Choose carefully and you'll find a small or mid-size SUV that gets decent gas mileage. Not as good as a car, but that's the tradeoff when we drive an SUV. All of these SUVs are rated pretty good for their segment. Some are 2004 models, because we don't have gas mileage estimates for all the 2005 versions yet. Chances are they'll be similar or better. Remember that EPA ratings are estimates--your own mileage may differ, and that 2WD models get better mileage than their 4WD counterparts.
The Honda CR-V's fuel economy ratings are an easy to take 21-23 mpg in the city and 26-29 mpg on the highway. The CR-V isn't an offroader, but it handles well where most of us need it to--on the pavement. It's roomy, dependable, and the price isn't bad, even though it went up for 2005: $19,995 to $25,050. The Honda CR-V uses regular gas.
The RAV4 got a much-needed engine boost in 2004, and more features that used to be optional are now standard equipment. It's a quality vehicle that just keeps getting better (although my own tastes shy away from the look of those huge body side moldings). This compact SUV's city mileage ratings range from 22-24 mpg, with 27-30 mpg on the highway. MSRP is $19,600 to $21,000. The RAV4 uses regular gas. See the RAV4 Photo Gallery
and RAV4 Highlights
Ford Escape Hybrid owners can realistically expect to get 40 mpg in stop and go traffic and go 500 miles between fill ups. The hybrid costs about $3,500 more than the conventional XLT model, ranking in at $26,970 for front wheel drive models and $28,595 for four wheel drive.
The mid-size Highlander can seat up to seven adults, and you'll find it has plenty of safety features and a smooth, carlike ride. A V6 engine is available, but for better fuel-efficiency go with the four-cylinder. Test drive Highlander models long enough to decide which configuration is best for your needs. City mileage ranges from 18-22 mpg, highway from 24-27 mpg. MSRP is $24,080 to $31,380, and the Highlander SUV uses regular gas.
Looking for more luxury? Try the Lexus RX 330 if you want a sedan-like ride from your sport utility vehicle. There are plenty of high tech gadgets to play with and you'll ride in comfort. City mileage ratings are 18-20 mpg, highway stands at 24-26. MSRP ranges from $35,775 to $37,175. The RX 330 uses regular gas.
This mid-size SUV is rated at 21-26 mpg for city driving and 22-28 mpg on the highway. The seating area is roomy, but the Outlander is shorter on cargo space than some of its competitors. Overall, the Outlander provides a good ride, so take a look. The Outlander's MSRP ranges from $18,719 to $24,149 and it uses regular gas.
No, not the Escape Hybrid--that's in a class of its own for an SUV (and more difficult to obtain). The traditional Ford Escape doesn't do too bad with fuel economy, although it's rated slightly less than other small SUVs. City mileage averages 18-22 mpg and highway mileage is at 22-25 mpg. It uses regular gas and has an MSRP that ranges from $19,265 to $28,005.
Honda's boxy Element isn't for everyone, but we're starting to see more and more of them on the road, so its popularity must be climbing. This compact SUV only seats four, so steer away from it if your seating requirements are often higher. City mileage ratings are 21-22 mpg, with 25-26 mpg on the highway. Prices start at $19,525. The Element uses regular gas
It'll take awhile to see if the Highlander Hybrid SUV acquires the following that Toyota's Prius has. The 4x2 version's EPA fuel economy rating is 33 city / 28 highway and the 4x2 is rated at 31/27. The Highlander Hybrid's price tag ranges from $33,030 to $39,290. Regular gas is okay, but Toyota recommends mid-grade for best performance.