The early 2000s saw the rise of the sports utility vehicle--giants like the Hummer H2 gripped the road, providing all the comforts of a car with all the practicality of a truck. They also ate up gas like it was going out of style, and by the time gas began to climb, and the recession hit, SUVs had almost gone the way of the dinosaur. 

Fortunately (for those of us who love a good SUV), SUVs have been re-tooled, redesigned, and reimagined, and are no longer the gas-guzzling behemoths from a decade ago. Whether you prefer a small, compact SUV that runs politely on (just a little) gasoline, you want a hybrid SUV, or you prefer something larger, we’ve got our top picks below.

Find the best gas mileage SUV to suit your needs, preferences, and gas requirements below, and keep reading for our comprehensive buyer’s guide.

How We Chose Our Ratings

A vehicle is a personal decision, and we want you to feel safe and seen as you navigate this list. We’ve collected the most honest, accurate data available from customer testimonials, expert reviews, and everything in between.

Top 7 Best Gas Mileage SUVs

The GMC Terrain is completely redesigned for 2018, and a lot of people have a lot of things to say about the new look (which is fairly polarizing). If you, like us, like how the Terrain looks, you’re also in luck--because it gets some of the best gas mileage on this list today (28 city and 38 highway mpg).

The Terrain ranks high for a lot of people; while the crossover lost some inches on its wheelbase (hello, better handling!), it doesn’t feel smaller. It feels just as roomy and comfortable as ever, which is part of why US News and World Reports has it sitting in their #5 spot on the Compact SUVs list.

The Terrain comes with a 170hp or 252hp, depending on the package (there’s also a 137hp diesel available). Either way, standard features also include touch-screen dashboards and onboard wifi. Because this is a crossover, the ride is smooth, comfortable, and quiet, which means it’s fun to drive.

If you want the best gas mileage SUV to be large and fuel efficient, the Terrain from GMC is one of our favorite options. It is, however, at the top of the price range for its market, which is a little concerning considering its interior is not what you’d call luxurious.

However, it’s a lovely ride, and it gets terrific fuel efficiency without moving into hybrid territory.

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The Equinox is similar to the Terrain but built by Chevy instead of GMC. The first thing the two vehicles have in common? The answer is excellent fuel economy; the Equinox gets up to 39 highway mpg, as well, depending on the package. 

Like the Terrain, the Equinox gets a full redesign this year. Drivers report enjoying the quiet cabin that makes sense for its five passengers. A crossover, this best gas mileage SUV is roomy in any of its three options: 170hp (1.5 L), 137hp (1.6 L), and 252hp (2.0 L), though most people report that it doesn’t accelerate well. 

That’s disappointing because the rest of the Equinox is full of bells and whistles: a touch-screen infotainment system, standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, automated emergency braking, and lane-keeping assist, for example.

 All in all, the Equinox earns its spot at the top of our list for being a practical, easy ride while getting superior gas mileage.

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No list of SUVs would be complete without a Toyota, and the best gas mileage SUV list is no different. The RAV4 combines exceptional gas mileage with all the comforts you’d expect from Toyota. 

We should note: the RAV4 won’t be climbing any mountains any time soon, even with its recently updated bodywork, but then, it’s pretty hard to find an SUV that gets exceptional gas mileage and manages to have real-world grit.

 All of that aside, most people aren’t looking for grit in a Toyota SUV; what they’re looking for are practicality and reliability, and the RAV4 delivers that here in spades. If you’d like to take your gas mileage to the next level (gasoline packages get several points upwards of 30 mpg on the highway), you can opt for the hybrid powertrain.

 The RAV4 gets good marks for spacious cargo areas and plenty of driver assistance features. If you want an easy-driving compact SUV that will have solid resale value when you’re ready to sell in a few years, this is your pick!

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Mazda has been killing it lately, making vehicles that put smiles on the faces of their drivers. The CX-3 does just that (it’s incredibly fun to drive!), but it doesn’t sacrifice performance, creature comforts, cargo space, or gas mileage to do so. Depending on the trim, you can expect as high as 34 mpg on the highway (29 mpg in the city).

 One of the biggest pros to the CX-3 is its athletic performance. The handling is downright sporty, which means it takes on corners like a pro and accelerates like it thinks it’s a racecar. It’s also got a surprisingly refined interior and performs well on safety tests.

The five-seater gets 146hp and, while it might be obvious because this vehicle fits squarely in the compact SUV market, it has a small back seat and somewhat limited cargo room, especially when compared to the bigger Terrain and Equinox.

If trunk room isn’t your highest priority, however, you’ll love driving this fuel-sipping SUV.

