Real MPG: most economical small SUVs

What Car?'s Real MPG tests reveal the real fuel economy figures you can expect from a car. Here we reveal the best-performing small SUVs we've ever tested...

Author Avatar
by
Darren Moss
Published24 June 2024

As every driver knows, we’re getting less petrol and diesel for our pound these days – making fuel economy a more important consideration than ever before.

But while the latest official economy tests, known as WLTP, are designed to be more representative, the MPG figures you’re likely to get in the real world can still be very different – leaving you with a bigger hole in your wallet than you might have expected.

Ford Puma and VW Taigo Real MPG

To help you with this, we carry out our own independent testing on a wide variety of new models as part of our Real MPG tests, in order to find out what kind of economy you should really expect from the car you’re interested in. 

In this article, we’re looking at the most fuel-efficient small SUVs, ranked in order of average Real MPG. And after crunching the numbers, it’s the Toyota Yaris Cross that tops our list with a stunning 60.1mpg. Plus we reveal the least economical car in the class.


How we test for a car's Real MPG

In order to ensure repeatability, we carry out our Real MPG tests on a rolling road under laboratory conditions, to cancel out variables – such as weather and traffic conditions – that would otherwise spoil the results. The cycle followed is based on a real-world route.

The test car is weighed and goes through a tyre pressure check before the test starts. An exhaust connection is fitted to get an accurate measurement of all exhaust gasses and particulate matter produced during the test.

Climate control is set to 21 degrees, or the midway point of the dial if it has manual air-con, with the fan speed set to its lowest setting. All other electrical equipment is switched off, such as the headlights, heated seats, and even the stereo.

Exhaust gases are constantly monitored during the test, with our Real MPG scores calculated from an average of those measurements. 

Find out more about how we test for Real MPG >> 

Our pick: 1.5 Hybrid Icon 5dr CVT

0-62mph: 11.2 sec
MPG/range: 64.2mpg
CO2 emissions: 100g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 460 litres
Insurance group: 11E
Driving
Interior
Practicality
Buying & Owning

Strengths

  • Very efficient
  • Lofty driving position
  • Uncluttered dashboard is easy to use

Weaknesses

  • Could be more spacious in the back seats
  • Vocal engine when accelerating
  • Not as fun to drive as the Ford Puma

Real MPG Average 60.1mpg | Town 103.3mpg | Motorway 45.5mpg | Rural 70.5mpg

The Toyota Yaris Cross is evidence, if any were needed, that not all SUVs are gas-guzzlers. Not only does it top our list of most economical small SUVs, it’s the most economical car we’ve ever tested – with a remarkable average figure of 60.1mpg. Yet like many other hybrid cars, it shines even more brightly in the stop-start of round-town driving, where the hybrid system tops up the car’s battery and assists the 1.5-litre petrol engine for short journeys. At the hands of our highly testers, it achieved more than 100mpg here.

The four-wheel drive Yaris Cross is barely any less impressive, recording a test average of 51.2mpg, with figures of 74.5mpg (town), 40.8mpg (motorway) and 58.5mpg (rural) and proving that reassuring four-wheel grip needn’t attract huge fuel bills.

Elsewhere, the Yaris Cross offers the kind of raised-up driving position which SUV buyers love, and while the materials used inside aren't up to the standard of the plush Nissan Juke or Mini Countryman, everything does at least feel well screwed together.

A couple of six-footers will easily fit into the back of the Yaris Cross, and boot spaces matches that of the Skoda Kamiq.

Read our full Toyota Yaris Cross review

Our pick: 1.2 Dualjet 12V Hybrid SZ-T 5dr

0-62mph: 12.7 sec
MPG/range: 56.9mpg
CO2 emissions: 112g/km
Seats: 4
Boot: 260 litres
Insurance group: 21D
Driving
Interior
Practicality
Buying & Owning

Strengths

  • Good fuel economy
  • Spacious for a small car
  • Generous equipment

Weaknesses

  • Ride can be fidgety
  • Vague steering
  • Poor infotainment system

Real MPG Average 59.9mpg | Town 51.3mpg | Motorway 53.3mpg | Rural 74.8mpg

Four different versions of the Suzuki Ignis featured in our table of the most economical small SUVs, all averaging more than 50mpg. But it’s the latest versions with fuel-saving mild hybrid technology which top our list with a mightily impressive figure of 59.9mpg – in fact, it even beat the Toyota Yaris Cross which tops our list on rural roads.

