What Are the Most Fuel-Efficient SUVs?
In the early days of SUVs, you had to compromise on performance and fuel economy if you chose one over a sedan. Their high bodies, blocky aerodynamics, and heavy all-wheel drive components meant significantly higher fuel consumption. Now, though, improvements in aerodynamics, engines, transmissions, and other technologies mean that choosing an SUV no longer comes with massive gas bills. In fact, the best-selling SUV in the country, the Toyota RAV4, achieves 35 miles per gallon on the highway according to the EPA. If you need more space than a family sedan provides, but want similar levels of fuel economy, you have plenty of options, even without going hybrid; all of the SUVs on our best-seller list get over 30 MPG on the highway.
Toyota’s RAV4 is truly the original fuel-efficient SUV, one of the first off-roaders to be based on a car platform instead of truck underpinnings. For over 20 years now, its combination of tall ride height, Toyota quality, and impressive fuel economy have made it a sales leader, with each generation growing in size and presence. The latest version is, interestingly, the most “truck-like” RAV4, at least in terms of its looks, with angular lines and lots of plastic body cladding that give it a tough stance. Fortunately, inside, it’s still a RAV4, with a well-made, thoughtfully-designed, and easy-to-use cabin that is more spacious than ever. We love that its climate and audio systems combine large knobs and buttons along with the expected touchscreen. Despite the simple controls, it’s packed with tech including Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration, Amazon Alexa, and Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 driver assists. Active cruise control, pre-collision braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, road sign recognition, and automatic high beams are all standard. Drivers looking for more performance, or better economy than the 2.5-liter four cylinder, can choose a powerful and even more economical hybrid drivetrain – a Toyota specialty.
- Last Year’s Sales: 407,739
- Starting MSRP: $27,975
- EPA Estimated City/Highway MPG: 27/35
Honda’s CR-V perennially hovers near the top of the best-seller lists for its combination of a spacious interior, Honda reliability, strong resale value, and excellent efficiency. A brand-new CR-V has been announced for 2023, and promises many major upgrades over the already-excellent 2022 model. It’s longer and wider, improving not only its looks and stance, but also its interior space. There’s more rear-seat legroom and far more cargo space than before – and the interior has also been upgraded with a brand-new minimalist design. Smart technology touches include a new touchscreen audio system, illuminated USB ports, and available wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto with a wireless charger. A new wide-view camera and radar, traffic jam assist, low-speed braking control, and traffic sign recognition are also standard. A 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder produces 190 horsepower; it is said to be more efficient than the current CR-V, which gets 34 MPG on the highway. All-wheel drive and a hybrid powertrain with a 2.0-liter four cylinder and two electric motors, are also available.
- Last Year’s Sales: 361,271
- Starting MSRP: $31,610
- EPA Estimated City/Highway MPG: 28/34 (2022 model)
Completely redesigned for 2022, the Nissan Rogue is not only packed with capability and great features, it is also best in class for highway fuel economy, with its 37 MPG EPA rating comfortably the best amongst its competitors in the segment. Rogue’s turbocharged variable-compression four-cylinder engine produces 201 hp, which is also amongst best in class, and is available in both front- and all-wheel drive versions. Multiple drive modes let you optimize how the Rogue behaves based on conditions, as well. Inside, you’ll find generous cargo space in the rear, plenty of room in the front and back seats, and lots of tech, as well. There are three configurable screens, one for the instrument cluster, one for the infotainment system, and a third for the available heads-up display. Wireless CarPlay and a wi-fi hotspot for up to seven devices, as well as wireless charging, are also available. Finally, active safety features include adaptive cruise control with the ability to automatically slow down for off ramps or different speed limits; automatic braking with pedestrian detection; blind spot monitor; lane departure warning; and back-up assists including a camera, cross-traffic alert and automatic braking.
