SUVs with the best fuel economy

TrueCar

In these days of $4/gallon gas prices, owning a gas-guzzling vehicle is putting a squeeze on the finances of many Americans, giving car buyers pause over owning a vehicle with poor fuel economy. Poor fuel economy may even affect a car’s resale value and put another dent in car buyers’ expenses down the line. SUVs have long been given a bad wrap due to their big stature, big tanks, big engines and small gas economy figures, with the now defunct Hummer, the poster child for gas-devouring SUVs. If you’re a devout SUV buyer because you love the body style, you love the off-road capability, the towing capability, the versatility, the space, or whatever reason you can’t do without one, you may want to look at more fuel-efficient options.

Most Fuel-Efficient Sport Utility Vehicles by Segment

The smallest SUVs are going to have the best fuel economy, but that may not fit the needs of all car buyers and their families, so we provided the top three to four most-fuel efficient SUVs in each of the following segments: small SUV, midsize SUV, large SUV, and Luxury SUV. After all, tacking on a few miles per gallon to your miles per gallon could translate into thousands of dollars saved over the lifespan of the vehicle.

Small SUVs


Mini Cooper Countryman

Mini Cooper Countryman

Unless you opt for a sport-tuned, high-performance variety, a small or compact SUV is generally your most fuel-efficient option with the 2012 Mini Cooper Countryman, tying the 2012 Kia Soul as the most fuel-efficient vehicle in the small SUV segment. The Mini Cooper Countryman is the largest Mini model available, providing fun Mini Cooper driving dynamics with more room and comfort for passengers, particularly those in the back seats. The Countryman only seats four passengers, which may dissuade some car buyers, while its 27 mpg city / 35 hwy might persuade others. The Mini Cooper Countryman is available in three trims, including an all-wheel-drive option (be careful with that option though, it reduces fuel efficiency on any vehicle).

Year/Make/Model/Trim MSRP Average Paid $ Discount % Discount City / Hwy / Comb MPG
2012 Mini Cooper Countryman $22,450 $22,422 $28 0.1% 27 / 35 / 30
2012 Kia Soul Base $14,650 $14,813 N/A N/A 27 / 35 / 30
2012 Nissan JUKE SL FWD $24,910 $24,586 $324 1.3% 27 / 32 / 29


Midsize SUVs

Toyota Highlander

Toyota Highlander

If you need more interior and cargo space than a small SUV offers, you may opt for a midsize utility vehicle, which is a better option for a family vehicle and accounts for about 16% of sales in the SUV segment in 2011 – roughly under half of segment sales. For fuel-economy conscious buyers, the 2012 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is a top option here achieving 28 mpg city/hwy even when equipped with all-wheel-drive. The Highlander offers a combination of performance and fuel economy, with solid handling and seating for up to seven passengers. All that said, there is a rather sizeable difference in price (about $7,000) between the gasoline-powered Highlander and the hybrid version.

Year/Make/Model/Trim MSRP Average Paid $ Discount % Discount City / Hwy / Comb MPG
2012 Toyota Highlander Hybrid 4WD 4dr Limited $45,180 $44,142 $1,038 2.3% 28 / 28 / 28
2012 Honda CR-V 2WD 5dr EX-L w/Nav $29,575 $29,042 $533 1.8% 23 / 31 / 26
2012 Kia Sorento 2WD 4dr I4-GDI EX $26,750 $24,805 $1,945 7.3% 22 / 32 / 25

GMC Yukon Hybrid

GMC Yukon Hybrid

Large SUVs



Expectedly, you will have the least fuel-efficiency when purchasing a larger, heavier full-size SUV, but if you have a large family that spends a lot of time in the car together and you want to avoid cabin fever, a larger SUV may be worth the cost of your sanity. With these options below, you can achieve sedan-like fuel economy with all the space of a large SUV. With the 2012 GMC Yukon hybrid (2WD) you get the power of a V-8 engine and the fuel-efficiency of a smaller, less powerful vehicle. You also get seating for up to eight passengers and the ability to tow up to 6,200 pounds. It will however cost you around $12,000 more than the base, gas-powered model. Interesting to note is that the fewest percentage of SUV sales in America in 2011 came from the large SUV segment (4.2%), while so far in 2012, that percentage is down to just 3.1% of overall SUV sales.

Year/Make/Model/Trim MSRP Average Paid $ Discount % Discount City / Hwy / Comb MPG
2012 GMC Yukon Hybrid 2WD 4dr $53,465 $50,644 $2,821 5.3% 20 / 23 / 21
2012 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid 2WD 4dr $52,965 $50,880 $2,085 3.9% 20 / 23 / 21
2012 Chevrolet Traverse FWD 4dr LS $30,335 $27,997 $2,338 7.7% 17 / 24 / 19


Luxury SUVs

Lexus RX 450h

Lexus RX 450h

A luxury vehicle typically comes with the luxury of more power, which tends to drive down fuel-efficiency, but the2012 Lexus RX 450h, one of the first and foremost hybrid SUVs on the market, achieves better city fuel economy than a Honda Civic. The hybrid-powered Lexus RX 450h will cost you about $6,000 more than its gasoline-powered counterpart, the 2012 Lexus RX 350, so you have to be green-minded (environmentally speaking) more than green-minded (cash-savings speaking) to justify this purchase.

Year/Make/Model/Trim MSRP Average Paid $ Discount % Discount City / Hwy / Comb MPG
2012 Lexus RX 450h FWD 4dr Hybrid $46,110 $45,357 $753 1.6% 32 / 28 / 30
2012 Mercedes-Benz M-Class 4MATIC 4dr ML350 BlueTEC $51,365 $49,228 $2,137 4.2% 20 / 27 / 22
2012 Audi Q5 quattro 4dr 2.0T Premium Plus $40,775 $39,695 $1,080 2.6% 20 / 27 / 22

Looking to Buy a Fuel-Efficient SUV

TrueCar.com shows you what other people paid for the car you want (by make/model/options) in your local area in the last 30 days, giving you an idea what is a fair market price for that vehicle.

View Comments