10 New SUVs That Get at Least 24 mpg

Rank ALL SUV's by MPG

IRVINE, Calif.--May 12, 2006 With some analysts predicting that gas prices will approach the $4.00/gallon mark this summer, current car shoppers are understandably obsessed with fuel mileage; yet better fuel economy often means less roominess and practicality. Such is the conundrum of real-world car buyers who desperately want -- and in many cases need -- to save at the pump, but simply can't fit their families or cargo into a small car.

Fortunately, there are practical and efficient vehicle options on the market -- including many in the oft-described "dinosaur" SUV category. In fact, just as many dinosaurs evolved to become more "bird-like," many SUVs are evolving into crossovers, hybrids and other offerings that sip fuel at the pump "like a bird" (at least compared to their gas-guzzling predecessors).

To help in-market shoppers learn about these "evolved" SUVs, Autobytel's team of automotive editors and analysts has selected its Top-10 Most Fuel-Efficient SUVs for 2006, providing expert analysis and buying advice for 10 SUVs that get at least 24 mpg (in mixed city/hwy driving, when equipped with an automatic transmission).

Top-10 Fuel-Efficient SUVs for 2006

Vehicles are ranked by Autobytel's editors according to which vehicles they recommend most highly overall. Each vehicle was test-driven by at least one Autobytel editor/analyst.

1. Toyota RAV-4 -- The new, bigger, more stylish 2006 model makes the already-impressive original look like a shop-class experiment. It's similar in price to our 2nd-place finisher, the Honda CRV, but with 100 extra horsepower. The V6, amazingly, gets 25 mpg combined.

2. Honda CR-V -- "Quirky" design aside, it's safe, roomy and reliable, with 25 mpg for the 2WD automatic drivetrain. The bottom line: It delivers what people need in a utility vehicle, and does so efficiently.

3. Honda Element -- An even "quirkier" design, but, again, it gets the job done in terms of utility, drivability and fuel economy -- 24 mpg in combined driving.

4. Subaru Outback -- A good, safe ride -- with Subaru's signature all-wheel drive -- powered by a clean PZEV-rated 175-horsepower engine that generates a respectable 25 mpg.

5. Ford Escape Hybrid -- Offers excellent fuel economy (33 mpg combined) and good utility. Low power ratings belie surprisingly good acceleration. Cheap interior materials contributed to our middle-of-the-pack ranking.

6. Subaru Forester -- Again, a characteristically solid Subaru offering, but lacks the clean ULEV, SULEV, or PZEV ratings of many new cars. Other drawbacks include odd styling and an uncomfortably tight back seat. Forester gets 25 mpg combined for the base, Premium and L.L. Bean versions.

7. Lexus RX 400h -- A super-charged hybrid? Can drivers really have it both ways? Not necessarily at the same time: dig deep into the 268-horsepower V6 and the promise of 30 mpg mileage vanishes ... or go for the fuel economy and forsake the performance aspects of a $44,000 SUV.

8. Mercury Mariner Hybrid -- Eerily similar to the Escape Hybrid, but it ends up costing significantly more to get the same fuel economy.

9. Toyota Highlander Hybrid -- This vehicle's reported 30 mpg in mixed driving comes at a $30,000 price tag. This may prove to be a very optimistic fuel economy number when it comes to everyday SUV use.

10. Chevrolet HHR -- EPA classifications aside, many may not consider this 5-passenger wagon to be an SUV, and many may want a better ride from their sport ute. Still, it gets 25 mpg for a price starting at $15,000.

Do Your Online Homework to Find a Vehicle That Pays off at the

Pump and on the Road

As we can see, in the SUV category alone there are plenty of new vehicles on the market that combine fuel-efficiency, affordability and practicality. And third-party sites like Autobytel.com make it easy to identify them, not only through expert reviews, but also with a range of online research tools that let shoppers break down vehicles according to the factors that matter most to them. Autobytel.com's vehicle comparator tool, for example, lets shoppers enter all of the vehicles they're considering and easily assess how they stack up in terms of not only fuel economy, but also emissions, price, performance/safety ratings and in-depth specifications. ... So if you're looking for a vehicle that'll pay off at the pump and on the road, be sure to do your (online) homework!

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