Most economical SUVs, 4x4s and crossovers
These fuel-efficient SUVs and crossovers will squeeze every last mile out of their tanks, making your money go further
The bigger a car is, the less fuel-efficient it’s likely to be. Those are just the laws of physics, and it means many buyers torn between a family hatchback or an SUV have to balance practicality against higher running costs.
Thankfully, the latest, cutting-edge engines (as well as the introduction of hybrid technology) mean that the financial hit might not be as bad as you think. The SUV and crossover markets are booming right now, with many models targeting low bills in order to cater for cash-conscious customers.
With legislation compelling manufacturers to lower their CO2 output added into the mix, the focus on efficiency has never been greater. That means there are a huge number of ultra-economical SUVs to choose from, ranging from cheap-as-chips runabouts to premium, luxury machines.
Given that most people are looking for a certain fuel type, our list of the most economical SUVs, 4x4s and crossovers is divided into three categories: petrols, diesels and hybrids. So whichever of the three best suits your needs, there’s something for you below. If you want to wave a permanent goodbye to the filling station forecourt, you’ll need our electric SUV round-up...
Top five most economical petrol SUVs
- Suzuki Vitara 1.4 Boosterjet 129PS - 52.7mpg
- Skoda Kamiq 1.0 TSI 110PS – 52.5mpg
- Ford Puma 1.0 EcoBoost mHEV 125PS – 52.3mpg
- SEAT Arona 1.0 TSI 95PS – 52.3mpg
- Peugeot 2008 1.2 PureTech 100 – 52.0mpg
- Citroen C3 Aircross 1.2 PureTech 110 – 51.5mpg
1. Suzuki Vitara 1.4 Boosterjet 129PS
The Vitara made a name for itself as one of the first of a new generation of sporty SUV crossovers that were more like a hatchback than a 4x4 to drive. This is still the case for the latest model, although myriad rivals have now caught up, and in some cases overtaken the Vitara.
It’s currently top of the pile for petrol fuel-efficiency, though, thanks to its frugal 1.4-litre Boosterjet engine with mild-hybrid technology. That’s despite it offering a decent 127bhp and 235Nm of torque, so you don’t have to worry about glacial performance in pursuit of cheap running costs.
2. Skoda Kamiq 1.0 TSI 110PS
The Skoda Kamiq is one of the best small SUVs on sale, thanks in no small part to its efficient line-up of powertrains. The most frugal of the bunch is the three-cylinder, 1.0-litre petrol that delivers up to 52.5mpg in its least powerful form. Buyers looking for a practical car with a decent kit list will be served well by the Kamiq, although the interior isn’t as plush as the ones in some of its competitors.
= 3. Ford Puma 1.0L EcoBoost mHEV 125PS
Ford has certainly made a splash with the new Ford Puma. It’s basically a Fiesta-based SUV, which means it drives well, is refined and – with Ford’s 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine under the bonnet – very efficient too. The Puma maxes out at 52.3mpg, with a helpful boost of a few miles per gallon thanks to mild-hybrid tech, which takes some strain off the petrol engine while driving.
= 3. SEAT Arona 1.0 TSI 95PS
Using the same engine as the Skoda Kamiq above, the SEAT Arona achieves an impressive 52.3mpg on the now industry-standard WLTP test. Although it’s not quite as efficient, you’ll barely notice the difference in the real world, and those that plump for the SEAT will be rewarded with a car that exudes a little more flair.
4. Peugeot 2008 1.2 PureTech 100
The Peugeot 2008 is one of our favourite crossovers, offering great value for money with a generous mix of equipment, style and practicality. Better still is that it boasts low running costs that no other rival in this class can match, returning up to 52.0mpg when fitted with PSA’s 1.2-litre PureTech petrol engine.
5. Citroen C3 Aircross 1.2 PureTech 110
Like the other really efficient petrol SUVs on this list, the C3 Aircross is small and light, which helps it expend less energy as it moves down the road. It also features a close relation of the Peugeot 2008’s 1.2-litre PureTech engine, albeit with slightly more power, which could explain its 0.5mpg increased thirst.
Top five most economical diesel SUVs
- Peugeot 2008 1.5 BlueHDi 100 – 73.6mpg
- Citroen C3 Aircross BlueHDi 110 – 67.2mpg
- Vauxhall Mokka 1.5 Turbo D - 65.7mpg
- DS 3 Crossback BlueHDi 110 – 62.8mpg
- Vauxhall Crossland 1.5 Turbo D – 62.8mpg
Peugeot 2008 1.5 BlueHDi 100
The Peugeot 2008 is incredibly economical, no matter if it comes with a petrol or diesel engine. While the diesel version is a bit more expensive to buy, it’s one of the most frugal SUV’s on this list, so should suit anyone driving long distances. Its 73.6mpg economy means you’ll rarely have to stop for fuel.