- Last Year’s Sales: 285,602
- Starting MSRP: $27,360
- EPA Estimated City/Highway MPG: 30/37
Over the last several decades, Subaru has built its reputation on tough, outdoorsy vehicles with all-wheel drive, and the Forester is no different. We like the Forester because it crams a remarkable amount of space and versatility on a compact footprint, and because its low base price includes the security of all-wheel drive as standard equipment. Other highlights include a 2.5-liter boxer four-cylinder that puts out a robust 182 hp while delivering 33 highway MPG; a 6.5-inch multimedia system, split-folding rear seats, and a passel of USB ports. Safety equipment is also comprehensive, with Subaru’s EyeSight driver assist technology standard; it monitors traffic movement, pedestrian activity, and other happenings around the vehicle to optimize the cruise control, keep you from swaying outside your lane, and even brake the car to a halt if a collision is imminent. All this plus the ruggedness, reliability, and great resale value that have made the Forester popular for decades.
- Last Year’s Sales: 154,723
- Starting MSRP: $26,395
- EPA Estimated City/Highway MPG: 26/33
We really like the latest version of the Chevrolet Equinox because it offers comparable features and technology to other vehicles in the compact SUV class with a little more size and interior space. Even with this extra size, the 1.5-litre turbo engine hauls the Equinox around effortlessly while delivering 31 highway MPG in the front-wheel drive version (all-wheel drive is available). Standard Chevy Safety Assist features include forward collision alert, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane keeping assist, automatic high beams, and more. Chevy’s latest infotainment system is also very easy-to-use, and not only includes wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but also available Amazon Alexa voice control and a wi-fi hotspot for your family’s devices.
- Last Year’s Sales: 165,323
- Starting MSRP: $26,600
- EPA Estimated City/Highway MPG: 26/31
While the CX-5’s price and its fuel economy ratings may look a little off the pace compared to some of the other vehicles on this list, that’s because it’s one of the few cars in the compact SUV class to offer standard all-wheel drive. Other cars in the class charge thousands for the all-weather confidence that all-wheel drive offers in exchange for a small mileage penalty; Mazda gives it to you for free even on the base 2.5-liter S model. We also really like the CX-5’s timeless exterior styling and its gorgeous interior, which foregoes giant, glossy touch screens and instead offers a large dash-top display and easy-to-use analog controls, which are easier to operate on the move. Standard equipment is excellent, with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration standard, as well as active safety features including pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, and more.
- Last Year’s Sales: 163,940
- Starting MSRP: $26,700
- EPA Estimated City/Highway MPG: 24/30
It’s no wonder Ford’s Escape is a perennial top-10 seller. It has sophisticated exterior styling; a roomy, versatile interior with plenty of room front and rear and split-folding back seats; and has excellent driving dynamics. You also get a lot for your money: Ford’s suite of CoPilot 360 driver assistance systems is standard, including pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assist, blind spot monitoring, and more. Even the base model comes with a useful LCD driver information display and a large touchscreen with Ford’s SYNC infotainment system, as well as a 4G LTE hotspot for your devices. The base model comes with a high-tech 1.5-liter turbocharged engine that delivers 34 highway MPG in two-wheel drive form – impressive for a vehicle this size. Hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions are also available.
- Last Year’s Sales: 145,515
- Starting MSRP: $28,000
- EPA Estimated City/Highway MPG: 28/34
Hyundai bills the Tucson as a “modern adventure SUV.” We’d definitely put the emphasis on “modern” thanks to its razor-sharp lines, which are a major departure from the previous generation. In contrast to the edgy exterior, the interior is smoothly-styled and luxurious, with high-end finishes, a digital instrument cluster, and a sophisticated infotainment system with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Impressive feature content includes a power hands-free liftgate, available remote parking assist, wireless charging, and the ability to use your smartphone as a key. A full suite of safety systems is standard, too. Power comes from an simple, economical 2.5-liter four-cylinder that produces 187 hp and 33 highway mpg; hybrid, and even plug-in hybrid options are available that deliver even better fuel economy.
- Last Year’s Sales: 140,721
- Starting MSRP: $26,700
- EPA Estimated City/Highway MPG: 26/33