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The SUV 40 mpg Club

It’s a growing trend that more and more of us are choosing to buy a new SUV vehicle over a more conventional sedan or wagon.  There is a lot of sense in buying these as they usually perform well in crash testing, have a higher ride height, often offer more room and practicality, and are comfortable.  Having AWD is nice for the odd light off-road excursion, but how good are they on fuel though?

There is a load of new SUV vehicles available, but interestingly there are an increasing number of relatively fuel efficient SUVs coming onto the market.  A true SUV is one that is described as being a Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV).  It’s a vehicle that is similar to a station wagon or estate car but comes, more often than not, equipped with four-wheel drive for both good on-road or off-road capability.  Some of the best fuel efficiency is not always associated with diesel engines.  Some hybrid vehicles and even petrol versions can be amazingly frugal, too.

Let’s see what are the most fuel efficient SUVs in the real world; SUVs that you can currently buy on the market and are able to obtain 7 litres/100 litres or 40 mpg.  But bear in mind that it’s hard to relate a Mini Countryman or even a Fiat 500X with an SUV label, even though their manufacturers think that they fall into the mini SUV bracket.  If a vehicle is going to be an SUV it really has to be able to perform the utility side of the deal, like being able to take plenty of luggage and occupants on or off-road or even be able to tow a trailer without looking stupidly overladen and out of puff.  Realistically, to have a useful SUV you need one that has a strong chassis, good space and at least a modest bit of grunt under the bonnet.  So with this in mind, you may not find the likes of a mini hatch on steroids seriously considered as part of this mix of possible fuel efficient SUVs.

Here are some of the top picks that I’ve managed to put together that, in the real world, are returning around 7 litres/100 km or better – that’s equivalent to 40 mpg on average.

Audi offer the Q3 with a punchy 2.0 TDI engine in either 140 or 150 kW output.  Both of these models are very stylish and comfortable.  Packed with features and handy off-road, the Q3 is definitely a real compact SUV and one that can frugally carry you about at better than 40 mpg.

audi q3 2016

Any of the BMW X1 Diesel powered models are truly remarkably frugal compact SUVs.  Each of these in the real world can get well under 7 litres/100 km.  The much larger X5 sDrive25d has loads of space and off-road ability – not to mention comfort and performance.  This is returning 7.5 litres/100 km not far from the magical 40 mpg, so if you are wanting heaps of AWD/off-road potential and space, the BMW X5 sDrive25d should be on your radar.   There is also the attractive and capable BMW X3 18d and X3 20d that are hitting way better than the 40 mpg mark in the real world.

bmw x1 2016

Ford’s 2.0 TDCi engine is used in the very good Ford Kuga compact SUV.  All the usual luxury features are available in this handy soft-off-roader.  Nice dynamics and comfort levels make this a great alternative, practical SUV.  Most FWD Kuga models with the 2.0 TDCi engine are easily bettering 7 litres/100 km in the real world.

ford kuga 2016

Hyundai Tucson’s 1.7-litre CRDi is proving very efficient.  This is a sharp looking, well-priced drive.  The 2.0-litre CRDi AWD is not far off the 40 mpg mark, too.  These AWD versions are good off-road, so be in and enjoy.


Superbly equipped for tough 4WD challenges, the all-conquering Jeep Cherokee is a roomy and comfortable 4WD, large SUV that is returning better than the 7 litres/100 km when equipped with the 2.0 CRD engine.  This is as good as it gets for efficiency, comfort and tough off-roading.  Jeep also has the new Renegade that is roomy, very capable off-road and provides exceptional fuel efficiency with the 1.6 Multijet turbo-diesel engine – built by Fiat.  The Jeep Compass boasts a powerful 2.2-litre diesel engine that hits on or close to 40 mpg in the real world.  This model has full time AWD, the strong chain cam 2.2-litre diesel engine, and decent handling and grip.  One would suggest the Jeeps are well worth a look if you need to get out in the bush and bash occasionally.

jeep cherokee 2016

I’m really pleased to find that the new Land Rover 2.0 litre TD4 engine has the goods in the real world to match 40 mpg.  The engine is providing the classy looking Range Rover Evoque with 7 litres/100 km efficiency.  Of course, you can head Outback with this one – such is the superior off-road capability of the Evoque.  And, when you are way Outback in the Evoque, you’ll be doing the hard yards in premium comfort.

Aintree Green – Metallic

A winner as an efficient compact SUV in the real world is the Nissan’s Qashqai.  To drive, the new Qashqai is one of the best crossovers.  Running with punchy and very frugal 1.5 dCi and 1.6 dCi turbo-diesel engines that emit very little carbon, you are promised way better than 7.0 litres/100 km regularly.  A comfortable interior, top features and a quiet ride is part of the Nissan Qashqai experience.  Again, Nissan have the remarkably practical, roomy and comfortable Nissan X-Trail that tackles any off-road terrain fully laden.  The X-Trail uses the 1.6 dCi turbo-diesel engine used in the Qashqai.  These are highly recommended efficient SUV drives.

