Are you ready to start shopping for an economical new SUV? If it’s been a while since you last browsed new cars at your local dealerships, you might be surprised at some of the new fuel-efficient SUV options available, particularly the hybrid models. In the past few years, carmakers have made great strides in terms of designing new and efficient SUVs and crossovers, so you can have the benefits of roomy passenger and cargo space without paying more at the pump. Our expert-curated list of the best SUVs for mpgs will show you the most fuel-efficient hybrid and gas-powered SUVs currently on the market, from a variety of classes and brands. This list includes plug-in hybrids (PHEVS), hybrids, and gas-powered SUVs, which use a couple of different types of ratings, so we consulted the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for estimated annual fuel costs. That way, you can compare different types of SUVs and determine which provides the best fuel economy based on what you can expect to pay at the pump.
The Best Gas Mileage SUVs of 2023
- Ford Escape Hybrid
- Ford Escape Plug-In Hybrid
- Honda CR-V Hybrid
- Hyundai Venue
- Lexus NX Hybrid
- Lexus UX Hybrid
- Nissan Kicks
- Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid
- Toyota Highlander Hybrid
- Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
Ford Escape Hybrid
As we've mentioned, the Ford Escape lineup was overhauled for 2023, and though the hybrid powertrain is still available, it requires stepping up to the ST-Line trim level, at about $35,500, or about $7,000 more than the base Escape.
The Escape’s hybrid powertrain combines a 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine and an electric motor, plus a liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery. It comes standard with FWD, with excellent fuel economy ratings of 42 mpg city, 36 mpg highway, and 39 mpg combined. All-wheel drive is no longer available with this update, though the Escape is still a great way to get a practical SUV at an affordable price.
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Ford Escape Plug-In Hybrid
For 2023, the Ford Escape lineup gets a welcome overhaul with fresh exterior styling and a revised trim lineup. The Escape is still a stylish and practical compact SUV, and as part of Ford’s push into electrification, both hybrid options, traditional and plug-in, remain.
Both hybrid versions of the 2023 Escape come powered by a combination of a 2.5-liter four-cylinder gas engine and an electric motor, and the PHEV also gets a lithium-ion battery pack. Both are rated for 210 horsepower, and Ford estimates a 37-mile all-electric range for the PHEV model. It’s a great way to get an SUV that looks and feels mainstream but is a lot more efficient than what you’re probably used to.
As of this writing, the EPA hadn't yet weighed in on the Escape PHEV's fuel economy ratings, but the regular hybrid is good for 39 mpg combined.
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Honda CR-V Hybrid
The Honda CR-V has been around for ages and is regarded as one of the best values in the compact SUV segment. The fully redesigned 2023 model makes a good thing even better.
The CR-V Hybrid is yet another example of a hybrid crossover that makes more power than the regular gas-powered version upon which it is based. The CR-V Hybrid’s powertrain consists of a 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine and two electric motors. The system is rated for 204 horsepower and 247 pound-feet of torque—a considerable improvement over the traditional CR-V’s ratings of 190 horsepower and 179 pound-feet of torque. Not only is it more efficient, but it’s also more interesting to drive. Front-wheel drive comes standard and all-wheel drive is available. According to the EPA, a CR-V Hybrid is good for 43 mpg city, 36 mpg highway, 40 mpg combined, with a budget of $1,200 per year for fuel. All-wheel drive adds $100 to fuel costs and shaves mpg figures to 40/34/37.
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The Hyundai Venue was introduced for the 2020 model year. Though Hyundai had just entered the subcompact crossover space with the Kona, the Venue manages to carve out a niche as a sub-subcompact model by undercutting the Kona in price and performance. To wit, the Venue’s only available with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 121 horsepower and 113 pound-feet of torque, paired with FWD, but comes close to some hybrid SUVs with fuel economy ratings of 29 mpg city, 33 mpg highway, and 31 mpg combined.
That leaves the Venue’s driving dynamics on the dull side, but for an affordable city-friendly vehicle, it’s a great choice, even if you disagree with the EPA’s classification of the Venue as an SUV and think of it more as an efficient compact hatchback. As you’ve seen from the vehicles we’ve already looked at, there’s no real reason to avoid a hybrid or plug-in hybrid SUV, but the affordable Venue manages to return great fuel economy with a traditional gas engine.
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Lexus NX Hybrid
The Lexus NX was redesigned for 2022, and the update included a new plug-in model, which carries over unchanged for 2023. Dubbed the NX 450h+, it combines a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with three electric motors that deliver an all-wheel-drive layout. The 450h+ is also the first-ever Lexus vehicle with plug-in capability, yielding 84 MPGe and an annual fuel cost of $1,150. When the 36-mile electric range is depleted, the NX 450h+ returns a combined 36 mpg.
