Top 10 best economical 4x4s, SUVs and crossovers
SUVs and 4x4s don't have to be gas guzzlers; we've picked out some of the best fuel-sipping 4x4s you can buy
Sports Utility Vehicles, or SUVs, have become more popular than ever before with many car buyers preferring the raised driving position and additional space over a traditional hatchback or saloon. The catch has always been running costs as SUVs are larger and heavier, with some having to carry complex four-wheel drive systems to accomplish the go-anywhere demands of some owners.
However, most SUVs nowadays never leave the tarmac and thankfully, manufacturers have responded by making most new SUVs two-wheel-drive and fitting smaller, more efficient engines to improve fuel economy. With the increased demand for electrification, many models also feature mild-hybrid, self-charging hybrid and plug-in hybrid technology for even greater MPG gains.
We have a guide to the best electric SUVs you can buy; however there are still many of us that aren’t yet ready to switch the petrol pump for a three-pin plug, but still want to save on rising fuel costs. If you’re set on getting a hybrid, our guide to the best hybrid SUVs details the best options available for both private and company car drivers.
In this article, however, we will run down the best economical SUVs you can currently buy. All the models featured in this list feature fuel-sipping petrol and diesel engines, with many also boasting some form of hybrid assistance. Keep reading to see our top picks.
1. Hyundai Tucson 1.6 TDGI Hybrid 230
Snagging Carbuyer’s Best Family Car Award for 2023 and the Car of the Year Award the year prior, the Hyundai Tucson is one of the most well-rounded SUVs on sale. Its striking looks will never fail to stand out in the supermarket car park and they’re complimented by a smart, well-built interior that’s filled with a bucket-load of standard equipment.
Buyers can choose from petrol, self-charging hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrains, but we think the middle option makes the most sense – unless you’re a company car buyer, then we’d opt for the Benefit-in-Kind tax-busting PHEV with its 31-mile electric range. The Hyundai Tucson 1.6 TDGI Hybrid 230 self-charging hybrid offers plenty of punch getting up to motorway speeds, while the South Korean brand claims you should be able to return almost 50mpg on the combined WLTP test cycle.
2. Kia Niro Hybrid
Snatching the Car of the Year crown away from the larger Hyundai Tucson, the new Kia Niro is also a fantastic option for families and is overall our favourite car for 2023. Apart from its funky exterior and tech-filled interior, what makes the Niro stand out is its versatility; buyers can choose from either a self-charging hybrid, plug-in hybrid or a fully-electric powertrain in the Niro EV, meaning there’s a version for you, no matter which step on the transition to electric power you’re on.
The Niro Hybrid is the most affordable option of the three and would be our pick for most private buyers. Utilising a 1.6-litre 139bhp hybrid powertrain, this will get from 0-62mph in a reasonable 10.8 seconds and will return almost 60mpg on the combined WLTP test cycle. Thanks to having a decent-sized battery, this setup will prioritise electric power at low speeds, meaning you can waft around smoothly in silence without using the petrol engine.
3. Peugeot 3008 1.2L PureTech 130
Peugeot knocked it out of the park when it reincarnated the dull 3008 MPV into a stylish and desirable SUV. The new car still offers plenty of practicality, but it’s also better to drive than before and the high driving position means you get a much better view of the road. Like all Peugeots of late, the 3008’s interior looks like it’s been taken straight out of a concept car – although the brand’s infamous i-Cockpit dashboard may take some getting used to.
While Peugeot claims the plug-in hybrid 3008 Hybrid4 model will return up to 235.4mpg, it’s expensive to buy and we’d avoid it unless you’re a company car buyer. We think the sweet spot in the lineup is the entry-level 1.2L PureTech 130; this 128bhp unit is smooth and nippy around town and thanks to its small size, should return a frugal 48mpg during normal driving.
4. Nissan Qashqai e-Power
A household name in the world of SUVs and crossovers, the Nissan Qashqai has long been one of the best-selling models in the UK – and for good reason. Like the original that debuted back in the late 2000s, the third-generation Qashqai is good to drive, has a spacious and well-built cabin and comes with a range of affordable and efficient engines.
Sitting at the top of the Qashqai lineup, Nissan’s new e-Power hybrid system aims to provide an EV-like driving experience by utilising a small petrol engine to power a 187bhp electric motor. This offers strong performance – 0-62mph takes just 7.5 seconds – and should return up to 53.3mpg. If you like the sound of this but need more seats, Nissan also offers the larger, seven-seat X-Trail with the same powertrain, which suffers only a mild hit to fuel economy.