There are compromises to be made, however. The Ignis' brakes might feel more consistent than they do in other mild hybrids, but the car's stopping performance isn't very good – it took 8.3m further than a Kia Picanto to stop from 70mph in our tests, for example. Plus, the steering is inconsistently weighted and there's more body roll through corners than you'd find in the rival Volkswagen Up.

Inside, we like that visibility out the front of the Ignis is good due to its short bonnet, but the same can't be said of looking out the back, because those heavily styled rear pillars get in the way. A rear-view camera is standard to help combat this, but you have to view it on a slow, low-resolution touchscreen.

Read our full Suzuki Ignis review

Our pick: 1.0 TSI 115 Match 5dr

0-62mph: 9.9 sec
MPG/range: 51.4mpg
CO2 emissions: 125g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 440 litres
Insurance group: 18E
Reliability
Safety
Costs
Quality
Performance

Strengths

  • Comfortable ride
  • Surprisingly spacious interior
  • Cheap running costs

Weaknesses

  • Rivals are more fun to drive
  • So-so interior quality
  • Reliability could be better

Real MPG Average 50.5mpg | Town 41.6mpg | Motorway 45.8mpg | Rural 62.5mpg

The Volkswagen Taigo is often overlooked in favour of the excellent Volkswagen T-Cross, but with its coupe looks, it offers a dose of style to rival the Ford Puma. But while the Ford could only muster an average of 45.1mpg in our tests, the Taigo easily returned more than 50mpg.

We recommend the 113bhp version of the Taigo's 1.0-litre petrol engine if you reguarly drive on the motorway, but if you don't need its extra turn of speed or just value efficiency over energy, the 94bhp version tested here is the one we'd go for. And we're not saying this version is slow, either – indeed, it does an admirable job of keeping pace with faster traffic.

It's easy to get comfortable inside the Taigo, with lots of adjustment in the seating position and steering wheel. And while you won't have to look far to find hard, scratchy plastics, there are some pleasantly soft materials used in the places you touch frequently. If interior quality is more important to you than efficiency, then we'd point you in the direction of the Audi Q2 or Mini Countryman instead.

Read our full Volkswagen Taigo review

Our pick: 1.4 Boosterjet 48V Hybrid SZ-T 5dr

0-62mph: 9.5 sec
MPG/range: 53.2mpg
CO2 emissions: 120g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 362 litres
Insurance group: 22A

Strengths

  • Good driving manners
  • Spacious and practical interior
  • Well equipped
  • Reliability

Weaknesses

  • High emissions on some petrol models
  • Diesel engines can be noisy
  • Some of the trim feels flimsy

Real MPG Average 47.7mpg | Town 40.2mpg | Motorway 43.6mpg | Rural 59.8mpg

The Suzuki Vitara 1.6 petrol is the first car on our list that’s no longer available to buy new, but there are still plenty to choose from on the used market. Low prices allied to an average economy figure of 47.7mpg means the Vitara is a savvy small SUV for those on a tight budget. It shines in other areas, too: it's in our top ten most reliable small SUVs, drives well and is spacious. 

Used Vitaras are fairly plentiful on the used market, and just £7000 is enough to put one on your driveway. That'll be for an older car with higher-than-average mileage, though, so be prepared to budget around £10,000 for a newer example which has covered fewer miles.

Yet, if you’re keen on buying new, then consider the Suzuki Vitara 1.4 Boosterjet Hybrid, which achieved an impressive 46.7mpg average figure in our tests. You can search new Suzuki Vitara deals using our New Car Deals section.

