This article was last updated by Digital Trends contributor Kristen Hall-Geisler on 5/15/2020.
Hybrid SUVs, along with plug-in hybrids, always steal the gas mileage glory. Yet not everyone wants an electrified SUV, and with pricing that’s often north of $30,000, not everyone can afford one. Are budget buyers relegated to the gas-guzzling shame of low EPA estimates?
Actually, no. With more aerodynamic shapes, advances in engine technology, and new lightweight materials, SUVs can manage great gas mileage without a battery pack on board.
You can easily visit FuelEconomy.gov, where the EPA makes its estimates accessible. But we’ve filtered those raw numbers through our experience testing dozens of SUVs. These aren’t just the SUVs that manage the best gas mileage. These are the fuel-sipping SUVs you should actually buy.
All of these models have the highest miles per gallon among anything classified as an SUV without a hybrid or electric powertrain. If you’re looking for those, check out our favorite hybrid cars and our favorite electric SUVs.
The best mileage overall: 2020 Nissan Kicks
What’s its mileage: 33 mpg combined, 31 mpg city /36 mpg highway
Who it’s for: People who don’t want to spend time at the gas station or blend in with the crowd.
How much will it cost: $18,870
Why we picked the Nissan Kicks: The Kicks has better gas mileage than any other non-electrified SUV on the market this year. It also boasts a low starting price – under $19,000. Even if you opt for the top trim and add packages and options, you’ll spend well below $25,000. And according to the EPA, the annual fuel cost is only about $900. It’s a thrifty choice all around.
The downside of its efficient engine is sluggish acceleration, but the Kicks makes up for that with its massive cargo space. It also has Safety Shield 360, a full suite of safety tech like automatic emergency braking and rear cross traffic alert.
You’ll have to jump up a trim level to enjoy the NissanConnect infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but the price remains affordable. And if you like the quirky looks of the Kicks, you can up the design ante by adding accents from the Color Studio.
Black spoiler on an orange SUV? Yes! Will it make you faster or more fuel efficient? Well…no.
Read our in-depth Nissan Kicks review.
Best Mileage in a Luxury SUV: 2020 Lexus UX 200
What’s its mileage: 33 mpg combined, 29 mpg city/37 mpg highway
Who it’s for: Drivers who want creature comforts as much as they want miles per gallon.
How much will it cost: $32,300
Why we picked the Lexus UX 200: This luxury crossover has the same combined fuel economy rating as the Nissan Kicks, but its base price is about $32,000. The projected annual cost to fill the tank in the UX is the same as the Kicks at $900.
However, this is a Lexus, so you can expect to find a more upscale and stylish interior in the UX 200. The infotainment system includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a Wi-Fi hotspot. Safety System+ 2.0, which has advanced features like traffic sign recognition and lane trace assist to keep you centered in your lane, is standard.
As with the Kicks, acceleration in the UX 200 is poky. The ride is smooth, though, and the compact size of the SUV means it can handle narrow urban streets and parking garages without making the driver cringe.
Lexus offers a hybrid version, the Lexus UX 250h, that has better fuel economy (of course) and all-wheel drive, which isn’t available in this version. It’s not much more expensive at a base price of $34,350, but its combined 39 MPG isn’t a great leap ahead of the gas model. At current gas prices, opting for the hybrid will save you up to about $200 a year if you drive 15,000 miles each year.
Read our in-depth Lexus UX first drive.
Best Mileage in a 3-row SUV: 2020 Kia Sorento
What’s its mileage: 25 mpg combined, 22 mpg city/29 mpg highway
Who it’s for: Drivers who end up driving everyone everywhere, but no one remembers to chip in for gas.
How much it will cost: $26,990
Why we picked the Kia Sorento: You wouldn’t expect great mileage from a seven-seat SUV, but the Sorento turns in admirable fuel economy numbers for having three rows. It starts at an affordable $27,000, though the price can pass $40,000 in high-end trims. In any case, you’ll pay about $1,200 per year for gas.
The Sorento has Kia’s user-friendly and feature-filled UVO infotainment system, which has crisp graphics and physical knobs and buttons in addition to the touch screen. Advanced driver assistance features are available, but they’re not standard with the base model. You’ll like its strong predicted reliability scores, safety scores, and Kia’s long warranty. The Sorento is a practical and sensible people-mover.
Read our in-depth Kia Sorento first drive.
Best Mileage in a Family SUV: 2020 Honda CR-V
What’s its mileage: 30 mpg combined, 28 mpg city/34 mpg highway
Who it’s for: Families who want a small SUV that does the job without a lot of fuss or fill-ups.
How much it will cost: $25,050
Why we picked the Honda CR-V: It’s the latest in a long line of crowd-pleasing versions of this compact SUV. The CR-V’s great fuel economy and starting price around $25,000 help it maintain its place in the hearts and minds of many shoppers. The annual fuel cost of $1,000 helps, too.
The CR-V has a ton of room inside, but it’s small enough to maneuver anywhere a typical sedan could go. Honda Sensing, the brand’s full complement of safety tech, is standard this year. The interior is great for the price, though the base infotainment system is pretty bare-bones. You have to upgrade if you want smartphone connectivity, a touch screen, and wireless charging. However, unlike some of its competitors, the CR-V is peppier than you might expect for an SUV with good gas mileage.
There’s a new hybrid CR-V available this year, if you’re ready to step into the world of electrified vehicles.
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