By The Car Family
First, SUVs by their nature are not fuel frugal. They are heavy and have a significant wind drag. Some manufacturers have even gone so far as to put larger gas tanks in them to provide the illusion that you are getting better mileage because the fuel gauge is slower to move. However, fuel weighs 8.6 pounds per gallon and thus the added weight diminishes mileage as well.
Furthermore, SUVs are not as safe as minivans in most cases due to their height. Indeed SUVs are involved in more single vehicle accidents. That being said, If you really need a SUV there are some that get reasonable mileage.
Our strongest recommendation is for what is called a crossover, which means it was built on a passenger car frame. Next, unless you travel frequently in inclement weather, two wheel drive provides better mileage and less maintenance. If you may need to carry six or eight passengers the three row SUVs are obviously your choice, but take the time to see how difficult it is to get into that third row.
Combining price, mileage and family friendlessness we have come up with our top models. Because of the extra cost of a hybrid we have only listed a couple, although if you travel in town a great deal they may well be worth it. This is the list of the best SUVs under $50,000 and almost all of them run on regular fuel.
The BMW X1 is a good handling, handy sized SUV that gets 24 mpg city/33 mpg hwy and has a MSRP of $30,650. If it fits, a best buy for those who want a bit of fun in their daily treks.
The Buick Encore provides good value, with lots of standard features, this Buick is a quiet ride, very sedate, and offers a rating of 25 mpg city/33 mpg hwy for a MSRP: $25,010.
The Chevrolet Equinox/GMC Terrain have excellent cargo space and a host of available safety features. Plenty of poke for a MSRP: $25,800 and 22 mpg city/32 mpg hwy.
Redone for 2013, the Escape is listed with a MSRP: $22,470 and rated at 22 mpg city/31 mpg hwy. Ford does not allow us to test its vehicles so we can’t offer insights into its family usefulness.
Basically the same as last year, the 21 mpg city /30 mpg hwy rated Ford Edge is listed at a MSRP: $34,940 and is closely related to the Lincoln MKX. Again, Ford does not allow us to test its vehicles so we can’t offer any opinion. The pricing puts it in the near luxury category. Check Ford’s reliability record first.
The 2013 Honda CR-V has a MSRP: $24,795 and its four-cylinder engine yields a 23 mpg city/31 mpg hwy average. Sadly, Honda, as Ford, does not allow us to test its products and so we can’t comment on this SUVs usefulness. However, in the past it has been a good value. We do know that the Toyota RAV has been redone and gets the same mileage as the Honda and has a lower suggested price.
We love Hyundai vehicles for their value, warranty, and features and the Tucson is no exception. There are well thought out design ideas everywhere and the base price is $20,245. Be warned that you must come to the dealer having done your homework because there are several models and numerous features. Gas mileage ratings of 22 mpg city/29 mpg hwy.
The 2013 Kia Sorento is being built in the USA and is a big seller. Why? Lots of interior room, features, and a MSRP: $26,950 are some of the reasons, but the 21 mpg city/30 mpg hwy is just as important.
Kia’s Sportage has a list price under $20,000 and a 20 mpg city/27 mpg hwy rating. If you order the turbocharged engine expect less.
Here is a winner with a starting price in the low $20,000 range, and the Mazda CX-5 compact crossover segment is rated between 31–35 mpg, bettering the hybrids. Lots of options so do your homework and don’t expect V8 performance or towing capability.
We like the well priced Mitsubishi Outlander Sport with its 25 mpg city/31 mpg hwy averages and a base price in the low $20,000s. This is an outstanding handling SUV and should be on your consideration list if there is a dealer in your area. Surprisingly nimble.
Ford’s Escape Hybrid used to be among our favorites, but it is has a totally different feel and pricing from $30,570. For that you get a top-ten fuel efficient SUV with a city average of up to 34 mpg and a highway rating about 31. There are a lot of non-hybrids that get have the same mileage rating and have a lower starting price. The Escape is bigger in every way.
Lexus RX 450 is expensive, but worth it with high resale, excellent reliability and a tremendous number of luxury features for the $46,310 to $47,710 listed price. You can achieve about 32 mpg in the city and 28 on the highway. Easily the best luxury SUV for gas mileage, features, and user ratings. If you want something less costly and with fewer fringes try the Toyota Highlander Hybrid with an overall 28 mpg rating and a price range that starts around $39,000. Both of these SUVs come with less expensive non-hybrid versions that average about 22 mpg.
The Mini Countryman isn’t really a SUV in the traditional sense. It is smaller, lighter on its feet, and a lot more fun to drive and park. Prices range from $20,000 to $34,850 and you can easily achieve 30 mpg and more if you can restrain yourself. Yes, all wheel drive is available.
The Nissan Juke is a sporty crossover that looks a bit strange, but that is its charm. As well as a 29 mpg average and a starting price just under $20,000. Very fun to drive and no slouch in terms of performance.
Mazda’s CX-5 lists from $20,995 to $28,595 and you can average 30 mpg in mixed driving without much effort. A good handling machine, as are most Mazdas, this Mazda costs less, handles better and gets superior gas mileage to the Ford Escape hybrid. It does not have the same cargo space. If you are serious about gas mileage, this is the one.
Don’t underestimate the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport that gets around 27 mpg in mixed driving. This SUV is both fuel efficient, enjoyable to drive, and a bargain with a starting price under $19,000. Great deals abound.
Also among the most efficient SUVs and another bargain, the Hyundai Tucson with its base engine and starting price of just over $19,000 can get you government gas mileage ratings of 23 City/31 Hwy. A tough crossover, this Hyundai has an excellent warranty and has plenty of features.
Subaru XV Crosstrek lists for $21,995–$24,495 and offers all wheel drive while still getting government ratings of 23 to 33 in city and highway driving. If you want more room and can spend a little more money try the Subaru Outback with a combined 26 mpg.
Toyota RAV4 24 miles per gallon city and 31 mpg on the highway cycle with front-wheel-drive models and a starting price about $24,000. This is an all new vehicle and it undercuts the Honda CR-V on pricing and beats it on gas mileage. If you don’t test these two back to back you are making a big mistake if you are in the market for a name brand crossover.
There you have it. Our recommendations are simple. The Chevrolet offers the best fuel mileage and interior room for the price. The Mazda products are fun and get excellent gas mileage, and the Lexus RX 450 is the Queen of this list. As for the new BMW X1, it could be your best bet if you watch your options and don’t need the interior space of the larger vehicles on this list. If you need all wheel drive the Subarus are a great choice.
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