2. Citroen C3 Aircross BlueHDi 110
The Citroen C3 Aircross is another Stellantis model, suggesting that the Groupe PSA wing of the new mega manufacturer had cracked diesel efficiency prior to its merger with FCA. The C3 Aircross is a funky-looking thing that boasts plenty of personalisation options, as well as a spacious cabin. It’s not the highest quality crossover we’ve ever seen and the handling is far from class-leading, but you won’t be complaining if you manage to hit the official fuel economy of 67.2mpg achieved by the 1.5-litre diesel version.
3. Vauxhall Mokka 1.5 Turbo D
As if to prove its fuel economy dominance once and for all, the Stellantis’ 1.5-litre diesel is now making the latest Vauxhall models supremely economical as well. The latest Mokka is a big step-up, thanks to a stylish design inside and out. Its interior now features large displays and far fewer buttons, for a more contemporary look and feel.
4. DS 3 Crossback BlueHDi 100
If you want an SUV with a more premium feel, then the DS 3 Crossback ticks that box. The styling is more upmarket and the materials used inside are a bit nicer, even if the build quality isn’t quite where we’d like it to be. Equipped with the same 1.5-litre diesel as the Peugeot 2008, it will muster up to 62.8mpg.
5.Vauxhall Crossland 1.5 Turbo D – 62.8mpg
Those who aren’t keen on the glitz and glamour of the DS 3 Crossback will prefer the no-nonsense Vauxhall Crossland instead. Alright, it’s not much fun to drive, but it sits at the affordable end of the spectrum and delivers on the essentials: a practical cabin, lots of kit and excellent fuel economy. The 1.5-litre diesel isn’t quite as refined as the petrol options on the Crossland, but who’s complaining when it’ll hit 62.8mpg?
Top five most economical hybrid SUVs
- Mercedes GLE 350 de - 353.1mpg
- Ford Kuga PHEV – 282.5mpg
- BMW X5 xDrive45e – 235.4mpg
- Peugeot 3008 Hybrid4 - 235.4mpg
- Cupra Formentor - 235.4mpg
- Kia Niro PHEV – 201.8mpg
1. Mercedes GLE 350 de
No that’s not a typo, Mercedes really does claim that the plug-in hybrid version of the GLE SUV will return up to 353.1mpg. This is because the GLE 350 de can travel farther (66 miles) than any other plug-in hybrid on sale right now thanks to its 31.2kWh battery, so it aces the official fuel economy test like no other car can. Once the cells are depleted you’ll likely see more like 40mpg from the diesel engine alone, although with frequent charging you really could see triple-figure fuel economy in the real world.
2. Ford Kuga PHEV
Rival manufacturers have stolen a march on Ford when it comes to electric vehicles, although its emerging plug-in hybrid models show that the US marque is quickly recovering ground. The 14.4kWh battery in the Kuga PHEV affords up to 39 miles of zero-emissions range on paper, while that same specification sheet claims up to 282.5mpg in ST Line Edition trim. The 2.5-litre isn’t the most characterful, nor is it the most economical when left to its own devices: this is especially true in ‘EV Charge’ mode, where the car uses the engine to top up the battery on the move.
=3. BMW X5 xDrive45e
The BMW X5 xDrive45e is another car threatening to dominate the plug-in hybrid sector, with a 24kWh battery that delivers 54 miles of zero-emissions range. This means most people could easily complete their daily commute using only electricity, topping up overnight to restart the process all over again the next day. With enough thought and planning, you’d almost never need to use the engine at all, although it’s at this point that many decide they’d be better off with a fully electric car anyway.
=3. Peugeot 3008 Hybrid4
The Peugeot 3008 is one of our favourite small SUVs on sale right now, and the Hybrid4 model - one of two: this with two electric motors and the other with one - also happens to be one of the most fuel efficient. The motors combine with the turbocharged, 1.6-litre petrol engine for a combined 296bhp, while the 13.2kWh battery offers almost 40 miles of electric-only range and contributes to fuel economy of 235.4mpg on paper.
=3. Cupra Formentor
The Cupra Formentor may have among the most sporting and desirable looks on this list, but that doesn’t stop it returning well over 200mpg according to its official figures. For the best possible fuel efficiency you’ll need the V1 e-Hybrid 204, with an electric range of up to 34 miles. With the petrol engine running, it also has a decent turn of speed, going from 0-62mph in less than eight seconds.
4. Citroen C5 Aircross
The Citroen C5 Aircross has now been facelifted, with a new look inspired by the C5 X. Along with its new styling and technology, the flagship version gets a 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine and an 80kW electric motor, drawing power from a 13.2kWh battery pack. This gives it up to 222bhp and an EV range of up to 34 miles, resulting in miniscule running costs.
5. Kia Niro PHEV
The all-electric version of this car – the Kia e-Niro – is rather brilliant, and well worth considering if an EV is a feasible prospect for you. That said, the plug-in hybrid Niro is the next best thing, with an 8.9kWh battery that’ll give you up to 36 miles of electric running. That amounts to 201.8mpg officially, but how close you get to that in the real world depends on how often you revert to using the 1.6-litre petrol engine.
Now you know the most economical SUVs on sale, why not shift gear and look at the fastest SUVs on sale?