Real MPG: most efficient SUVs

What Car?'s Real MPG tests show what you can really expect from a car. Here, we reveal the top 10 most efficient SUVs we've ever tested...

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by
Alasdair Rodden
Published02 November 2023

The official MPG figures published in car sales brochures can tempt you into buying a particular model, but they're often misleading.

Fortunately, What Car?'s Real MPG test tells you what sort of fuel economy you can expect to get in the real world, with our results reflecting what's achievable if you drive gently and stick to speed limits, without resorting to any unrealistically slow acceleration or special 'hypermiling' techniques.

Read on to find out how we calculate your car's Real MPG, or scroll down to see the SUVs that performed best in our tests.

How we test for a car's Real MPG

We perform our Real MPG tests in a laboratory under strictly controlled conditions. That means you can rely on them being a true comparison of one model against another, because there is no chance that the weather or traffic conditions can skew the results. 

Mercedes GLE laboratory emissions testing

Although the tests are done in a lab, they are realistic because they're based on a route we’ve chosen, which includes town, motorway and rural sections. 

All cars undergo a thorough preparation process, including having their tyre pressures tested to match the manufacturer's recommendations. They're kept in a temperature-controlled chamber, too, so that all cars are at the same temperature when tested. During testing, we keep the headlights off, and if they have air-con, it’s set to 21 degrees and the lowest fan setting. 

The fuel economy figures are calculated using measurements of the car’s exhaust emissions, and this is turned into our Real MPG economy figure. 

Read more: How we test a car's Real MPG

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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 a longer, wider SUV version of the Toyota Yaris small hatchback, competing with the likes of the Ford Puma and Skoda Kamiq. It’s a hybrid, which uses a combination of a 1.5-litre engine and an electric motor to improve economy and performance. It’s not only the most economical SUV we’ve tested – it's the thriftiest car, full stop.

 

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

Don't be fooled by its small size, because the tiny Suzuki Ignis is deceptively spacious inside. Even though it's not much bigger than many city cars, it’s roomy enough to accommodate four adults in comfort. Its peppy 1.2-litre petrol engine uses mild hybrid technology to add some extra oomph at low engine speeds. However, some rivals offer more in the way of driver engagement.

Strengths

  • Spacious interior
  • Bigger boot than sibling Nissan Qashqai
  • Quiet petrol engines

Weaknesses

  • So-so quality
  • Grabby brakes
  • Choppy ride on big alloys

Real MPG Average 55.2mpg | Town 50.0mpg | Motorway 48.8mpg | Rural 69.1mpg

The Renault Kadjar is no longer on sale new, but the diesel version is worth seeking out if you’re after a frugal secondhand family SUV. Although it shares its underpinnings with the previous-generation Nissan Qashqai, it beats that model for efficiency. The 1.5-litre diesel engine is a good option because delivers its power smoothly and has plenty of pull from low revs.

Other plus-points of this family-friendly SUV include a big boot and plenty of standard equipment, even in the lowest trim level. Used prices start from around £8000.

Our pick: 1.3 DiG-T MH N-Connecta 5dr

0-62mph: 10.2 sec
MPG/range: 44.1mpg
CO2 emissions: 144g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 479 litres
Insurance group: 12E

Strengths

  • Quiet and comfortable
  • Sips fuel
  • Lots of equipment

Weaknesses

  • Poor reliability
  • Ride suffers on 19in wheels
  • Limited rear visibility

Real MPG Average 51.9mpg | Town 47.2mpg | Motorway 46.4mpg | Rural 63.5mpg

The second-generation Nissan Qashqai remains a standout choice in the family SUV market; indeed, it was our overall Car of the Year in 2014. These days, you can pick up a used example for as little as £7000. And you'll be getting a whole lot of SUV for that money, because the Qashqai is comfortable, practical and – if you choose one equipped with this punchy 1.5-litre diesel engine – pleasingly frugal.

Our pick: 1.6T GDi 157 48V ISG 3 5dr

0-62mph: 9.9 sec
MPG/range: 42.8mpg
CO2 emissions: 149g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 562 litres
Insurance group: 20E

Strengths

  • Spacious and practical interior
  • Good value for money used
  • Neat steering

Weaknesses

  • Diesel engine can be noisy
  • So-so ride and handling
  • No automatic emergency braking on some models

Real MPG Average 51.4mpg | Town 43.9mpg | Motorway 46.0mpg | Rural 65.8mpg

The Kia Sportage (2016-2021) makes a great used buy because it's practical and inexpensive to buy, and many are still covered by Kia's seven-year warranty. The most popular diesel-engined Sportage with UK buyers was the 114bhp 1.7-litre – and this is also the most economical choice. That’s great news because it means there are plenty of used examples to choose from. Prices start from £10,500.

