The most efficient SUVs you can buy

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.

Over the following slides we count down the 10 most efficient SUVs we've tested – plus we reveal the one that used the most fuel.

10. Mazda CX-5 2.2 Skyactiv-D 150

Mazda CX-5 driving

True MPG 48.3mpg

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

9. Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Design 2.5 AWD Automatic

True MPG 49.0mpg

The RAV4 is fairly ordinary to drive, but its strong suits lie elsewhere. 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. The RAV4 is one of the cheapest large SUVs on company car tax, too.

8. Kia Niro Hybrid

Kia Niro front three quarters

True MPG 50.1mpg

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 – but this hybrid model still topped 50mpg in our test, while its practical interior and seven-year warranty are further plus points.

7. Seat Ateca 1.6 TDI 115

Used Seat Ateca

True MPG: 50.2mpg

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, but the 1.6-litre diesel is the most efficient option, with a real-world average of 50.2mpg.

6. Suzuki Ignis 1.2 90PS

Suzuki Ignis 1.2

True MPG 50.9mpg

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. This isn't even the most efficient version – read on to find out more.

5. Kia Sportage 1.7 CRDi

Kia Sportage

True MPG 51.4mpg

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

4. Nissan Qashqai 1.5 dCi 110

Nissan Qashqai

True MPG: 51.9mpg

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

3. Suzuki Ignis 1.2 SHVS Allgrip

Suzuki Ignis

True MPG: 53.3mpg

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

2. Renault Kadjar 1.5 dCi 110

Renault Kadjar 1.5 dCi 110

True MPG: 55.2mpg

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

1. Suzuki Ignis 1.2 SHVS

Suzuki Ignis 1.2 SHVS

True MPG 59.6mpg

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

Next: find out what's the least efficient SUV we've tested so far...

Audi SQ5

Used test: Audi SQ5 vs Mercedes-AMG GLC 43

True MPG: 24.6mpg

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.

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