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What’s the Best Gas Mileage SUV on the Market?

Need to Save Money and Haul a Bunch of Stuff? Try a Hybrid SUV

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As the world becomes more and more modernized, we will definitely be seeing a shift towards cleaner energy, more fuel efficient vehicles, and all electric vehicles. While sedans like the Toyota Camry and Honda Civic have been popular for a long time, SUVs are really starting to invade the scene. With plenty of storage space for the whole family and their belongings, a fuel-efficient SUV could be exactly what a person needs to feel more confident, but the question of what brand offers the best gas mileage SUV still stands.

While large SUVs like the Ford Explorer and Chevrolet Suburban made the market what it is today, compact CUVs or crossover SUVs are really starting to dominate U.S. sales. SUVs are large and cumbersome, and generally get pretty terrible gas mileage compared to CUV counterparts, so it’s easy to see why these crossovers are getting more and more popular.

Still, if you’re dead set on a full-sized SUV, there are actually some surprisingly good options out there. In our assessment, we’re going to start from the ground up with some CUVs before moving into full-sized SUVs, diesel options, and the absolute king of fuel economy. Whatever your budget or preference, you’re bound to find a solid ride in our roundup of the best mileage SUV models!

CUVs and Crossovers

While the Honda CR-V isn’t a new name by any means, Honda recently introduced its HRV CUV, which is essentially just a smaller version of its older brother. The HRV compacts the CRV into a CUV format to help Honda compete with its rivals – the Mazda CX-3 and Subaru Crosstrek.

While the CRV gets pretty decent gas mileage – 28 city, 34 highway – the HRV is even more impressive with…28 city and 34 highway? Yup, you read that right, the CRV and HRV have identical fuel economy ratings. So really, the only question left to ask is, what size do you prefer your Honda?

For the sake of comparison, the Mazda CX-3 gets 29 city and 34 highway while the Subaru Crosstrek gets 26 city and 33 highway. While I can speak from personal experience and say that the Crosstrek definitely suffers in the city driving department, it handles those highway miles with incredible efficiency. If it’s any indication of how the other CUVs perform, you’ll notice a distinct difference between the two types of driving and their consequences for your fuel tank.

Subaru does have a bit of a leg up on the competition, however, as they offer a hybrid version of the Crosstrek, which is an option absent from both Mazda and Honda’s lineup. Toyota offers a cool Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, though, which gets 34 mpg city and 30 mpg highway. Also consider the Nissan Rogue Hybrid that’s good for 33 mpg city and 34 on the highway, so I guess you could say Subaru is competing in a couple different markets. The Crosstrek Hybrid enjoys 30 mpg city and 33 highway, but that’s nothing compared to what Hyundai has up its sleeve.

Say hello to the Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell.

Alright, so it’s only available in certain areas of California due to the fact that it runs on hydrogen, but this partial EV has an incredible estimated fuel economy of 49 mpg city and 51 highway! While the Fuel Cell may be slightly ahead of its time, the fact that Hyundai plans to mass produce this vehicle is a huge step in the right direction.

The Tucson Fuel Cell’s only emission is water vapor thanks to cutting-edge magic under the hood. It is, unfortunately, only available as a lease at this time, as it is still an experimental technology. For now, it seems, the Tucson Fuel Cell may just be a really cool pipe dream.

As for the rest of the CUV sector, the Nissan Juke fits right in with 28 mpg city and 32 highway, though rumor has it a hybrid could also be in the works.

Full-Size SUVs

Just so you know, the leaders in this segment without a hybrid powertrain are absolutely abysmal. The Chevrolet Tahoe gets 15 mpg city and 20 highway while the Ford Explorer sits pretty at 19 and 27, respectively. Highway miles are the saving grace of SUVs but luckily, there are still some options available.

The Lexus RX 450h Hybrid, for instance, enjoys 31 mpg in the city and 28 on the highway. While it may not sound terribly impressive, it is markedly better than the 25 city and 27 highway numbers offered by the Infiniti QX60 Hybrid.

If Lexus is too flashy for you, the Toyota Highlander Hybrid gets 30 mpg city and 28 highway for about $15,000 less than Lexus’ full-size offering, depending on what trim you go for. The All-wheel drive automatic transmission hybrid with a nice 3.6 liter V6 with eCVT would be our weapon of choice.

As far as the Americans are concerned, steer clear of GM if fuel economy is your main focus. Even hybrid models of the Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon have combined fuel economy ratings of around 22 mpg, which is not at all competitive compared to more fuel-efficient SUVs.

Since Ford discontinued their Escape Hybrid when they overhauled the Escape, there’s really not much to be offered here either in terms of great gas mileage, and the same can be said for Dodge as well.

It can safely (and sadly) be concluded that the United States most certainly does not produce the best MPG SUV on the market – not by a long shot.

The Swedes thought they could sneak one in there though, and they actually did a pretty bang-up job. The Volvo XC90 PHEV gets 27 mpg city and 28 highway, making it a solid contender in the category. If that’s not enough for you, consider that this vehicle’s 2.0 L 4-banger is also twin-charged with a turbo AND a supercharger. In a 3-row SUV with excellent cargo space too.