Read our full used Suzuki Vitara review

Our pick: 1.6 GDi Hybrid Advance 5dr DCT

0-62mph: 11.2 sec
MPG/range: 60.1mpg
CO2 emissions: 106g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 466 litres
Insurance group: 16E
Reliability
Safety
Costs
Quality
Performance

Strengths

  • Low CO2 emissions (Hybrid)
  • Generous standard kit
  • Good infotainment system

Weaknesses

  • Low speed ride can be fidgety
  • Boot could be bigger
  • Depreciates faster than rivals

Real MPG Average 47.4mpg | Town 63.7mpg | Motorway 39.7mpg | Rural 52.0mpg

This hybrid version of the Hyundai Kona is powered by a 1.6-litre petrol engine and an electric motor, producing a total of 139bhp when they work together. That makes for punchy performance and the ability to drive around town for short distances using electric power alone – explaining the stellar figure of 63.7mpg around town. It’s also good on rural roads, as the 52mpg result attests, but a disappointing 39.7mpg on motorways prevents it from moving up our list.

It's worth noting that the Kona has been facelifted since our test, but the hybrid remains the most frugal option in the line-up barring the all-electric Kona Electric. Like the pre-facelift model, the Kona isn't especially inspiring to drive – for that, look at the Volkswagen T-Roc – but it's not uncomfortable and is pleasantly hushed even at motorway speeds.

If you regularly ferry around tall passengers, then they'll thank you for choosing the Kona, because it offers more rear leg room than most rivals, including the Ford Puma, and there's no shortage of head room either.

Read our full Hyundai Kona review

Our pick: 1.2 PureTech 130 Allure 5dr

0-62mph: 9.7 sec
MPG/range: 52.7mpg
CO2 emissions: 121g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 434 litres
Insurance group: 16E
Reliability
Safety
Costs
Quality
Performance

Strengths

  • Classy interior
  • Decent ride comfort
  • Punchy, frugal petrol engines

Weaknesses

  • More expensive than mainstream rivals
  • Relatively heavy deprecation
  • Driving position won't suit everyone

Real MPG Average 47.3mpg | Town 39.4mpg | Motorway 42.9mpg | Rural 60.5mpg

Like the Hyundai Kona above, the Peugeot 2008 has been facelifted since our economy tests, but the fundamentals remain in the latest version because the 1.2-litre Puretech 130 engine is still the backbone of the range. During our tests it returned an average of 47.3mpg across our range of road types, with an impressive 60.5mpg during our rural simulation.

That’s all the more impressive because the models with the Puretech 130 engine feel pleasantly peppy, even when you've loaded them to the gunwhales with people and luggage. Speaking of space, you'll get your holiday suitcases into the 2008's boot without any trouble, but it's worth bearing in mind that rivals such as the Skoda Kamiq and Renault Captur offer more room.

The 2008's interior has plenty of visual wow factor, even giving the Audi Q2 a run for its money in this regard. Those looks are mostly backed up by high-quality materials, too.

Read our full Peugeot 2008 review

Strengths

  • Well equipped
  • Fashionable styling

Weaknesses

  • Ride and refinement below par
  • Rivals are more comfortable

Real MPG Average 47.0mpg | Town 42.4mpg | Motorway 42.6mpg | Rural 56.9mpg

Now replaced by the Vauxhall Mokka, the original Mokka X wasn't the most practical small SUV when it was on sale, nor was it the best to drive – but it was fairly cheap to buy, especially with a range of discounts offered. However, its diesel engine – the first on this list – made partial amends for that by costing relatively little to run if you were covering enough miles to justify its purchase.

There are a good number of examples on the used market if you're tempted, with prices starting from around £8000. That'll get you a car with fairly high mileage, however, so we'd budget around £9000 for a low-mileage car in good condition and with a full service history.

Read our used Vauxhall Mokka X review

Our pick: 1.0 TSI SE Technology 5dr

0-62mph: 11.3 sec
MPG/range: 51.4mpg
CO2 emissions: 124g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 400 litres
Insurance group: 10E
Reliability
Safety
Costs
Quality
Performance

Strengths

  • Tidy handling
  • Roomier than many rivals
  • Well equipped

Weaknesses

  • So-so interior quality
  • Top trims are too pricey
  • Rivals have more flexible rear seats

Real MPG Average 46.7mpg | Town 35.6mpg | Motorway 43.9mpg | Rural 60.7mpg

This 94bhp 1.0-litre petrol engine is the baby of the Arona range, and while it feels a little sluggish at low revs, it's perfectly fine once you get moving – plus, as our Real MPG results prove, it's pleasantly efficient.