The new-look NX Hybrid is essentially an upscale Toyota RAV4 Prime, but the NX stands out thanks to its top-notch interior quality. Its 46.9 cubic feet of cargo space is below average, even for a compact luxury SUV. The all-new infotainment system is bright and shiny, but is has a steep learning curve. An available F Sport trim adds a bit more agility, but the ride is comfort-focused.
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Lexus UX Hybrid
The Lexus UX Hybrid is a peppy subcompact crossover with sporty looks and engaging, if not exactly exciting, driving dynamics. It’s on the expensive side for what it is, but it’s hard to argue with its fuel economy estimates. The UX Hybrid comes in one trim, the 250h, and is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, two electric motors, and a battery pack. The combination is paired with the choice of front-wheel drive (FWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD), and a continuously variable transmission (CVT), and it is rated for 181 horsepower. It’s quick off the line thanks to the electric motors but is otherwise comfortable rather than actually sporty. The EPA says the UX Hybrid AWD is good for 41 mpg city, 38 mpg highway, and 39 mpg combined, with an estimated $1,250 per year fuel cost. FWD models are good for 41/43/42, and save $100 per year in fuel.
The UX Hybrid is stylish, but it’s basically an up-fitted Toyota C-HR, which makes the price tag a little harder to swallow. This small SUV is a little tight inside and not quite as nice as veteran Lexus owners might expect.
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The Nissan Kicks is another SUV with a regular gas engine that’s efficient enough to hang with its hybrid rivals. This subcompact SUV is a relatively recent addition to Nissan’s lineup and features the same family-friendly design and value-oriented pricing structure as the other members of the brand.
The Kicks comes standard with a 1.6-liter inline four-cylinder that makes 122 horsepower and 114 pound-feet of torque. Though AWD is a common option in crossovers, you won’t find it here, as the Kicks is one of a number of new entrants to the class that comes in FWD only. On the downside, that sacrifices some potential utility, but on the upside, the Kicks lands great EPA fuel economy ratings without employing hybrid technology that would inevitably increase its starting price. According to the EPA, the Kicks is good for returns of 31 mpg city, 36 mpg highway, and 33 mpg combined, or about $1,500 per year in gas.
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Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid
The Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid is another model that was discontinued after early efforts stalled out. However, it reappeared in 2019, and this time around, it features plug-in technology. On the upside, that makes the Crosstrek Hybrid pretty efficient. On the downside, the Crosstrek is basically a lifted Impreza hatchback masquerading as a subcompact crossover (not exactly a beefy off-road vehicle), and this particular version of it is quite pricey. Plug-in hybrids typically have a price premium, but in this case, it’s a lot. It’s efficient and well-equipped with lots of safety features, but this is luxury money for a not-luxury SUV.
So, what do you get for your 37 large? Every Crosstrek Hybrid comes powered by a 2.0-liter boxer four-cylinder engine combined with two electric motors and a large lithium-ion battery, rated for a combined 148 horsepower. All-wheel drive comes standard, too. In all-electric mode, the Crosstrek Hybrid gets 90 MPGe combined, and 35 mpg combined once the electric range is depleted. That's good for an estimated $1,550 per year fuel cost for 2022, though the EPA hasn't yet published a fuel cost estimate for the 2023 model.
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Toyota Highlander Hybrid
The Toyota Highlander is consistently a great choice in its class, offering full-size capacity in a midsize SUV shell, but if you have more money to spend, the Highlander Hybrid is an even better choice. The Highlander Hybrid looks good and will help keep every member of your family safe and comfortable, and it’s one of the most efficient three-row SUVs on the market.
The Highlander Hybrid is powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and two electric motors, rated at 243 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. With standard FWD, the Highlander Hybrid checks in at 36 mpg city, 35 mpg highway, and 36 mpg combined, with an estimated $1,350 per year fuel cost. Upgrading to AWD sacrifices just one mpg in the city and combined ratings, plus another $50 in fuel.
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Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is a more efficient—and more powerful—version of the brand’s popular and long-running compact SUV model. It’s comfortable to drive and offers good space for passengers and cargo. The RAV4 Hybrid gets a 2.5-liter, 176-horsepower four-cylinder engine combined with two electric motors—one on each axle—and a third electric motor that functions as a starter and generator. It’s rated at 219 horsepower, which is a 13-hp boost over the regular RAV4. That, too, makes the RAV4 Hybrid worth a look if the base RAV4 has been on your radar.
The 2023 RAV4 Hybrid is rated for an impressive 41 mpg city, 38 mpg highway, 40 mpg combined, and $1,200 per year fuel estimates, despite coming standard with AWD. If you’re looking for even more efficiency out of a RAV4, check out the 2023 RAV4 Prime, which adds plug-in hybrid technology to the mix.
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