A blue 2022 Toyota Corolla Cross is shown parked near stairs after visiting a used car dealership.

Which SUVs Have the Best Fuel Efficiency Ratings?

Just because your vehicle burns fuel doesn’t mean it needs to burn a hole in your wallet. If you’re buying an SUV and want to save money, then you have a couple of ways to go about this. First, buying a used car is a great way to immediately save money—sometimes by upwards of $10k or more. Second, you should purchase an SUV that doesn’t suck out your fuel tank simply because you looked at your accelerator pedal.

Before you seek a used car dealership, I want to take a moment to remove all the heavy lifting from your research. I’ll review which older-model SUVs are the most fuel-efficient and explain why. To make this discussion as flavorful as possible, I’ve included at least one SUV from every size class; among them are two subcompacts (the Nissan Kicks and Toyota Corolla Cross), two compacts (the Nissan Rogue and Toyota RAV4), and two midsize SUVs (the Subaru Outback and Ford Bronco Sport), and I’m using the 2022 model year for all examples.

A brown 2022 Subaru Outback Touring is shown driving on a road.

Fuel-Efficient Subcompact Models

Starting our list of the most fuel-efficient SUVs are the subcompacts. The two most fuel-efficient subcompact SUVs on the market are the Nissan Kicks and Toyota Corolla Cross. With the former, many of the available used models—like the 2022 model—use a 1.6L I-4 engine paired with a Continuously Variable Automatic Transmission (CVT).

The Kicks may not have as much muscle as the other SUVs I’ll be discussing, but it makes up for any shortcomings with fuel economy ratings that place it above any other gasoline-powered SUV on the market that doesn’t have hybrid components. The 1.6L I-4 engine with the CVT inside the Nissan Kicks outputs 122 hp and 114 lb-ft of torque—and with one drivetrain option, every Nissan Kicks earns EPA-estimated ratings of 31 MPG in the city and 36 MPG on the highway (for 33 MPG combined).

The Toyota Corolla Cross is a great subcompact SUV because it gets higher performance than the Kicks, has almost the same fuel economy ratings, and all-wheel drive is on the table. With some used Toyota Corolla Cross models, you can get a 2.0L I-4 engine paired with a CVT; this creates greater horsepower and torque ratings than Nissan’s SUV, with pre-update models like the 2022 Corolla Cross achieving 169 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque.

As for fuel efficiency, the Corolla Cross—if kept with its standard front-wheel drive—earns EPA-estimated ratings of 31 MPG in the city and 33 MPG on the highway, for 32 MPG combined. AWD Corolla Cross models use the same engine, so these numbers decline slightly to 29 MPG in the city and 32 MPG on the highway (for 30 MPG combined).

Fuel-Efficient Compact Models

Compact SUVs aren’t far and few between, with multiple manufacturers making their claims, but if I’m to showcase the most fuel-efficient of the bunch, all you need to know is the Nissan Rogue and Toyota RAV4. This makes Nissan the manufacturer with the most fuel-efficient smaller SUVs, which is simply another advantage to Nissan’s lineup, which also includes fantastic prices on both new and used models.

The Nissan Rogue and Toyota RAV4 are both available in front- and all-wheel drivetrains. The 2022 Rogue has a turbocharged 1.5L I-3 engine (paired with a CVT) that produces 201 hp and 225 lb-ft of torque. In FWD models, you can get 30 MPG in the city and 37 MPG on the highway (for 33 MPG combined), while AWD models get 28 MPG in the city and 35 MPG on the highway (for 31 MPG combined).

The Toyota RAV4 is comparable to the Rogue in many respects. Toyota’s famous SUV used a 2.5L I-4 engine in its 2022 model that gets 203 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. With FWD, this powertrain’s EPA-estimated ratings are 27 MPG in the city and 35 MPG on the highway (for 30 MPG combined). The ratings aren’t affected as much as usual when switching to AWD, getting 27 MPG in the city and 34 MPG on the highway (for 30 MPG combined).

The RAV4 is even more remarkable because of its two fuel-efficient hybrid variants: the RAV4 Hybrid and RAV4 Prime. The 2022 RAV4 Hybrid gets a boost in power output to 219 hp, and it’s paired with an eCVT for the smoothest acceleration on the market. Its fuel economy figures exceed its classic kin—particularly in the city—getting 41 MPG in the city and 38 MPG on the highway in all-wheel drive, which is its only available drivetrain since its excellent performance derives not only from the 2.5L I-4 engine but an electric motor on each axle.

The RAV4 Prime has a PHEV powertrain, meaning its electricity is gathered through a plug-in charging unit rather than via regenerative braking. The 2022 model has an 18-kWh battery pack, and its synchronicity with the 2.5L I-4 will give you an astonishing 302 hp. You’ll likewise have the eCVT for unmatched acceleration, and your fuel economy figures are an almost unbelievable 94 MPGe (or 42 miles of range on electricity alone) in standard AWD.

Despite their powertrain differences, all RAV4s have the same maximum cargo capacity of 69.8 cu.ft. However, the 2022 RAV4 Prime has slightly less base space at 33.5 cu.ft. compared to the regular and Hybrid RAV4s’ base 37.6 cu.ft.

A close-up of a black tire on an orange 2022 Nissan Kicks is shown.

Fuel-Efficient Midsize Models

For midsize SUVs, the two most fuel-efficient models on the market are the Subaru Outback and the Ford Bronco Sport. The Hyundai Santa Fe is an honorable mention because it earns identical efficiency ratings to the Bronco Sport, but the difference is that Ford’s SUV gets these ratings in AWD (in 2022 models; later models use 4WD) compared to the FWD that’s standard in the Santa Fe.

Let’s first look at the Subaru Outback, whose 2.5L Boxer I-4 engine creates 182 hp and 176 lb-ft of torque. The 2022 Outback gets particularly excellent fuel economy ratings considering that—like the 2022 Bronco Sport—AWD comes standard; in this configuration, you’ll get 26 MPG in the city and 33 MPG on the highway (for 29 MPG combined).

The Bronco Sport is no longer a newcomer, having been on the market for a few years now, so you’re sure to find this model on the used market; this is great news since the Bronco Sport is one of the most fuel-efficient SUVs on the market and the second-most fuel-efficient midsize SUV available. The 2022 Bronco Sport’s turbocharged 1.5L I-3 engine comes with an eight-speed automatic transmission and produces 181 hp and 190 lb-ft of torque. With AWD standard, you’ll get 25 MPG in the city and 28 MPG on the highway (for 26 MPG combined).

It’s Only Getting Better…

There’s no denying that recent advancements in fuel efficiency are incredible. Not only have turbocharged engines made way for lighter vehicles with exceptional performance that’s somehow also wallet-friendly, but even some non-turbocharged engine options have made the list as cost-effective SUVs. With these engineering developments having begun in the past few years, it’s now easy to find such models on the pre-owned market—and you’d be wise to choose one for your next ride!