin, and smooth ride, but the hybrid powertrain’s lack of refinement makes it fall behind its European competitors.
1. Nissan Kicks (33 mpg)
The Japanese model behaves more like a city-oriented hatch than a typical SUV. Lightweight platform, minimalistic construction, FWD, and CVT only… everything was made to save fuel here. At least all this efficiency comes with a quite tasteful external design.
2. Kia Seltos (31 mpg)
If you need more space but still do not want to spend a lot on gas, Kia’s brand new model is quite interesting. The handsome styling is paired with two four-cylinder options and a tech-savvy equipment list perfectly suitable to younger generations. AWD does not make it much thirstier.
3. Chevrolet Trailblazer (31 mpg)
Chevrolet wants you to know that you do not need to choose between efficiency and style. On the other hand, you do have to choose between sportiness and style: both its downsized engines are slow, especially considering the weight of its upscale trims.
4. Honda HR-V (31 mpg)
The HR-V proudly represents the deceased Fit as the practical option of the pack. Ample cabin, ergonomic cabin, and fuel-efficient powertrain are the highlights here. Also, you should keep in mind that an all-new model is coming soon.
5. Nissan Rogue (31 mpg)
The all-new generation came with a handsome, boxy look that makes it a strong contender in the compact segment, where it fights with the likes of Jeep Compass and Toyota RAV4. Unfortunately, it is still an average SUV in pretty much all the other aspects.
6. Subaru Crosstrek (30 mpg)
Subaru decided to tune up the Impreza hatchback and give it a value-oriented off-road gear. Comfortable cabin, well-rounded design, efficient powertrain, it is all there – even a plug-in hybrid version, in case you want it to save fuel even further.
7. Hyundai Kona (30 mpg)
This model is mechanically related to the Seltos, but the external design easily anticipates why they peacefully coexist: while the Kia is rugged and imposing, the Kona is agile and dynamic. It manages to be pleasant when moving on twisty roads, and when it is being refueled.
8. Subaru Forester (29 mpg)
The Forester turns out to be even more Subaru-like than its little brother: more adventurous, more sensible, and, given that it is one of its oldest nameplates currently used, more traditional. Keep an eye for the 2022 model, which was facelifted.
How to keep your SUV on-point to keep up fuel efficiency?
The first point to pay attention to is maintenance. A car can only properly operate if everything in it respects the wear limit provided by the manufacturer. That means repairing or replacing parts and fluids as soon as it is necessary and/or recommended on the driver’s manual.
Besides that, but not less importantly, you should take care of your car day by day. Low-quality fuel may be cheap but it usually brings technical problems over time. Besides, the more objects you just forget inside it, the more weight it has to haul around town without any real necessity.
List of reasons why your SUV is ‘eating’ more fuel
- Neglected maintenance
- Low-quality fuel
- Abandoned belongings inside
- Large wheels and wide tires
- Highway driving with windows down
What to check each year
Visiting a repair shop actually depends on the necessity and the driver’s manual indications. Besides that, you can also take care of your car (and its fuel consumption) by keeping it clean and free of unnecessary weight and by using the best possible fuel.
Drawing the line
Choosing a fuel-efficient SUV model requires analyzing several variables. A plug-in hybrid powertrain is the most efficient option available for most of them, but it is also the most expensive. Gasoline-powered models are much cheaper to buy but will make you pay a lot of money every time you have to stop at a gas station. As a result, the hybrid powertrain looks like an interesting middle ground.
Once you decide on those options, researching the available models is important because each one is good at something different: comfort, design, equipment, and value. Therefore, getting to know them, at least your favorite ones, will help you learn which model will be the best match for you. Be sure that this match is different for every person.
1. Are SUVs more fuel-efficient?
They are becoming more fuel-efficient by the year. Now that people are finally starting to buy EVs in general, market rules are working in their favor: every automaker wants their SUV to be the best in its class, so they are regularly getting improvements of all sorts. More capable batteries, lighter parts, reduced friction, more aerodynamic bodies– everything that can help is being used here.
SUVs will never be as fuel-efficient as a sedan or a hatchback if we only consider design because they are taller and usually heavier. However, since SUVs are the trend of the moment, they have been the industry’s center of attention: they are expected to receive so many improvements that they are expected to reach the same level of fuel efficiency as those other body styles soon.
2. What is the most fuel-efficient midsize SUV?
The Lincoln Aviator offers an equivalent mileage of 55 MPGe with the possibility of making 22 miles in fully electric mode. It currently sits in the middle of its manufacturer’s lineup and competes with SUVs such as the BMW X5 and the Volvo XC90. While it is often claimed to deliver the same level of luxury as the bigger brother Navigator, it is not as refined as its European competitors.
The good news is that most of those competitors offer similar mileage figures, so it will be difficult to miss in this segment. Competition has already become big enough to motivate automakers to update their SUVs rather frequently, after all, no one wants to offer the gas-guzzling of the pack.
3. What is the most fuel efficient full size SUV?
The Bentley Bentayga is a noteworthy contender here. Full-size SUVs are large and heavy by nature and most of them use large and thirsty engines to deliver the expected power without costing way too much. The exceptions are full-size SUVs whose budget afford an electrified powertrain capable of making them actually fuel-efficient – the Bentayga is good for 46 MPGe and 18 electric miles.
Unfortunately, you will only find true fuel efficiency in the luxury members of this segment. Mainstream competitors such as the Ford Expedition or the Nissan Armada reach much lower mileage thanks to their V8 engines. The Chevrolet Tahoe is one of the few exceptions thanks to the optional diesel engine, although its mileage is still not comparable to the Bentayga.
4. What is the most fuel efficient 7 passenger SUV?
The Land Rover Range Rover uses the same recipe as the Bentayga minus the sporty character. That makes it good for 42 MPGe and a fully electric range of 19 miles. In case you do not need so much electrification, the same model also offers a mild-hybrid set up on its base trim: in that case, the electric motor only assists the combustion one and you can get a (slightly) less shocking price tag.
5. What is the most fuel efficient luxury SUV?
While the Land Rover Range Rover Sport has the same plug-in hybrid powertrain and same EPA official figures of the high-end sibling Range Rover, its performance-oriented character frees it from the countless luxury items and accessories and gives it a slightly more aerodynamic silhouette. Both characteristics are bound to make it even more fuel-efficient than its sibling in everyday use.