As for the Germans, BMW equipped the X5 with 23 mpg city and 29 highway, which isn’t too shabby if we’re being honest. The Audi Q7 comes in a little under par at 20 mpg city and 25 highway, but where the Germans really excel in terms of fuel economy is the diesel market.

Is the Best SUV On Gas A Diesel?

The BMW X3 diesel is good for 27 mpg city and 34 highway, putting it in a competitive bracket with the hybrid market. Comparatively, Mercedes offers a diesel engine for their GLE-class SUV that’s good for 22 city and 27 highway. As efficient SUVs go, the Mercedes-Benz GLC is also worth considering as a worthy new car choice.

It is worth noting, however, that the Germans are in a bit of a hot spot with their diesel engines ever since the dieselgate scandal. It remains to be seen how the long-term reputation of diesel vehicles will be affected, and we understand if you don’t necessarily trust a diesel engine that Volkswagen has had its hands on.

So with that in mind, we also present the Land Rover Range Rover Sport, which has a 3.0 L turbodiesel V6 good for 22 city and 28 highway. If the Brits aren’t good enough for you, we were actually pleasantly surprised to find out that the Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel is also a thing. Said thing gets 22 mpg city and 30 highway, easily making it a contender in the diesel marketplace.

While these diesels don’t have terrible fuel economy, hybrids might be the better option. Still, there’s one SUV that has them all beat by a long shot, and hopefully by now you know exactly what SUV I’m talking about…

The Absolute Best Fuel Efficient SUV On The Market. Period.

That’s right, folks, it is none other than the mixed-reviewed Tesla Model X. The Model X outpaces all of its competitors in terms of fuel economy for one simple reason – it doesn’t even use fuel. The all-electric Model X has an MPGe rating (Miles Per Gallon Gas Equivalent, sometimes MPGge) of an absolutely ludicrous 91 mpg in stop-and-go and 95 mpg on the open road! It’s a cheat, but it’s arguably the king of SUVs with the best gas mileage, surely?

Obviously, the Model X is in a league of its own, and its price most certainly reflects that. That being said, we hope you’ve found this article somewhat helpful in determining the best gas mileage SUV for your personal use. If you’re looking for the best SUV on gas, new, second hand, or certified pre-owned, give some thought to these options.

If we’ve forgotten a diesel, plug-in hybrid, or regular old fuel-efficient SUV, we do sincerely apologize, but feel free to chime in in the comments section! Maybe with the help of our autowise community, we can obtain a more exhaustive catalog.

So, now that you’ve got the most fuel efficient SUV you can buy, how do you make that mileage go a little further? Here are a few handy ways to make your SUV the best mileage SUV on the road!

Squeezing More Miles Out Of Your Best MPG SUV!

While gas prices at the pumps are drastically lower than they were in 2009 and 2012 when they hit nearly $4 per gallon, filling up can still be a killer for most people on a budget. Now that gas prices are about half of what they were during those difficult times, you don’t hear a whole lot about improving gas mileage or cutting down on gas costs anymore. So, we’re writing this article to show you how to get better gas mileage, and if you’re already familiar with these techniques, let it serve as a reminder to you as we cross into the new year.

t also seems like the pressures to switch to alternative energy have decreased quite a bit.  Fuel-efficient vehicle sales definitely spiked during the high gas price period but have since decreased significantly.  Electric vehicles are still the ultimate goal for most automotive manufacturers, but a large selection of these vehicles that are efficient enough for everybody’s needs (and that have all of the kinks worked out) are still several years away.  Until these new vehicles are convenient and reliable for the general population, there are still several ways that you can cut down on your gas costs without having to buy a tiny economy-friendly new ride.  At the very least, these tips can help you save a few bucks so that you can buy something that you really want.  What have you got to lose?

Being Mindful of Fuel Consumption can Add to your Gas Mileage

The first, easiest, and most risk and cost-free way to save on fuel costs is to be mindful of exactly how much gas you’re actually using.  Most people simply wait until their gas light comes on, fill up their tank, and drive on without giving the amount per month that they’re using a single thought.  Most of the newer car models have a meter that calculates gas mileage, but sometimes, these miscalculate your usage or they calculate a running average since you first started driving the vehicle.  To ensure the accuracy of gas mileage, or if you do not have a gas mileage meter, record the mileage from your odometer before filling up your gas tank and record the amount of gas that you put into your vehicle.  Then, drive until your gas meter is at the same place it was when you last filled your gas tank.  Divide the number of miles you were able to drive by the number of gallons of fuel that you put into your tank for the most accurate gas mileage reading.

Set Goals for a Huge Boost in Gas Mileage

Once you’re mindful of your true gas mileage and how much gas you’re using, set goals to cut down on the amount of fuel you’re using.  As we approach 2018, cutting down on fuel costs could be a great New Year’s resolution as well.  The best way to do this is to try to squeeze out an extra mile per gallon at a time.  Another good goal is to set a dollar amount per month that you would like to save or decide on something that you would like to buy with the money you save.  For instance, let’s say that you want to buy a new grill next year that costs $300.  In order to buy the new grill, you will have to use $25 worth of gas fewer per month, which is very achievable if you stick to your goal.  However, sticking to your goals is often easier said than done.  Ensure that your goal is reasonable.  Sometimes, it doesn’t hurt to put a picture of the goal on your dashboard as a continuous reminder of what you want to achieve. All SUVs with good gas mileage can have better MPG ratios with a bit of extra effort on the driver’s part: here are a few tricks we’ve learned!

