Consumer Reports' Top 5 Most Fuel-Efficient SUVs

April 9, 2011

Many families still prefer to drive kids around in larger, safer vehicles. This often results in the purchase of a sport-utility vehicle (SUV), despite the fact that they get lower fuel economy than a mid or full-size family sedan or an even smaller, gas-electric hybrid vehicle such as the Toyota Prius.

If you are set on driving an SUV, are you able to at least minimize the amount of gas you’ll need over the next year? For that answer, we turn to Consumer Reports (CR), which just released the results of its own testing of SUVs for “real world” fuel economy. CR didn’t simply accept the government’s EPA rating for miles per gallon that’s posted on the window stickers of new vehicles. Instead, they tested 19 SUVs themselves for what they hope is a more accurate reflection of the gas mileage that consumers can actually expect to achieve. These are the results:

1. Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited – 27 mpg/overall

Toyota’s Prius won top fuel-economy honors in the cars section of this test. Now, their hybrid Highlander Limited comes out on top of the SUVs with exceptional gas mileage. However, this Highlander Limited also comes standard with on-demand four-wheel drive, a power liftgate, tow package, moon roof, back-up camera, and leather-trimmed seats. CR results: 23 mpg/city, 29 mpg/hwy, and 27 mpg/overall. You can read more in TheCarConnection’s (TCC) review of the 2011 Highlander.

2. Lexus RX 450h – 26 mpg/overall

This high-end SUV features enviable gas mileage, cutting-edge safety features, and a comfort-producing interior. Pricey? Yes, but the RX 450h provides value for money spent AND offers remarkable fuel economy, including better highway gas mileage than the front-running Highlander Hybrid. See its TCC review here. CR results: 22 mpg/city, 31 mpg/hwy, and 26 mpg/overall.

3. Ford Escape Hybrid – 26 mpg/overall

The Escape Hybrid is available in front-wheel or all-wheel drive. And because it has substantial ground clearance, it’s an excellent choice as an all-weather vehicle. Read more about the Escape Hybrid in TCC’s review. CR results: 22 mpg/city, 27 mpg/hwy, and 26 mpg/overall.

4. Subaru Forester 2.5X (Manual Transmission) – 24 mpg/overall

This non-hybrid, all-wheel drive SUV was completely redesigned in 2009. It boasts excellent handling and scored four out of five stars in the new, more stringent 5-Star Safety Rating instituted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA). Read more about the 2011 Forester here. CR results: 18 mpg/city, 30 mpg/hwy, and 24 mpg/overall.

5. Nissan Juke SV – 24 mpg/overall

The Juke is a new entry in the mini-crossover category with the first model hitting the U.S. market in 2010. The unique exterior combines with a peppy engine, excellent road-handling, and a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Consumers tend to love or hate the Juke. Get more information from TheCarConnection’s review.

When publishing this list, Consumer Reports emphasized they are simply providing results of their fuel-economy tests and not recommending the best SUVs overall.

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