The most efficient SUVs in the real world

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

The official government fuel economy figures published in sales brochures can tempt you into buying a particular car, but those results are often misleading.

Most efficient SUVs - True MPG

In 2019, the official MPG testing procedure changed to WLTP – Worldwide Harmonised Light-Vehicle Testing Procedure, of course – with an aim to make those guidelines as accurate as possible. 

Fortunately, What Car?'s True MPG tests easily reveal what sort of fuel economy you can expect in the real world.

To ensure accuracy and repeatability, we use strictly controlled laboratory conditions, but the tests are based on a real-world route that takes in town, rural and motorway driving.

The results reflect what's achievable if you’re driving gently and sticking to speed limits but aren’t resorting to any unrealistically slow acceleration or special 'hypermiling' techniques.

Click on the next slide to follow our count down of the 10 most efficient SUVs we've tested – plus we reveal the one that used the most fuel.

The 10 most fuel efficient SUVs:

Mazda CX-5 driving

10. Mazda CX-5 2.2 Skyactiv-D 150

The CX-5 is a five-seat large SUV with a spacious and comfortable interior, and this diesel version is both refined and economical.

Mazda CX-5 (cont.)

Mazda CX-5 interior

Most of the CX-5's rivals offer the option of seven seats, but for those who don't really need them, the Mazda should definitely be on your shortlist.

True MPG 48.3mpg

9. Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Design 2.5 AWD Automatic

The RAV4 is fairly ordinary to drive, but its strong suits lie elsewhere, starting with the fact that this large Toyota is one of the cheapest large SUVs for company car tax.

Toyota RAV4 Hybrid (cont.)

Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Design 2.5 AWD Automatic - interior

But the real selling points are low running costs (including impressive economy), strong resale values and a seriously impressive result in the 2019 What Car? Reliability Survey.

True MPG 49.0mpg

8. Kia Niro Hybrid

Kia Niro front three quarters

It doesn't make as much sense as the fully electric e-Niro – which we liked so much that we named it 2019 What Car? Car of the Year.

Kia Niro (cont.)

Kia Niro Hybrid - interior

But the biggest benefit with the Niro is that is full electric doesn't work for you, there's always a plug-in hybrid or, indeed, a regular hybrid model that still topped 50mpg in our test. Additional plus points are its practical interior and seven-year warranty.

True MPG 50.1mpg

7. Seat Ateca 1.6 TDI 115

Used Seat Ateca

The Ateca is one of the most enjoyable SUVs to drive and a former What Car? award winner. We're particularly keen on the turbocharged 1.5-litre petrol model because with 148bhp it is plenty punchy enough, plus it has cylinder deactivation technology that works when cruising to cut fuel consumption.

Seat Ateca (cont.)

Used Seat Ateca

But the 1.6-litre diesel that is the most efficient option, with a real-world average of 50.2mpg. It may not have the power of the 1.5-litre petrol, but the extra torque does come in handy when you have a full complement of passengers.

True MPG: 50.2mpg

6. Suzuki Ignis 1.2 90PS

Suzuki Ignis 2019 front

Don't be fooled by the Ignis's small size – this is a seriously impressive car. It's deceptively spacious, offers a generous amount of equipment and is very cheap to buy and run.

Suzuki Ignis (cont.)

Suzuki Ignis 2019 interior

This isn't even the most efficient version (read on to find out more) but the light and compact Ignis doesn't need a big engine - or a load of fuel - in order to get you down the road.

True MPG 50.9mpg

5. Kia Sportage 1.7 CRDi 

Kia Sportage

Kia's Sportage gives you a lot of equipment for a very reasonable price, especially if you go for our recommended 2 trim level.

Kia Sportage (cont.)

Kia Sportage - interior

It's also a practical choice, while the old 1.7-litre diesel engine tested here was capable of 51.4mpg. Just don't expect the Sportage to be particularly refined or enjoyable to drive.

True MPG 51.4mpg

4. Nissan Qashqai 1.5 dCi 110

Nissan Qashqai 1.3 DIG-T N-Connecta [Executive Pack]

Recently updated, the Qashqai is the car that started the trend for small, family-friendly SUVs and it remains one of the better ones.

Nissan Qashqai (cont.)

Nissan QASHQAI 1.5 DCI 115 ACENTA PREMIUM 5DR - interior

It's a quiet, comfortable and stylish choice. And when fitted with the 1.5-litre diesel engine that we recommend, it's capable of almost 52mpg.

True MPG: 51.9mpg

3. Suzuki Ignis 1.2 SHVS Allgrip

Suzuki Ignis

This version of the Ignis is a mild hybrid, which means a small electric motor works alongside its 1.2-litre petrol engine to help get you moving and reduce the strain on the engine.

Suzuki Ignis (cont.)

New Suzuki Ignis vs Dacia Duster

Its True MPG result is all the more impressive given that, unlike most the cars on this list, it's four-wheel drive.

True MPG: 53.3mpg

2. Renault Kadjar 1.5 dCi 110

Renault Kadjar front

The Kadjar is closely related to the Nissan Qashqai, but it’s even easier on fuel, averaging more than 55mpg in real-world conditions.

Renault Kadjar (cont.)

Renault Kadjar - interior

However, we'd still be tempted to choose the Qashqai because it's better-equipped and classier inside. The engine tested here has now been upgraded to a 113bhp unit, which we'll test soon.

True MPG: 55.2mpg

1. Suzuki Ignis 1.2 SHVS

Suzuki Ignis 1.2

It's a third appearance for the Ignis, with this mild hybrid version foregoing four-wheel drive as tested above. It's enough to make it the most efficient SUV we've ever tested.

Suzuki Ignis (cont.)

New Kia Picanto X-Line and Vauxhall Viva Rocks vs Suzuki Ignis

It’s a very easy car to drive and clever packaging means it’s spacious enough for most city car needs. What drags its overall star rating down is patchy interior quality and fairly unremarkable handling.

True MPG 59.6mpg

And the least fuel efficient SUV...

Audi SQ5

Audi SQ5

It's perhaps unsurprising that a performance SUV takes our bottom slot here. This petrol SQ5's result of just 24.6mpg was even beaten by a Porsche Macan Turbo, which gave a mildly better 25.3mpg in our tests. However, this engine has since been replaced by a 3.0-litre V6 diesel that's far more frugal.

True MPG: 24.6mpg

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