Nissan X-Trail

Subaru has the legendary Forester that is now even more efficient than ever with their new 2.0-litre diesel powering it.  This is a capable soft-roader SUV.  It is well equipped and spacious.  You can pull a trailer and the vehicle cruises well at speed.  Definitely, the Subaru Forester 2.0D is a real useful wagon that boasts a decent drive.  Proving to be both very fuel efficient and reliable, the Forester 2.0D needs to be on your list of frugal SUV wagons to check out.  The Lineartronic 2.0i Forester petrol version is not far off the magical 40 mpg mark either – just thought I’d throw that in there.  If you need even more space, the very comfortable and capable Subaru Outback 2.0D is excellent on secondary roads and for light off-roading duties.  The wagon is spacious and solidly built.  Also, for something a little different and in the mould of the Nissan Qashqai but with more power, the 2.0D Subaru XV is vailable, too.  Do check out any of these Subaru models with the smooth Lineartronic gearbox.

subaru forester 20d 2016

The new Toyota Rav4 2.0-litre and 2.2-litre turbo-diesels are very durable, comfortable and genuine medium-size SUVs.  Get one with either of these engines and you have yourself a tough, off-roader with handy practicality and style.  Both engines return better than 7.0 litres/100 km on a regular, real-world basis.


Volvo XC60 models with the D3 and D4 engines are solid SUVs with premium safety, luxury and comfort.  All XC60s are very capable off-road and can pull a decent load on a trailer.  And with around 7.0 litres/100 km in the real world, the Volvo XC60 is a highly desirable, luxurious SUV drive.  Again, the Volvo XC70 is a smart-looking high-riding AWD wagon with a decent level of off-road ability.  It is comfortable, safe and practical, and again is available with engines that put it in the frugal SUV bracket bettering 40 mpg with Volvo’s D3, D4 and 2.4D engines.  The hybrid Volvo XC90 T8 is the super luxurious SUV that everyone will want.  Truly a magnificent and award winning vehicle, the very powerful, incredibly refined and quiet drive boasts a premium high quality cabin with room for seven.  Even with standard features, the XC90 T8 is lavish.  This is a big, roomy, luxurious, safe and efficient real-world efficient SUV.

volvo xc90 t8

The new Honda CR-V models with 1.6 and 2.2 litre iDTEC diesel engines are highly efficient in the real-world.  Expect great build quality, comfort, luxury and punchy performance.  The other beauty of the new CR-V is that they are reliable and relatively well priced.  The diesel engines are impressively refined and quiet.  This is another highly recommended SUV that’s efficiently returning well above the 40 mpg mark.  Even the 2WD 2.0 iVTEC petrol version is very close to meeting 40 mpg – just to let you know.


Kia has the Sportage compact SUV that, when fitted with the 1.7 CRDi or similar, and in 2WD form slips into the 7.0 litre/100 km on average.  These are a nice vehicle to drive, are stylish and have good quality features all round.

kia sportage 1.7 crdi

Mercedes Benz has nice looking SUV vehicles, and there are a few of them which can happily return 40 mpg in everyday use.  The new GLC220d and GLC250d with their automatic gearboxes have excellent refinement and a very composed ride on any surface.  You have superb luxury that is of the highest quality.  It has the goods to tackle some tougher off-road work, and it seats four in amazing comfort.

mercedes benz glc suv diesel

Mitsubishi has a really nice SUV that is stylish, very modern and economical.  The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is a Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle and is the first SUV of its kind anywhere in the world.  With its all-electric i-Miev technology, space and the legendary off-road ability of the Pajero, the Outlander is a fantastic vehicle that easily betters the 40 mpg mark.  The Outlander is a comfortable and solid real SUV type vehicle with five-star safety.  The 2.2 turbo-diesel engine that is also fitted in the Outlander comes very close to meeting 7 litres/100 km, as well.  Also, the Mitsubishi ASX SUV is a compact SUV with a solid build quality, impressive fuel economy, plenty of room for five plus luggage.  It also boasts a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating and is decent value for money.  There is a 1.6-litre petrol, 1.6-litre Diesel and 1.8-litre Diesel that all meet the fuel economy mark we’re after. Check the Mitsubishi SUVs out!


Suzuki has the ever-ready Vitara.  The new Vitara is smaller, lighter, more refined, more economical and better to drive than its predecessor.  It also boasts a five-star Euro NCAP rating.  Both the 1.6-litre petrol and 1.6-litre diesel variants meet the magical 7 litres/100 km in everyday driving.  The sharp styling looks great, while the vehicle’s off-road ability is excellent.


Mazda has their fabulous CX-5 models that come with a 2.0-litre petrol or a 2.2-litre diesel engine, both of which will get you 40 mpg and better on real-world drives.  Dynamic styling and loaded with features, these are very nice to drive.  The larger Mazda CX-7 SUV looks amazing and handles extremely well for a 4×4.  Off-road excursions are a breeze for this big comfy model.  It’s the 2.2-litre diesel that meets, or gets very close, to the 40 mpg target we’re all after for economic SUV travel.

mazda-cx-7 2016

Looking into Peugeot’s showroom reveals that the 2008 is a handy SUV that, with Grip Control, can get over some pretty slippery surfaces – perfect for heading off to the snow.  Its upmarket styling is striking and unique – both inside and out.  Peugeot’s frugal engine range (diesel and petrol) and low running costs gives this model the big tick for economic SUV transport.  There’s also decent space for adults in the back, and excellent luxury features.

peugeot 2008

All diesel engines that power the modern and capable Renault Koleos SUV hit the magical 40 mpg mark.  The cam chain diesels are smooth and the ride very comfortable.  The elegant styling looks nice, too.

renault koleos 2014

Volkswagen has their stylish Tiguan SUV that is comfortable to ride in.  The 2.0-litre TDI Diesel engine is particularly economical when linked to the Tiguan drivetrain.  This is a decent SUV with a smooth diesel automatic option, and AWD versions are capable off-road.  Volkswagen’s Passat Alltrack wagon is classy and remarkably capable off the beaten track, and it’s also blessed with the 2.0-litre TDI engine for frugal performance.


If I’ve missed any other models that should be in the 40 mpg or 7 litres/100 km club, let us know.  Hope this helps, too…