The Crossovers and SUVs have become the favorite vehicles for most buyers but buying a new one among a rapidly increasing number of models in all shapes and sizes and with various powertrain options is a hard decision to make. The high-riding models earned their status with high practicality and utility combined with a comfortable ride but the buying process is a multi-variable decision with many more factors in the game.
The size, passenger and cargo capacity, performance, equipment level, price, and more factors are in the calculation but fuel efficiency is also important. The brands tend to offer more efficient models and the transition toward electrified vehicles is an ongoing process. The diesel was the most efficient options but the hybrids and plug-in hybrids dethroned them. The all-electric versions are also coming with several hundred miles of pure-electric range.
Also, you can reduce fuel consumption with your driving style. Some useful tips on how to maintain your vehicle and how the way you drive can reduce fuel consumption you can read here.
In this article, we suggest to you what models to have in mind for the 2021 model year when the fuel economy is in focus. We removed the all-electric SUVs that we covered in another article. Then we list some of the most-efficient SUV models by categories with hybrid, plug-in hybrid and gasoline powertrains included. Also, we will cover the diesel-powered models in another article.
The listed 10 Most-Efficient SUVs for 2021 include some of the most efficient small, mid-size and large SUVs. Still, this list isn’t a definitive guide for buying the most-efficient SUV for 2021 and more precise rankings will be available when EPA releases official numbers for all upcoming models.
Some of the most-efficient small SUVs
The small SUVs are most-popular vehicles in the US after the pickup trucks and one of the fastest-growing segments. They are easy to park and maneuverable while coming with comfortable cabins and decent cargo capacity. The small SUVs are also well-equipped from the base level and available with an increasing number of powertrain options. We list four small SUVs buyers should check for the 2021 model for many reasons and fuel efficiency is one.
2021 Toyota RAV4
The recently redesigned Toyota RAV4 is the brand’s best seller and most popular SUV in the US. The model looks good and comes well-equipped from the base version. It offers also a standard suite of active safety tech. However, the newest 2021 Toyota RAV4 will be available in the efficient hybrid and newly introduced plug-in hybrid version and takes the position in our list of 10 Most-Efficient SUVs.
The RAV4 hybrid combines a 2.5-liter inline-4 engine, electric motor, battery and continually variable transmission for a total output of 219 hp. At the efficiency level, the model delivers 41 mpg city 38 highways or 40 combined which is better than most small SUVs. The model can travel 580 miles per tank.
For the 2021 model year, the Prime plug-in hybrid version will also be available. This model uses a 176-hp 2.5-liter inline-4 engine augmented by an electric motor fed by a battery pack for the net output of 302 hp. Toyota promises 39 miles per charge and 90 mpg. The total range is yet to be revealed.
The 2021 RAV4 PHEV will go on sale this summer with the expected price in low $30, 000. The hybrid should start at about $28, 000.
2021 Ford Escape
The 2021 Ford Escape is also a similar story as the previous model available with the efficient hybrid and plug-in hybrid setups.
The Escape Hybrid packs a 2.5-liter Atkinson cycle inline-4 engine in the combination with electric motors and 1.1-kWh battery. The continuously variable transmission routes power to either front and all wheels with the combined output of 200 hp. The front-wheel-drive Escape Hybrid earns 44 mpg city, 37 highways or 41 mpg combined.
The next Escape comes also with the plug-in hybrid setup which packs similar components as the regular hybrid version but with a larger 14.4-kWh battery. The combined output is 209 hp while the Escape PHEV should travel about 30 miles per charge.
The upcoming Escape PHEV should cost from about $34, 000 while the hybrid demands around $28, 000. The models should be available this spring.
2021 Honda CR-V
The 2021 Honda CR-V is another well-rounded, small SUV that should also be in the consideration list of buyers seeking a fuel-efficient model.
The last year refreshed CR-V comes with the turbocharged and hybrid options in the powertrain range while gets also high scores for the interior quality and ride comfort.
