With the price of gasoline creeping back up again, fuel economy will likely be a critical criterion among new-vehicle shoppers. In years past, this might have triggered a boost in small-car sales – but those days are over. SUVs, especially car-based crossovers, are solidly the vehicles of choice among a still-growing number of U.S. motorists. Passenger cars now account for only 30 percent of all vehicles sold, which is down from a 50 percent market share as recently as 2013.
The most-efficient SUVs, of course, are electrified models – either hybrids, plug-in hybrids, or full EVs. The Hyundai Kona Electric leads all comers in this regard, rated at the equivalent of 132 miles per gallon city and 108 miles per gallon highway. Among hybrid-powered SUVs, the new-for-2019 Lexus UX 250h registers an impressive 43 mpg city, 41 highway, and 42 combined.
Unfortunately, most EVs and hybrids still cost more than conventionally powered models. The aforementioned Kona Electric is $15,150 higher than its gas-powered equivalent (it’s a still-steep $7,650 premium after deducting the $7,500 federal tax credit granted to new-EV buyers). In the case of the Lexus UX, the margin is a more reasonable $2,000. However, with an estimated annual fuel savings of just $200 a year versus the already frugal conventionally-powered version (at 29/37), you’ll have to own the UX 250h for nearly seven years to recover the added up-front cost.
So which are the most fuel-efficient SUVs for 2019 that run solely on regular gasoline? As one might imagine, they’re among the smallest car-based crossovers on the road. You won’t find a big Chevrolet Tahoe or Ford Expedition anywhere on this list. However, the Environmental Protection Agency says the cheapest-to-run models of the bunch will save an owner an estimated $1,500 in fuel costs over five years (at 15,000 miles driven annually) compared to the average new vehicle. We’re featuring the 10 top gas-sippers in the above slideshow. Fuel economy is expressed in terms of city/highway miles per gallon, as rated by the EPA.