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Many of the SUVs in this category are compact or (in this case) subcompact, and that’s because weight dramatically impacts fuel efficiency. In the case of the Honda HR-V, you’ll give up some of the roominess and practicality of the larger CR-V, but you get gas mileage that’s as high as 34 mpg (highway).

 What we do love about the HR-V, in addition to its gas mileage, of course, is its spacious cargo and cleverly versatile second row. You can fold your back seats down and up in different configurations so that if you’re trying to accommodate big, bulky items, you can.

 The HR-V does have some cons, and that’s why we’ve docked it a star. We feel the front seat cushions are uncomfortable (that’s a big deal since you’ll be the one driving it) and it’s not what you’d call fun to drive (acceleration on the highway is slow).

 In short, the HR-V is no Jeep or Subaru when it comes to the great outdoors, nor is it upscale like the Buick Encore (we’ll talk about that shortly) or fun to drive like the Mazda CX-3, but is reliable (it’s a Honda, after all), safe, and practical. And it doesn’t use much gas. 

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The Buick Encore isn’t as luxurious as a Lexus or BMW, but it’s not as expensive, either, and it is more luxurious than all of the SUVs we’ve already listed. It also falls neatly between the larger Buick Enclave and the smaller Envision, meaning that this subcompact SUV should be on your list and not just ours.

 The 138hp engine, despite handling well and riding smoothly, doesn’t do big loads well, but if you’re looking the best gas mileage SUV, you’re probably not looking for tremendous towing capability.

 If you’re looking for almost-luxury (without the price) and gas efficiency that nudges over 30 mpg highway, this is one of the better options. You’ll enjoy tons of features that come standard, as well as loads of room in the backseat (four adults will be seated comfortably).

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It was a toss-up between the Subaru Crosstrek and the Subaru Forester for this coveted spot, but in the end, the Crosstrek won out thanks to its slightly better gas mileage. It gets as much as 33 mpg on the highway and 27 mpg in the city.

 This is one of the more capable SUVs on the list today, thanks to standard all-wheel drive and top-notch ground clearance. It handles athletically, so if you’re hoping to take this on unpaved roads, you’re in luck. We did dock it half a star, however, since the engine handles somewhat sluggish.

 One thing that stands out about the Crosstrek is how roomy the rear seat is and how much cargo room it contains. The engine is a 2.0 L flat-four that produces 152hp and comes with a six-speed manual transmission or a continuously variable automatic transmission.

 Subarus aren’t known for flashy interiors, but this one does have good visibility (perfect for when you’re taking the road less traveled) and standard features like a touch-screen and Bluetooth. 

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It was a toss-up between the Subaru Crosstrek and the Subaru Forester for this coveted spot, but in the end, the Crosstrek won out thanks to its slightly better gas mileage. It gets as much as 33 mpg on the highway and 27 mpg in the city.

 This is one of the more capable SUVs on the list today, thanks to standard all-wheel drive and top-notch ground clearance. It handles athletically, so if you’re hoping to take this on unpaved roads, you’re in luck. We did dock it half a star, however, since the engine handles somewhat sluggish.

 One thing that stands out about the Crosstrek is how roomy the rear seat is and how much cargo room it contains. The engine is a 2.0 L flat-four that produces 152hp and comes with a six-speed manual transmission or a continuously variable automatic transmission.

 Subarus aren’t known for flashy interiors, but this one does have good visibility (perfect for when you’re taking the road less traveled) and standard features like a touch-screen and Bluetooth. 

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Buyer’s Guide

Let’s be honest; purchasing a new vehicle can be overwhelming. So many options! So many pros and cons to each vehicle! So many different opinions! Here are a few steps to help you sift through all the information:


1. Know Your Budget

It’s boring (and sometimes doesn’t seem very fair!) but carefully calculating how much you can afford to spend is important so you don’t end up with more car than you should (let’s face it--that’s easy to do at the dealership!).

Know what you can spend in a monthly payment or know what you want to spend overall, and stick to your guns. Believe us; there’s an SUV in your price range.


2. Determine Your Needs and Wants

What are your top priorities in a new vehicle? Think through how you’ll use it for the next five years and write down what you’ll need.

Do you want to prioritize resale value? Reliability? Do you want to make sure you’ve got lots of room for car seats or your dogs? Do you want the most luxurious ride your budget can afford?

Having a clear list of what matters to you (and what doesn’t) helps you negotiate more effectively when it’s time to shop.


3. Research, Research, Research

One of the best ways to negotiate an optimal price is to do your research. Knowing how the different packages and trims on the models you’re interested in stack up against the competition can help you avoid paying premiums for things you shouldn’t and can help you get a great deal.

The good news? Reading this article has already gotten you off to a great start!

We have a feeling there’s at least one SUV on the list above that appeals to you--your next step is to start shopping.

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