Accelerating at a Moderate Rate Increases Fuel Economy

My parents always told me that the quicker you accelerate, the more fuel you burn.  Well, they were partially correct.  Common sense reveals that putting the pedal to the metal after each stop will burn up your tank quickly, but accelerating too slowly also burns quite a bit of fuel because lower gears are less fuel-efficient.

Slow it Down on the Highway to Speed up your Savings

After a long day, we all want to get home as soon as possible to unwind.  However, most of us pay a lot to get home a minute quicker.  Rather than flying home on the highway at speeds of 80 mph or higher, cut it down to 65mph.  Typically, traffic flow doesn’t travel at speeds higher than 65 mph during heavy traffic times, so there’s a good chance that you’ll get home at the same time as you would if driving 80mph because people often have to slow down with traffic flow, thereby canceling out any benefit that going 80 mph would have provided.

Avoid Hard Braking and Coast to a Stop to Make Gas Mileage Soar

This method will not only save you gas money but will also give you a little more life out of your brakes.  Hard-braking (basically slamming on your brakes every time you encounter a stop sign or red light) uses energy that gasoline generates and turns it into heat that’s lost to the atmosphere.  According to Brake Masters, multiple studies show that coasting to a stop can save a lot when it comes to fuel costs.

Flip the Eco Switch for Better Gas Mileage

Many new vehicles come equipped with a handy-dandy ‘Eco Mode’ switch.   The Eco-Drive option places limits on the vehicle’s engine and transmission to favor fuel economy.  As long as you’re cruising to your destination and not in a hurry to get somewhere, Eco Mode is the way to go.  If you’re in a hurry or need some extra power, flip it off, because your vehicle will not perform at maximum capacity while Eco-Drive is active.

Go Windows Down when Driving Slow and Use AC at Higher Speeds

Both driving with your windows down and using the air conditioning negatively impact your gas mileage, but there are summer days when you have to get a little relief.  In these cases, it’s best to roll your windows down when traveling through town at slower speeds, but better to use your air conditioning when on the highway driving at faster speeds.  The reason is that drag is significantly increased when your windows are down, which requires more fuel to travel at high speeds.  In most vehicles, it is more efficient to use your AC at higher speeds.

Warming your Engine in the Winter Enhances Gas Mileage

Engines are meant to be warm/hot.  Not overheated, but warmed up.  Studies show that warming up your engine for at least 3 minutes in the morning before driving significantly increase gas mileage.

Planning your Errands and Routes will Cut Fuel Costs Significantly

It’s amazing how wasteful we can be by not taking simple steps to plan our routes.  Not only can it save on gas and reduce your carbon footprint, but it can also save you a considerable amount of time.  For instance, plan a simple route to accomplish all of your errands while driving the least amount of miles possible.

The “Right-Turn Method” is another great way to save time while increasing fuel-efficiency.  It’s true that FedEx uses this method.  The right turn method is a path that requires the least amount of left turns as possible.  This prevents you from sitting at long traffic lights and stops waiting for the opportunity to turn left. Improving your driving habits will work wonders on your fuel mileage.

And of course, plan to carpool whenever possible!  You would be amazed at how many of your friends, family members, co-workers, and neighbors will be willing to pitch in on gas for the opportunity to ride together.  As long as they’re reliable, you can save at least 50% of fuel costs in minutes by riding together.

Fact Or Fiction: Air Filter & Motor Oil Replacement

Some sources claim that is has been proven that a clean air filter can dramatically improve your gas mileage, with some studies claiming that it can improve that mileage by 10%, or add up to 23 miles on a full tank. Similarly, another study has found that as many as 25% of cars on the nation’s roads are in need of a new air filter anyway – whether it improves you economy or not. Another study also suggested that changing your motor oil was a surefire way of improving gas mileage, however, this one is still hotly debated by industry professionals. At the end of the day, changing your air filter and oil won’t hurt, but it may not drastically improve that fuel efficiency either.

Another interesting thing that pops up is the question of tire pressure. This one is a no brainer though. The right tire pressures will boost your fuel economy. If you’re running a bit low your tires will have a larger contact point with the road. The larger your contact point, the more traction you’re dealing with. Naturally, the more traction, the more fuel you’re burning to keep your wheels turning efficiently. Simply put, keep your tire pressures in the optimum region, and you’ll enjoy better fuel efficiency.

About Eric Ott

I have loved cars for as long as I can remember. I grew up on Hotwheels, die-cast model cars, Midnight Club and Forza. I've been shooting cars and car meets as a hobby for a couple of years now which you can find here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/145407467@N06/ I spend most of my time editing most of the posted content for AutoWise but I do occasionally write articles as well. '07 Ford Ranger – 2012 Mazda3 Hatchback – 2016 Subaru Crosstrek