5. Skoda Kodiaq 1.5 TSI
The Skoda Kodiaq is proof that size doesn’t have to come at the expense of running costs; despite being the largest car in the Czech brand’s range, the Kodiaq is offered with a number of economical engines that make it affordable to run. Buyers have a choice of either a five or a seven-seat configuration, however, all Kodiaq models get a well-built interior and acres of passenger and cargo space.
Our pick of the Kodiaq powertrain lineup is the entry-level 1.5 TSI petrol engine; this may seem underpowered for such a large car, but it offers relatively punchy performance and should be more than enough for most SUV buyers. What truly sets this engine apart, however, is how it utilises cylinder deactivation technology to shut off half the engine while cruising in order to save fuel; Skoda claims the Kodiaq 1.5 TSI will return around 40mpg on the combined WLTP test cycle – similar to some hybrid SUVs of the same size.
6. Renault Captur E-Tech hybrid
The Renault Captur is one of our favourite small SUVs and is a great choice if you’re looking for something that’s affordable to buy and run. Like the Clio on which it’s based, the Captur is relaxed to drive and features a stylish interior with an intuitive portrait-style touchscreen. One handy feature is the sliding rear bench, which allows you to prioritise passenger legroom or boot space.
While the entry-level petrol models are slightly cheaper to buy, the Renault Captur E-Tech hybrid offers brilliant bang for your buck in terms of fuel economy. Renault claims this model will return 56.5mpg in normal driving, with the hybrid Captur switching off the petrol engine at low speeds to maximise fuel economy further. Buyers also have the choice of a plug-in hybrid model that’s also badged E-Hybrid, although this is even more expensive to purchase outright.
7. Toyota Yaris Cross
Proof that not all SUVs are lumbering giants, the Toyota Yaris Cross is essentially a jacked-up version of the long-running Yaris supermini. Just like that car, the Yaris Cross gets a functional, well-built interior, however here it’s slightly larger than the hatchback’s, meaning it’s a viable option for small families. With up to 10 years of warranty cover thanks to Toyota’s ‘Relax’ programme, the Yaris Cross should be painless to own, too.
The Toyota Yaris Cross utilises the same 1.5-litre self-charging petrol hybrid powertrain as the Yaris hatchback, mated to an identical CVT automatic gearbox. While Toyota’s smallest SUV doesn’t offer an engaging drive as, say, a Ford Puma, it can return well over 60mpg during normal driving, making it a fashionable, yet financially prudent runaround.
8. Ford Kuga 1.5 EcoBoost 150
One of the most engaging family SUVs to drive, the Ford Kuga takes much of what we love about the smaller Focus hatchback and repackages it as a more stylish SUV. Despite being a few years old now, the second-generation Kuga generally manages to keep up with more modern rivals and Ford’s SYNC3 infotainment touchscreen is slick and easy to use, if not offering the largest display in class.
Highlights of the Kuga range include the range-topping plug-in hybrid with its 35-mile electric range, as well as the base 1.5-litre Ecoboost model. Despite being the entry point into the range, this still produces 148bhp and propels the Kuga from 0-62mph in less than ten seconds. Thanks to 48-volt mild hybrid assistance, buyers can expect to return up to 57.6mpg in combined city and motorway driving.
9. Toyota C-HR
Toyota models have often been criticised for having dull styling, but that could never be said of the C-HR, with flared wheel arches and sharp lines that really help it stand out. It’s also bigger than it looks, taking on models like the SEAT Ateca, despite looking similar in size to a Nissan Juke. Interior space is surprisingly good despite the sloping roofline, even if rear passengers have almost no view out.
Efficiency is taken care of by a hybrid powertrain which is available with a 120bhp 1.8-litre petrol engine, or as a more powerful 182bhp 2.0-litre version. Both engines are capable of fuel economy figures of over 50mpg, with mid-range CO2 figures of around 110g/km upwards, resulting in low running costs.
10. Citroen C3 Aircross BlueHDI 110
While diesel engines are often associated with large rep-driven executive saloons, Citroen offers the C3 Aircross SUV with a version filled from the black pump in order to maximise fuel economy. The Citroen C3 Aircross is one of many funky models from the French manufacturer, which offers good value for money and a comfortable ride.
Diesel powertrains have fallen out of favour recently, but there’s plenty to like about the unit offered in the C3 Aircross; Citroen claims it should return up to 60.1mpg on the combined WLTP test cycle, which is the same as many more-expensive hybrids. With 109bhp and plenty of torque available low in the rev range, it feels nippy, too – although you may have to look elsewhere if you need an automatic as Citroen only offers this powertrain with a six-speed manual.
Want to save cash on fuel but don’t necessarily want an SUV? Check out our list of the top 10 best economical family cars
Top 10 best economical 4x4s, SUVs and crossovers 2023
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