With diesel-powered models largely out of the picture, the most fuel-efficient new SUVs available in the U.S. are all hybrids. Electrified technology remains expensive, though, so it’s not an option that suits every budget. Luckily, there are some SUVs, such as the affordable and unique 2020 Nissan Kicks, that return excellent fuel economy without needing to carry around a bulky battery pack.
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: $19,070
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 of about $19,000. Even if you opt for the top trim and add packages and options, you’ll spend well below $25,000. According to the EPA, the annual fuel cost is only about $950. 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 2020 Nissan Kicks, you can up the design ante by adding accents from the Color Studio.
Read our in-depth Nissan Kicks review
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 $950.
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 2020 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
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 $1,300 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 touchscreen. 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
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: $25,150
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 $1,050 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. The interior is great for the price, though the base infotainment system is bare-bones. You have to upgrade if you want smartphone connectivity, a touchscreen, and wireless charging. However, unlike some of its competitors, the 2020 Honda CR-V is relatively peppy to drive.
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