The Arona handles well, and offers a more agile and entertaining drive than either its Citroën C3 Aircross or Renault Captur rivals. It does a good job of soaking up the lumps and bumps of battered British roads, too – especially if you stick with the smallest 17in alloy wheels.

While not up to the standards of the Audi Q2 inside, the Arona features soft-touch materials in the places you're likely to touch regularly, and everything feels built to last.

Read our full Seat Arona review

Our pick: 1.0 TSI Match 5dr

0-62mph: 11.2 sec
MPG/range: 49.6mpg
CO2 emissions: 128g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 455 litres
Insurance group: 11E
Reliability
Safety
Costs
Quality
Performance

Strengths

  • Spacious, flexible interior
  • Impressive for safety
  • Good to drive

Weaknesses

  • Only slightly cheaper than the superior T-Roc
  • Engines could be more flexible above town speeds
  • Top-spec Style and R-Line trims too pricey

Real MPG Average 46.6mpg | Town 38.6mpg | Motorway 41.2mpg | Rural 62.7mpg

Under the skin, the Volkswagen T-Cross is pretty much identical to the Seat Arona, above, and with the same engine it’s hardly surprising the economy figures are so close. The rural economy offered by the 1.0 TSI T-Cross is better than the Arona, but in our other tests, it was a step behind. 

Despite being closely related to the Arona, the T-Cross is more spacious for rear passengers than its Seat sibling, with noticable increases in both head and leg room. Its unobtrusive central floor tunnel makes it easier for three passengers to sit side by side on the rear bench, too.

A sliding rear bench allows you to prioritise either rear passenger comfort or boot space – slide it all the way forwards, and you'll have 455 litres below the parcel shelf. Slide it backwards, and space drops to 385 litres – still enough for five carry-on suitcases.

Read our full Volkswagen T-Cross review

Reliability
Safety
Costs
Quality
Performance

Strengths

  • Relatively high driving position
  • Versatile seating
  • Cheaper than many rivals

Weaknesses

  • Disappointing driving experience
  • Heavy depreciation
  • Fiddly touchscreen

Real MPG Average 46.4mpg | Town 41.2mpg | Motorway 41.2mpg | Rural 58.3mpg

The main draw of the Citroën C3 are reasonable costs to buy and, in the case of the 1.2-litre Puretech 110 engine, thoroughly pleasing running costs. 

We like that despite costing thousands of pounds less than some rivals, the C3 still places families front and centre by offering versatile seating, with 60/40 split-folding rear seats standard across the range, and a sliding rear bench available on top-end models.

The C3 is a good bet if you want a small SUV with a big boot, too, because we managed to fit six carry-on suitcases below its parcel shelf – one more than the Seat Arona could manage – and most models come with a handy two-level system which makes it easier to slide in longer items.

Just be aware that while the C3 is reasonably priced as a new car, it depreciates quickly – meaning it can make a sensible used buy

Read our full Citroen C3 Aircross review

Audi Q2 35 TFSI

Real MPG Average 38.5mpg | Town 28.6mpg | Motorway 36.8mpg | Rural 49.9mpg The Audi Q2 is a desirable small SUV with a classy interior and tidy handling, but while the 148bhp 1.5-litre petrol engine you get here is pleasantly punchy, it will cost you more to ru... Read our review

Volkswagen T-Cross 1.5 TSI EVO

Real MPG Average 39.3mpg | Town 32.2mpg | Motorway 36.5mpg | Rural 49.2mpg There's nothing wrong with the Volkswagen T-Cross per se – indeed, it's our top small SUV choice if comfort is your primary concern – but there's no denying that the 1.5-litre petrol-eng... Read our review

Mini Countryman 1.5 Petrol

Real MPG Average 39.3mpg | Town 29.4mpg | Motorway 37.6mpg | Rural 50.7mpg In the grand scheme of things, this petrol-engined version of the previous Mini Countryman doesn't put in a terrible performance, but compared with some of the other small SUVs here, its... Read our review