Our pick: 1.0 TSI 110 Life 5dr

0-62mph: 10.4 sec
MPG/range: 52.3mpg
CO2 emissions: 123g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 440 litres
Insurance group: 14E
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

If you’re after a coupé SUV that won’t break the bank to buy or own, the Volkswagen Taigo should be on your shopping list. It has a comfy ride, a surprisingly spacious interior and the prospect of low running costs if you choose the lower-powered of its 1.0-litre petrol engines. In our test, the 94bhp Taigo managed 45.8mpg on the motorway and upwards of 62mpg on faster country roads.

Our pick: 1.5 TSI EVO SE 5dr

0-62mph: 9 sec
MPG/range: 45.6mpg
CO2 emissions: 141g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 510 litres
Insurance group: 18E

Strengths

  • Spacious interior
  • Class-leading handling
  • Boot space pips rivals
  • Good value used

Weaknesses

  • Some rivals offer more flexible seating
  • Interior isn’t that plush
  • One or two are more economical

Real MPG Average 50.2mpg | Town 47.3mpg | Motorway 44.1mpg | Rural 61.7mpg

The Seat Ateca isn’t just great to drive and attractive to look at, it’s also impressively spacious, well equipped and competitively priced compared with its Skoda Karoq and Volkswagen Tiguan rivals. The punchy yet frugal 1.6-litre diesel engine is no longer available in a new Ateca, having been replaced by a 2.0-litre variant as part of a mid-life update, but you can find examples on the used market.

Our pick: 2.0 e-Skyactiv G MHEV Centre-Line 5dr

0-62mph: 10.7 sec
MPG/range: 43.5mpg
CO2 emissions: 146g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 522 litres
Insurance group: 17E

Strengths

  • Spacious interior
  • Sharp handling
  • Good economy from petrol engine

Weaknesses

  • Lots of road noise
  • Ride firm on Sport models
  • Drab interior

Real MPG Average 48.3mpg | Town 41.6mpg | Motorway 43.2mpg | Rural 61.4mpg

This model was replaced by a newer Mazda CX-5 in 2017, but as our real-world figures show, the previous-generation car can still be a very frugal choice if you buy used – and the good news there is that prices start from just over £10,000. It's well kitted out and nicely made inside, and there's plenty of space for your family and all of their luggage. It's good to drive, too.

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

Even in the crowded small SUV market, the Suzuki Vitara makes a lot of sense, especially if you stick with the cheaper trim levels, which represent the best value for money. It's spacious and fuel efficient, but rivals have nicer interiors and the infotainment system on entry-level versions is quite basic. The 1.6-litre petrol engine is responsive and economical, but is no longer available from new; it's been replaced by a 1.4-litre mild hybrid unit.

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

Strengths

  • Decent performance
  • Generous kit
  • Good infotainment

Weaknesses

  • Bumpy ride on 18in wheels
  • Not very practical
  • Auto braking not standard

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

The previous-generation Kona is available with petrol, hybrid or electric power. The Hybrid version is powered by a 1.6-litre petrol engine paired with an electric motor that makes it quicker than the petrol from a standstill. To save on fuel, it can drive on electric power alone at low speeds for short distances. All trim levels offer plenty of standard equipment and an easy-to-use infotainment system.

FAQs

Which SUV has the cheapest fuel consumption?

According to our real-world fuel economy tests, the SUV with the lowest fuel consumption – and, therefore, should be the cheapest to run – is the Toyota Yaris Cross.

This small SUV has a hybrid setup which combines a 1.5-litre engine with two electric motors, meaning it can run for short distances without using any fuel. That setup helped it to return an impressive 60.1mpg in our Real MPG test, and an astonishing 103.3mpg around town.

Do any SUVs get over 40mpg?

All of the SUVs which feature in our run-down of the most economical SUVs acheive more than 40mpg in everyday driving – and remember, our real-world tests reflect what's acheivable without resorting to any unrealistic hypermiling techniques.

A good number of SUVs will do significantly better than 40mpg, too, with seven of our top 10 best-performing models returning an average of 50mpg or better, and one – the Toyota Yaris Cross – breaking into 60mpg.

What is the most reliable SUV?

Given that the brand topped our most recent What Car? Reliability Survey, it's a good bet that any SUV made by Lexus – or indeed, its sister brand Toyota – would be a safe bet.

Both the previous and current-generation Lexus NX, as well as the Lexus UX, scored more than 99% in our survey, meaning very few models went wrong, and like Toyota, Lexus offers an impressive warranty.