Top 10 Fuel Efficient SUVs

By

Automotive Editor

Trent Loomis is an automotive journalist who has spent the past four years writing reviews, buying guides, and how to articles for some of the biggest websites in the world. Although he currently lives in Los Angeles, he also spent some time in Germany where he got to experience European craftsmanship and the thrill of driving on the autobahn.

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, Automotive Editor - March 18, 2013

Let's face it, gas prices aren't going down to $2-gallon anytime soon. The only way to save money on gas is to use less of it, and that means driving a more fuel-efficient vehicle without giving up your lifestyle. Our CarsDirect editors have compiled the following list of SUVs that provide the fuel economy of a sedan and the utility of an SUV.

The listed fuel costs are based on the EPA's formula of 45% highway, 55% city driving, 15,000 annual miles, and current fuel prices. Our editors took it a step further and also calculated monthly averages for easier savings comparison. The EPA Smog Score varies from state to state, and for consistency we list the scores from California. The Smog Score measures the amount of health-damaging and smog-forming airborne pollutants the vehicle emits, and ranges between 1 and 10 - with 10 being best. The EPA also awards vehicles that attain a better-than-average Smog Score and limited greenhouse gas emissions with SmartWay certification.

1
2012 Ford Escape Hybrid
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The 2012 Ford Escape Hybrid is the most affordable hybrid SUV on the road today and gets an EPA-estimated 34/31 mpg. What makes the Escape Hybrid special is that it generates more horsepower and more mpgs than its four-cylinder gasoline-fed brother. The Escape Hybrid sets the standard among SUVs when it comes to emissions with an EPA Smog Score of 9 and SmartWay certification. Monthly average fuel costs clock-in at $132 compared to $169 for the gas-only Escape - a 22% savings.

2
2012 Lexus RX 450h
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For Lexus, sophistication in an SUV is not just wood trim on a shift knob - it's also about getting 32 city mpg. The Lexus RX 450h receives an EPA-estimated 32/28 mpg, while generating an impressive 295 horsepower. What makes those numbers even more impressive is that the RX 450h is more efficient and powerful than its gas-only brother (RX 350). The 450h will cost more than the 350, but the nine additional mpgs and 25 additional horsepower are well worth it. The Lexus RX 450h is more fuel-efficient and costs less than the Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid and Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid. The RX 450h is SmartWay certified and receives a Smog Score of 8, while the gas-only RX 350 gets a 6. On average, you'll spend $152-month on gas with the RX 450h.

3
2012 Toyota Highlander Hybrid
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While there are less-expensive hybrid options out there, none of them offer the cargo/passenger room, refinement and fuel-economy that the 2012 Toyota Highlander Hybrid can. The Highlander Hybrid receives 28 mpg in both city and highway driving, while generating 280 net horsepower, combining the power of a V6 with the efficiency of a four-cylinder. The Highlander receives SmartWay certification and a Smog Score of 8. With monthly fuel costs averaging $150 for the Highlander Hybrid, you'll spend approximately $72 less than the gas-only version.

4
2012 Nissan Juke
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As the first non-hybrid on the list, the 2012 Nissan Juke is a sporty, frog-like crossover that injects some fun into fuel-efficient driving. Fuel economy for the Juke varies between 25-27 in the city and 30-32 on the highway, which is great, considering that the Juke reaches almost 200 horsepower. The Juke's Integrated Control (I-CON) system offers Eco mode, which allows you to adjust the driving setting for fuel-sipping efficiency. At its most efficient, the Juke consumes approximately $169 of gas per month.

5
2012 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport
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You won't get much power out of the Outlander Sport, but you will get an impressive 25/31 mpg. An Eco driver indicator displays how many mpgs you are currently receiving to help you drive as efficiently as possible. The Outlander Sport consumes a monthly average of $157 of gas compared to $207 for the Outlander mid-size SUV. However, the Outlander Sport stumbles a little bit with a Smog Score, garnering only a 5--the same as the bigger Outlander.

6
2012 Honda CR-V
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One reason why the Honda CR-V is so popular is because it receives excellent fuel economy ratings of 23/31 mpg. The EPA estimates that the CR-V goes through an average of $163 of gas each month, which is par for the fuel-efficient SUV course. SmartWay certification and a Smog Score of 6, signifies that the CR-V is healthier for both people and the environment than most SUVs.

7
2012 Hyundai Tucson
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The 2012 Hyundai Tucson is not only one of our top-three picks for SUVs under $25,000, it also happens to be fuel-efficient to the tune of 23/32 mpg. The Tucson emits 5.1-6.1 metric tons of greenhouse gasses annually, contributing to an EPA Smog Score of 6, and SmartWay certification. You'll end up spending an estimated $176-month on gas with the Tucson, the highest on our list.

8
2012 Chevrolet Equinox
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This American-made SUV is extremely efficient when fitted with a 182-horsepower, four-cylinder engine. The 2012 Equinox receives an EPA-estimated 22/32 mpg, and scores an impressive 9 on the Smog Score (that's better than the Lexus RX 450h and Highlander Hybrid). The Equinox is SmartWay certified and costs only $163-month to fuel-up.

9
2012 GMC Terrain
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The 2012 Terrain delivers the same power output and fuel economy ratings (22/32 mpg) as the Chevy Equinox for four-cylinder, four-wheel-drive models. Like the Chevy Equinox, the Terrain is SmartWay certified, and gets a Smog Score of 9. Putting that into context, the GMC Yukon XL 2500 gets a Smog Score of 5, and consumes $352-month in fuel (compared to $163 for the Terrain).

10
2012 Ford Escape Hybrid
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Even though it's the gas-only version, the Ford Escape still receives an impressive 23/28 mpg. The five-speed manual transmission Escape is an EPA Certified SmartWay vehicle with a Smog Score of 6. Monthly fuel costs are on par with other SUVs on this list at $169-month.

, Automotive Editor

Trent Loomis is an automotive journalist who has spent the past four years writing reviews, buying guides, and how to articles for some of the biggest websites in the world. Although he currently lives in Los Angeles, he also spent some time in Germany where he got to experience European craftsmanship and the thrill of driving on the autobahn.

Follow On: Google+ | Website