SUVs are popular among American drivers thanks to their spacious interiors, versatility, and the fact that they usually offer all-wheel drive. One oft-cited downside to SUVs is that they’re not fuel efficient—but if you’re looking to eat your cake and have it too, there are plenty of options out there that won’t leave you suffering from cramped quarters or pain at the pump. While in-depth comparisons like 2023 Honda CR-V vs 2023 Mazda CX-5 are important for getting into the weeds of what various models have to offer, it can also be helpful to take a step back and judge a variety of models based on a single important metric.
Today we’re going to look at ten popular models of compact crossovers. These nimble SUVs offer sedan-like handling while still providing plenty of space. Many offerings on this list have something unique to offer, whether that’s off-road prowess or an extra dose of luxury, but today we’re going to rank them based on one simple factor: miles per gallon.
10. Ford Bronco Sport
The Bronco Sport is designed to be a more city-friendly version of the off-road-oriented Bronco. When it comes to fuel efficiency, the Bronco Sport definitely has a leg up over the Bronco. While the Bronco is rated at only 20 MPG city/highway combined, according to the EPA, the base trim of the Bronco Sport gets a rating of 26 MPG. But that number doesn’t stack up as well against the average 2023 vehicle, which is 28 MPG. Get up into higher trim levels, like the rugged Bronco Sport Badlands or the nostalgic Bronco Sport Heritage Limited, and the numbers are even worse, at 21/26 MPG city/highway, rather than 25/28 MPG.
9. GMC Terrain
Whether you opt for FWD or AWD doesn’t matter much when it comes to the GMC Terrain. Both powertrains get an EPA-estimated combined city/highway rating of 26 MPG. The FWD does slightly better on the highway (29 MPG compared to 28 MPG), but the city scores are identical and not impressive at 24 MPG. It’s simply not hard to find another option in this popular segment that does better when it comes to fuel economy.
8. Mazda CX-5
Mazda’s CX-5 comes standard with AWD, which is a pro if you’re looking for extra traction but a drawback if you want optimal fuel economy. Most trims have a powertrain rated at 26 MPG city/highway combined, getting 24 MPG in the city and 30 MPG on the highway. If you want the extra kick of the CX-5 Turbo or Turbo signature, those figures fall to 22 MPG in the city and 27 MPG on the highway.
7. Volkswagen Tiguan
Those shopping on a budget luck out with the Volkswagen Tiguan, as its most affordable option—the base S trim—is also its most fuel efficient, with a combined city/highway rating of 27 MPG. Unfortunately, that’s already below the average fuel economy of the average 2023 vehicle, and the options only get worse from there. With its Volkswagen 4motion AWD, the Tiguan gets 25 MPG, and if you opt for the sporty R-Line trim with AWD, the crossover only gets 24 MPG.
6. Chevrolet Equinox
The Equinox is exactly average among 2023 vehicles, getting 28 MPG city/highway combined. It does a bit better on the highway, where it’s rated at 31 MPG. Opt for AWD and the combined figure goes down to 26 MPG. As of the 2023 model year, there’s no hybrid Equinox on offer; if you’re looking for a green Equinox, you’ll have to wait for the upcoming EV version, set to be available in the fall of 2023. Until then, Equinox drivers are stuck with mediocre fuel economy.
5. Subaru Forester
Subaru is famous for offering AWD as a standard feature across most of its lineup, and the Forester is no exception; this means you can’t boost your mileage by opting for a more efficient FWD or RWD version. There’s not a hybrid version of the Forester, either—as of the 2023 model year, at least—so that leaves only two powertrain options. Most Forester trims get 29 MPG, which is still a bit better than the 28 MPG that the average 2023 vehicle gets; however, if you’re looking to do some serious off-roading, you’ll have to spend a little extra on fuel to get it, as the Wilderness trim only gets 26 MPG.
4. Nissan Rogue
Rated at 33 MPG, the Nissan Rogue’s most efficient powertrain (base level FWD) isn’t breaking any records in this segment. However, with an AWD model rated at 31 MPG, there’s no weak link in the Rogue’s lineup to bring it below 30 MPG. That can’t be said for any of the top three vehicles on this list. So if you’re looking for a non-hybrid model with AWD, the Rogue is absolutely a competitive option worth considering.
3. Hyundai Tucson
With a city/highway combined rating of 25 MPG—three MPG below what the average 2023 vehicle gets, according to the EPA—the gas-powered AWD version of the Hyundai Tucson is nothing to get excited about when it comes to saving money at the gas station. The FWD version is a little better, but not great at 28 MPG. It is the various hybrid versions of the 2023 Tucson that have earned it a place in the top three. The standard Tucson Hybrid gets 37 MPG, and the Hybrid Blue is slightly better at 38 MPG. The Plug-In Hybrid gets slightly less with the engine alone, at 35 MPG, but with the battery fully charged it can get up to 80 MPGe.
2. Toyota RAV4
For the 2023 model year, the RAV4 offers a solid range of different trim levels and powertrains. The base models get 29 MPG and 30 MPG when paired with AWD and FWD, respectively. Two different hybrid models are available: the RAV4 Prime is rated at 38 MPG, although it can get up to 94 MPGe if the battery is fully charged, while the RAV4 Hybrid has a solid 40 MPG. If you’re looking to go off-road, you’ll have to sacrifice a bit of efficiency in order to do it; the rugged TRD Off-Road is the least efficient option in the RAV4 lineup, with a combined city/highway rating of 28 MPG and only 25 MPG in the city. The new RAV4 Hybrid Woodland Edition is a solid compromise, with a good amount of off-road capability and a rating of 37 MPG.
1. Honda CR-V
Coming in at number one, the Honda CR-V is a fuel-sipping option that has a variety of efficient powertrains. Even the one with the worst fuel economy—a model with a gas engine and AWD—still beats out the average 2023 vehicle, according to the EPA, getting a combined city/highway rating of 29 MPG. With FWD, you can get a slightly better figure at 30 MPG, but things really start to get impressive when you look at the hybrids. With AWD, the CR-V Hybrid gets 37 MPG; and with FWD, it gets 40 MPG, rated at up to 43 MPG in the city and offering an average range of 560 miles between fueling. The CR-V Hybrid isn’t a plug-in, so you don’t even have to remember to charge it up to take advantage of its efficiency.
The CR-V is also a well-rounded model, which gives it a wide appeal. It maneuvers well on urban streets, is reliable on long road trips, and is efficient enough to make sense for a daily commute. The 2023 model is the first of a new generation, so it also has modern styling and plenty of onboard tech, from infotainment to driver assistance.