SUVs With Good Gas Mileage

by Rob Wagner

Automakers of sport utility vehicles have made significant strides recently in improving gas mileage primarily through hybrid models. The Ford Escape and Mazda Tribute, among a handful of other SUVs, can achieve 30 miles per gallon or better thanks to hybrid technology. Flexible fuel vehicles, such as the Chevrolet HHR, perform less well, but owners save money at the fuel pump.

True Hybrid

The 2009 Ford Escape uses Toyota Prius technology of a gasoline engine working in tandem with an electric motor for the best fuel efficiency. The electric motor can propel the vehicle at speeds under 30 mph on hills and at 40 mph on flat surfaces. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, coupled with an automatic transmission, can achieve approximately 34 mpg in city driving and 31 on the highway, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Escape Clone

Ford shares its frame and engine components with Mazda. Mazda's Tribute SUV hybrid features the same 2.5-liter engine as the Escape. Equipped with an automatic transmission, the Tribute can earn about 34 mpg in the city and 31 in highway driving, according to the EPA.

Mercury Mariner

As with its siblings the Mazda Tribute and Ford Escape, the upscale Mariner SUV hybrid is powered by the identical 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and electric motor layout. While a tad heavier than the Escape and Tribute due to the optional equipment that can be ordered, the Mariner can still earns good gas mileage with approximately 34 mpg in urban driving and 31 on the highway.

GM's Hybrid

The compact crossover 2009 Saturn Vue hybrid is not a true hybrid because its electric motor only powers the vehicle's accessories and starts the vehicle. It doesn't propel the vehicle. Its gas mileage savings occur when the electric motor shuts off and turns on the engine at stop lights. The Vue is equipped with a 3.6-liter six-cylinder engine and can get approximately 27 mpg in the city and 30 in highway driving, according to the EPA.

Non-Hybrids

The 2009 Chevrolet HHR is a crossover SUV that is ranked as getting best gas mileage of any non-hybrid SUV on the market. The HHR features a 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine. Equipped with an automatic transmission, it can achieve approximately 16 mpg in urban areas and 32 on the open highway, according to the EPA. The flexible fuel version, which uses 85 percent ethanol, does less well: 16 mpg in the city and 22 on the highway.

Jeep Patriot

Chrysler Jeep products have a reputation for poor fuel efficiency, such as the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 with an 11/14 mpg rating. But the Jeep Patriot, with its short 103.7-inch wheelbase, puts Chrysler on the fuel-efficiency list by earning 23 mpg in the city and 29 on the highway.

Jeep Compass

The crossover all-wheel-drive 2009 Jeep Compass with a manual transmission is equipped with a 2-liter four-cylinder engine to get approximately 23 mpg in the city and 29 on the highway. It is ranked one of the best fuel-efficient performers by the EPA.

About the Author

Rob Wagner is a journalist with over 35 years experience reporting and editing for newspapers and magazines. His experience ranges from legal affairs reporting to covering the Middle East. He served stints as a newspaper and magazine editor in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Wagner attended California State University, Los Angeles, and has a degree in journalism.