The CR-V is already very frugal with the 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine under the hood. Configured with the front-wheel drive, the turbo-4 powered CR-V manages 28 mpg city, 34 highway or 30 mpg combined.
The new CR-V Hybrid uses a similar setup as the Accord sedan with the 2.0-liter Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine mixed with two electric motors and continuously variable transmission. The combined output of the system is 212 hp. Honda promises about a 50 percent boost in EPA ratings for the city drive compared to the non-hybrid version. That should mean at least 42 mpg city and would beat previous models at least by 1 mpg.
The regular CR-V will be available from about $26, 000. The hybrid model should cost from about $28, 000.
2021 Mitsubishi Outlander
The 2021 Mitsubishi Outlander is another small SUV that should on the list of 10 Most-Efficient SUVs. The model comes in the redesigned form for the 2021 model year and should improve fuel economy and other characteristics.
The new-gen Outlander is expected with edgier styling and upgraded cabin and equipment. However, the Outlander PEHV should also come with the revised powertrain and improved mileage.
The current Outlander plug-in hybrid exploits a 117-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine complemented by two 60-kWh electric motors and a 12-kWh battery. The total output is 190 hp. The redesigned model should switch to a 2.4-liter 126-hp four-cylinder engine and a larger 13.8-kWh battery. The result should be higher combined output and improved all-electric range over the current 22 miles.
The redesigned Mitsubishi should debut at some of the upcoming Auto Shows. The price should go slightly up. The current Outlander PHEV starts from $36, 295.
Some of the most-efficient mid-size SUVs:
The mid-size SUVs expand the passenger and cargo space over the smaller, compact class adding also the third row of seats. The brands are also increasing a share of the electrified powertrain in this segment which has a positive impact on the fuel economy. Still, the fuel economy drops significantly compared to previously examined small SUVs. These are the mid-size SUVs that earned a position in our 10 Most-Efficient SUVs list.
2021 Ford Explorer
The up-to-date, mid-size Ford Explorer improved in all aspects for the last year redesign and it comes in a variety of powertrain solutions including the hybrid setup. The plug-in hybrid version is also available on the Old Continent.
The 2021 Ford Explorer will be reasonably fuel-efficient with the 2.3-liter turbo-4 engine and two-wheel-drive setup. This combination manages 21 mpg city and 28 highway or 24 mpg combined.
The Explorer Hybrid combines a 3.3-liter non-turbo V-6 engine with an electric motor for the combined output of 318 hp. The rear-drive version should manage up to 28 mpg combined. The all-wheel-drive version drops to 24 mpg combined.
The plug-in hybrid version available in Europe with the Aviator plug-in setup making 443 hp and torque of 620 pound-feet. The pure-electric range is 25 miles but may differ if this version reaches the US because of specific test standards.
The 2021 Ford Explorer is expected in late 2020 with the hybrid version priced from about $52, 500.
2021 Subaru Outback
The 2021 Subaru Outback is another option worth considering when the fuel economy is among priorities.
The model was redesigned last year and comes with a spacious and comfortable cabin, above-average off-road capability, good infotainment system, and driver-assist technologies.
The model doesn’t offer the hybrid version but its powertrain options rates well at the efficiency level.
The base 182-hp 2.5-liter non-turbo flat-4 engine manages up to 26 mpg city, 33 highway and 29 mpg combined. An available 260-hp 2.4-liter turbocharged engine brings a significant power boost with the fuel economy reduced to 23 mpg city, 30 mpg highway or 26 combined.
The 2021 Subaru Outback will be available from about $26, 500 with the on-sale date in late 2020.
2021 Toyota Highlander
The 2021 Toyota Highlander should also be on the radar of buyers seeking a high-mpg, mid-size SUV.
The recently, all-new Highlander sports more rugged exterior than the previous iteration while offering a spacious cabin and well-equipped base version. The active safety equipment comes in every version.
