Say hello again to inflation; it’s returned after a 40-year hiatus. Yes, the cost of everything is skyrocketing including gasoline.
According to the American Automobile Association, the national average for a gallon of regular gasoline on Thursday is $4.318 per gallon, with premium fuel running at $4.912. That’s up from $2.815 and $3.393 a year ago respectively. That’s an increase of 34.8% and 30.9%. And while the feds insist that the inflation rate in February was 7.9%, some figures would suggest it’s higher.
Fighting fuel inflation
But you don’t have to squeeze into some tiny vehicle to get good fuel economy. Fuel-sipping alternatives are available in everything from a minivan to a midsize through subcompact crossover.
We’ve gathered up the most fuel-efficient 2022 model-year crossover utility vehicles, according to the EPA. None of these rigs are true boulder-bashing SUVs. Fuel economy and off-roading do not go hand in hand. But they can handle light off-road work, like tromping across a field, navigating an unpaved road or battling a foul-weather commute.
One caveat to our list: we have excluded battery-electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), as some 40% of Americans have no access to regular charging. So this list consists solely of vehicles powered by traditional internal combustion engines (ICE), as well hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) that pair and an ICE with a battery pack and do not need to be plugged in.
Most fuel-efficient ICE crossover-utility vehicles
1. Ford Escape FWD HEV: 41 mpg
Cost to fill the tank: $51
Range: 582 miles
The Escape Hybrid delivers a class-leading 45 mpg (beating EPA estimates) without much effort while proving to be beautifully balanced and agile, returning a relaxed, refined driving experience. The only downside is interior ambience that doesn’t match that of other hybrid compact crossovers.
2. Toyota RAV4 Hybrid AWD: 40 mpg
Cost to fill the tank: $52
Range: 580 miles
If you’re considering a RAV4, the hybrid model is the only way to go. It’s not only quicker than the non-hybrid models, it’s far more fuel efficient. While its driving character tends to be a bit anonymous, it’s made up by the functional practical interior along with a decent tech package.
3. Lexus NX 350h AWD/Toyota Venza AWD: 39 mpg (tie)
Cost to fill the tank: $52
Range: 566 miles
MSRP: $42,625 (NX 350h); $32,890 (Venza)
All-new for 2022, Lexus refines the NX’s design by paring down the excesses that have plagued the brand’s look. It also boasts a new infotainment user interface that’s far easier to use. The NX 350h feels sprightly, responsive and entertaining. Meanwhile, the Toyota Venza looks as if it could be a Lexus. Its driving dynamics are a bit dull, despite sharing its platform and running gear with the RAV4. And yes, it trades space for style, but what’s wrong with that?
4. Honda CR-V Hybrid AWD/ Hyundai Tucson Hybrid Blue: 38 mpg (tie)
Cost to fill the tank: $51 (Honda); $49 (Hyundai)
Range: 532 miles (Honda); 521 miles (Hyundai)
MSRP: $31,610 (Honda); $29,350 (Hyundai)
While the CR-V has a spacious interior, a comfortable ride and the Honda name, which would have many people opting for it without question. But look closer and you’ll find the all-new Tucson Hybrid Blue boasts a lower starting price, quick acceleration, a far fresher interior, admirable space, impressive tech package and a polished demeanor. Best of all, it has a traditional automatic transmission, rather than Honda’s CVT.
5. Kia Sorento Hybrid FWD
Cost to fill the tank: $64
Range: 655 miles
Feeling more refined than conventional Sorentos, the Sorento Hybrid is a bit slower while delivering stellar fuel economy for midsized three-row crossover. Nevertheless, it’s about as quick as the Toyota Highlander Hybrid, although its overall size is a bit smaller, as its price, which some might prefer.
6. Toyota Highlander Hybrid FWD/Toyota Sienna Hybrid FWD: 36 mpg (tie)
Cost to fill the tank: $62 (Highlander); $65 (Sienna)
Range: 598 miles (Highlander); 648 miles (Sienna)
MSRP: $39,055 (Highlander); $34,560 (Sienna)
If you desire a midsize family bus from Toyota, look no further. Both use similar hybrid drivelines, although the Highland has a skitch more power and makes the sprint to 60 mpg a wee bit faster, although most drivers won’t notice. But the Sienna, being a minivan, has more than double the cargo space when all rows are being used, and has more room for people as well. But the Highlander isn’t a minivan, although no one will mistake for an off-road warrior either. The Sienna does come with all-wheel drive, but mileage drops to 35 mpg.
7. Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid Blue: 34 mpg
Cost to fill the tank: $64
Range: 602 miles
Given it’s a hybrid, the first thing you’ll notice about the Santa Fe Hybrid Blue is that its fuel economy, while good, it could be better. And opting for the standard Hybrid reduces fuel economy to 32 mpg, which is less than the non-hybrid Nissan Rogue. But it does surpass the standard Santa Fe, which returns 26 mpg with the base engine.
8. Nissan Rogue FWD: 33 mpg
Cost to fill the tank: $43
Range: 396 miles
This affordable, fuel efficient compact crossover is for those who place a premium on rugged good looks and value, rather than driving fun. Like many Nissans, the Rogue sports a CVT transmission, which can take some getting used to. But the availability of a slew of options at a reasonable price should make it hard for some to resist.
9. Hyundai Kona FWD/Toyota Corolla Cross: 32 mpg (tie)
Cost to fill the tank: $48 (Hyundai); $45 (Toyota)
Range: 422 miles (Hyundai); 397 miles (Toyota)
MSRP: $21,300 (Hyundai); $22,195 (Toyota)
You don’t have to settle for the base Kona’s 147-horsepower four. Opting for the 195-hp turbocharged 4 and 7-speed dual-clutch also returns 32 mpg. And it’s surprisingly fun to drive, something that can’t be said of the 169-horsepower Toyota Corolla Cross, which is saddled with a CVT transmission. Acceleration is leisurely, the ride is comfy, the driving dynamics adequate and its back seat proves surprisingly roomy.
10. Chevrolet Trailblazer FWD/ Kia Seltos FWD/Volkswagen Taos: 31 mpg (tie)
Cost to fill the tank: $48
Range: 409 miles
MSRP: $21,800 (Chevy); $22,590 (Kia); $23,295 (VW)
This subcompact trio delivers a lot of value for the money, albeit with qualifications. Of the three vehicles, the Seltos is the most fun to drive, as it shares its underpinnings with the Hyundai Kona. The Chevrolet boasts good handling, but its ride seems harsh and its engine is merely adequate at best. The Taos has the roomiest cabin, good acceleration, but its overall fun factor lags behind the Kia due to a soft suspension. Still, it’s a satisfying choice.