Stepping onto a dealer’s lot five years ago and asking for a small SUV that was comfortable, had decent power and returned over 30 mpg would have resulted in a blank stare.
Today, buyers at Chevrolet, Honda, Mazda and Ford dealers can ask that question and will happily be shown the Equinox, CR-V, CX-5 and Escape. Amazingly enough, none of those reach the magic number with the help of a hybrid powertrain.
As of right now, it’s the Ford Escape that has the distinction of being able to say it offers the most fuel-efficient vehicle in the small crossover segment. At least when it comes to vehicles equipped with automatic transmissions.
If you want the ultimate in highway fuel economy from a small SUV, you’ll need to politely ask your Mazda dealer for a 2013 Mazda CX-5. Its 2.0-liter Skyactiv inline 4-cylinder and 6-speed manual are rated at 35 mpg highway. Opt for the 6-speed auto, though, and you sacrifice 3 miles per gallon.
The new Ford Escape doesn’t offer a manual gearbox, but uses Ford’s new 1.6-liter EcoBoost inline 4 to pony up 178 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. Combined with a 6-speed automatic transmission, this engine is good for 23 miles per gallon in the city and 33 highway. That’s better than the highway numbers of the Chevrolet Equinox, Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and any other small ute.
Plus, the new turbo-assisted 33 mpg is more than what the outgoing Escape Hybrid managed to offer.
Even better news for buyers, all engines offered in the Escape line meet or exceed 30 mpg on the highway. The naturally aspirated 2.5-liter base engine is rated at 22/31, and the top-of-the-line 2.0-liter EcoBoost with 240-hp and 270 lb-ft of torque returns 22/30.
While this is certainly good news for car buyers, you can be sure that things will get even better as Chevy, Honda and Toyota work to take the mileage crown.
Who knows, maybe in five more years we’ll be asking salesmen to see the 40-mpg SUVS…
If I were in the market today for a fuel-efficient SUV, the manual CX-5 might be my choice. Which would you choose?