At the efficiency level, the Highlander hybrid performs well. The hybrid setup includes a 2.5-liter inline-4 engine, two electric motors, a nickel-metal battery, and a continuously variable transmission teamed up to produce 243 hp. The hybrid version can be had in two- and four-wheel drive configurations. The two-wheel-drive hybrid should return 36 mpg city, 35 highway or 36 combined. The AWD version loses 1 mpg from the score but also deserves a position on the list of 10 Most-Efficient SUVs.
The 2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid will be available bellow $40, 000 and should reach dealers in late 2020.
Some of the most-efficient large SUVs:
The large SUVs lift the passenger and cargo room to the new level and with massive cargo capacity over 100 cubic feet they can also haul massive trailers simultaneously. These models come usually with a truck-based underpinning and can also attack dirty trials. The newest versions lifted the level of sophistication to the new heights. However, massive cargo and trailing capability come at a cost and fuel efficiency drops bellow 20 mpg for the city drive. The brands will also call the electrification in help which will boost performance and efficiency.
2021 Ford Expedition
The newest, recently redesigned Expedition defines some standards in the class and it delivers impressive fuel economy considering its massive size and weight. The latest Expedition is more comfortable than ever and available with the newest tech features. The model has also good on-road manners and comes with the potent powertrain.
A 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6 deliver up to 400 hp and at least 5, 400 pounds Expedition can tow up to 9, 300 pounds. At the efficiency level, the potent twin-turbo unit returns up 17 mpg city, 24 highway and 20 combined. The all-wheel-drive Expedition earned 17 mpg city and 22 highways.
Ford plans to offer the hybridized option and the plug-in hybrid is also expected. The brand’s hybrid setups prioritize performance bringing also the fuel efficiency boost.
The next Expedition should again start in the vicinity of $52, 800. The arrival is expected in the last quarter of 2020.
2021 Lincoln Navigator
The sleek and premium Lincoln Navigator is set to get a hybrid variant with better fuel efficiency than the current option but before the hybrid joins the range it is still among the most efficient large SUVs.
The 2021 Lincoln Navigator comes with a 3.5-liter bi-turbo V-6 engine under the hood paired to a 10-speed automatic transmission. The engine delivers 450 hp and 510 pound-feet of torque. The rear-wheel-drive version achieves up to 16 mpg city, 22 highway or 19 mpg combined. The four-wheel-drive version drops to 16/21 mpg city-highway. The model can tow up to 8, 700 pounds. We will see the score of the hybrid version when arrives.
The 2021 Lincoln Navigator should hit the market around the year-end with the starting price at about $76, 000.
2021 Chevy Tahoe
The fully redesigned 2021 Chevy Tahoe is larger and more sophisticated than ever. The model switched to the independent rear suspension for batter ride and interior comfort. The new Tahoe offers also significantly upgraded passenger and cargo room. Equipment and tech availability are also increased. The model comes with at least a 10.0-inch center display and some active safety etch. The new diesel option is also available.
When it comes to efficiency, the diesel unit will be the best option while the base 5.3-liter V-8 engine with upgraded fuel-saving measurements should do a little better than the current version. The current Tahoe returns 15 mpg city and up to 23 mph highway. We will see where the new version is when EPA offers new ratings but we are sure that this model should be on the list of 10 Most-Efficient SUVs.
The all-new Chevy Tahoe goes on sale in mid-2020 with the starting price from $50, 000.
10 Most-Efficient SUVs: Conclusion
The hybrids and plug-in hybrids are by definition more fuel-efficient than gas-powered models but a considerably higher price must also be put in the formula when evaluating what version to buy. The number of hybrids and PHEV models will increase in the coming years as well as the share of the battery-powered vehicles. The diesel is also proliferating in the SUV segment. We will cover the most-efficient diesel-equipped SUVs and luxury models in another article.
We covered just a few high-mpg SUVs sorted by the class in this section but buyers should also consider other options. The Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid, Lexus NX, and other small SUVs should be observed. The mid-size Honda Pilot, Mazda CX-9, etc. have also good scores at all levels. The 2021 model year brings also many redesigned large SUVs such as Chevy Tahoe and Suburban, GMC Yukon, etc. that come more efficient than ever.