An SUV no longer means “gas guzzler.” Many newer SUVs combine utility with car-like handling and good fuel economy. We picked nine non-hybrid used SUV models that are widely available and good on gas. We only looked at vehicles with a combined MPG rating of 22 or better, based on the 2010 model year. Vote for one more choice.
Hyundai Tucson 2010 and newer
Hyundai Tucson was redesigned for 2010. It’s the smallest SUV in this group, but it offers the best EPA-estimated combined fuel economy rating of 26 MPG. The Tucson handles well but rides firmly. It has a nicely-finished interior and plenty of available features. On the downside, the ride is noisy, the interior and cargo space are limited and rear visibility is compromised in the corners. Reliability is about average. The 2010 FWD 4-cylinder model gets 23/31 MPG. The AWD 2010 4-cylinder Tucson is rated at 22/30 MPG city/highway.
Chevrolet Equinox / GMC Terrain (4-cylinder) 2010 and newer
With the 2010 redesign, the Equinox got a direct-injected 4-cylinder engine that offers best in class highway fuel economy. The interior quality and comfort are also among the best. The Equinox handles well and rides comfortably. The only complaint is the wide turning radius. The 182-hp 2.4L four-banger is available with front- or all-wheel drive. The Equinox long-term reliability is about average. An extended warranty is worth considering. The 2010 FWD 4-cylinder Equinox automatic gets 22/32 MPG. The AWD 4-cylinder model is rated at 20/29 MPG. GMC Terrain is a mechanical twin of the Chevrolet Equinox and has the same fuel economy ratings.
Subaru Outback (4-cylinder) 2008 and newer
Subaru Outback comes with a standard all-wheel drive system and a ‘boxer’ engine that provides a lower center of gravity. The 2005-2009 Outback was more of a wagon with a tight rear seat. The 2010 and newer Outback is taller and roomier. There were some engine issues in early models, but 2008 and newer Outback is pretty reliable. The Subaru all-wheel drive system is one of the best out there. The 2010 4-cylinder Outback with a continuously variable transmission is rated at 22/29 MPG city/highway.
Toyota RAV4 (4-cylinder)
Toyota’s smallest SUV is agile and fun to drive. The RAV4 rides comfortably and has a peppy 4-cylinder engine. It is available as a front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The RAV4 offers a well-finished practical interior and refined powertrain. On the downside, the rear door that opens toward the curb. Toyota RAV4 is very reliable. The 2010 AWD 4-cylinder Toyota RAV4 is rated at 21/27 MPG.
Nissan Rogue 2009 and newer
Introduced for 2008, the Rogue is a car-based crossover available with FWD or AWD. The Rogue comes with a 170-hp 2.5L 4-cylinder engine and a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The Rogue handles nicely and has a fairly quiet compliant ride. The interior is plain but comfortable. The rear visibility is the only downside. The reliability is better than average, although the 2008 model should probably be avoided. The 2010 AWD Nissan Rogue gets 21/26 MPG city/highway.
The CR-V remains one of the most popular compact SUVs. It has been redesigned for 2007. The CR-V has a very good 2.4L 4-cylinder engine and a versatile roomy interior. The handling is secure but the ride is on the firm side. The CR-V offers many clever features, including a conversation mirror, folding tray between the front seats and an optional dual-deck cargo shelf. You can’t go wrong with this vehicle if you are looking for a compact SUV. The CR-V is very reliable. The 2010 AWD automatic model is rated at 21/27 MPG.
Mazda CX-7 (non-turbo) 2010 and newer
Mazda CX-7 a sporty compact crossover. It’s roomy and fun to drive. It was introduced for 2007, however the original 2.3L-turbo engine had problems and should be avoided. For 2010, Mazda CX-7 received the non-turbo 161-hp 2.5L motor which is more reliable. The 2.5L motor is available in front-wheel drive i SV, i Sport and i Touring trims. The EPA rates the 2010 FWD Mazda CX-7 with a 2.5L engine and an automatic transmission at 20/28 MPG.
Toyota Highlander (4-cylinder)
The Highlander is a mid-size SUV with a very comfortable ride. It is available in 5- or 7-passenger configuration. The 2003-2007 Highlander was a smaller Camry-based crossover. Redesigned for 2008, the Highlander grew in size and received a more powerful 2.7L 4-cylinder engine, that is only available with front-wheel drive. The 2008 and newer Highlander is the most spacious in this group. Toyota Highlander is very reliable and easy to maintain. The 2010 FWD 2.7L 4-cylinder automatic Highlander is rated at 20/27 MPG.
Subaru Forester (non-turbo) 2009 and newer
Redesigned for 2009, Subaru Forester is a very practical small SUV with a balanced handling and comfortable ride. It comes with a 2.5L or 2.5L-turbo 4-cylinder engine and an automatic or manual transmission. All-wheel drive is standard. The Forester upright styling makes for good visibility and spacious cargo compartment. The horizontally opposed engine provides a low center of gravity. Subaru all-wheel drive system is excellent. The interior is simple but practical. The 2009 and newer Forester is reliable and easy to maintain. The EPA rates the 2010 2.5L Forester with an automatic transmission at 20/26 MPG.
Out of these cars, the Forester offers better all-around visibility. The Equinox has a more refined interior. Mazda CX-7 is the best choice for sporty handling. The 2008 and newer Highlander is the most spacious and has the most comfortable ride. It also scored better in the Owner’s Satisfaction Survey by Consumer Reports.
We expect Toyota RAV4, Toyota Highlander, Honda CR-V and Subaru Forester to be more reliable in a long run. The Forester and Outback have a better all-wheel drive system. Acura RDX would be a perfect candidate for this list, but it gets only 21 MPG combined for 2010 model.
Follow this link to see the crash test scores for 2010 model year.
|2010 epa estimated Fuel economy (MPG)||city||combined||highway|
|Hyundai Tucson 2.4L FWD Auto||23||26||31|
|Chevrolet Equinox 2.4L FWD Auto||22||26||32|
|GMC Terrain 2.4L FWD Auto||22||26||32|
|Subaru Outback 2.5L AWD Auto (CVT)||22||24||29|
|Toyota RAV4 2.5L FWD Auto||22||24||28|
|Nissan Rogue 2.5L FWD Auto (CVT)||22||24||27|
|Honda CR-V 2.4L FWD Auto||21||24||28|
|Hyundai Tucson 2.4L AWD Auto||21||24||28|
|Toyota RAV4 2.5L AWD Auto||21||24||27|
|Honda CR-V 2.4L AWD Auto||21||23||27|
|Nissan Rogue 2.5L AWD Auto (CVT)||21||23||26|
|Chevrolet Equinox 2.4L AWD Auto||20||23||29|
|GMC Terrain 2.4L AWD Auto||20||23||29|
|Mazda CX-7 2.5L FWD Auto||20||23||28|
|Toyota Highlander 2.7L FWD Auto||20||22||27|
|Subaru Forester 2.5L AWD Auto||20||22||26|