The 4 Most Fuel Efficient Midsize SUVs of 2017

Published March 14, 2017 by Sean Jackson

Spring marks a time when you will pay more at the pump. Often gas prices can rise by as much as 60 cents from February until Memorial Day, according to Gas Buddy. There are many reasons for the climb in prices including more people on the roads and oil refineries reducing production so they can focus on making summer gasoline. Recently, the rise in gas costs hasn’t been a seasonal thing, though. To demonstrate, the national average for gas was around $1.94 on March 13 of last year, according to GasBuddy. The national average on March 6 of this year is near $2.32 per gallon, representing an increase of 38 cents from a year ago. This rise in cost, coupled with where gas prices are expected to go this summer--analyst predict prices could go as high as $3.00 per gallon--signify a trend where higher fuel prices might become the norm. Due to this, if you are a prospective SUV buyer, it’s vital you find a model that delivers excellent fuel efficiency. While the midsize segment overall doesn’t have a reputation for great numbers as it pertains to fuel economy--the class average is a combined 23 mpg, some of the models making the list rival even compact SUVs in efficiency.

2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid LE

The Toyota Highlander Hybrid LE earns an impressive combined efficiency of 29 mpg. The most benefit you’ll see in fuel savings comes, surprisingly, in city driving where the Highlander achieved an outstanding 30 mpg. To illustrate how impressive this is, the Highlander has a fuel range of 516 city miles which is 132 miles more than what other models in its segment average, according to AxleGeeks. Meanwhile, the Highlander’s highway efficiency of 28 mpg is respectable. However, this output doesn’t translate well on longer drives, as the Highlander’s 482-mile highway range is 25 miles fewer than its counterparts average. What these numbers show is it’s difficult to beat the Toyota Highlander Hybrid’s efficiency, especially if the brunt of your driving is in city environments.

2017 Chevrolet Equinox L

The Chevrolet Equinox achieves great efficiency thanks to the pairing of its 2.4-Liter Inline-4 engine with the automatic transmission. The result is the Equinox earns up to 32 highway mpg. Considering the average for its class is 26 highway mpg, this places the Equinox at the top of the pack. If you are a highway road warrior, the savings you receive with the Equinox is impressive. The SUV's highway range of 602 miles is 95 miles more than what its counterparts average. It also means you can drive from Boston to Richmond, Virginia on a single tank, demonstrating the incredible range this SUV possesses. The range isn’t as impressive in city driving. The Equinox earns 22 city mpg, good for a maximum range of 414 city miles. This is 30 miles further than its class averages, but it pales in comparison to some of the top performers like the Toyota Highlander Hybrid.

2017 Mitsubishi Outlander ES

The Outlander ES achieves superior fuel economy in part thanks to its continuously variable transmission. This transmission maximizes efficiency by transitioning from maximum to minimum gear ratios without any steps. The result is a transmission which is 10 percent more efficient than a typical automatic offering, according to Automotive News. Due to this, the Outlander earns a combined 27 miles per gallon. When compared to its class average of 23 mpg, the Outlander offers 17 percent improve efficiency over its counterparts. The best representation of this is in highway driving where the SUV earns up to 30 mpg. While the Outlander’s highway efficiency is stellar, its range isn’t. The Outlander’s highway range of 498 miles is nine miles fewer than its class averages. Therefore, even with the improved efficiency, there are limitations concerning range.

2017 GMC Terrain SL

The 2017 GMC Terrain SL is the perfect SUV if you plan to do much in the way of highway driving. With a highway gas mileage of 31 mpg, it’s among the most efficient midsize SUVs to take on long trips. To complement its efficiency further, its highway range of 583 miles is 76 miles further than its midsize counterparts average, translating to greater savings at the pump the more you drive. Even the Terrain’s city efficiency isn’t bad. The SUV earns a city mileage of 21 mpg, holding a 7.7 percent advantage over its class averages. Its city range of 395 miles also edges out its competitors where the average is 384 miles.

Ways to Reduce Your SUV’s Fuel Costs

Along with choosing an efficient model like the ones above, there are other ways you can maximize your SUV’s fuel economy and limit how much you pay for fuel costs. Here are some tips to help you:
  • Employ safe driving behaviors on your part. By adhering to speed limits you will maximize your SUV’s fuel efficiency. Keep in mind that for every 5 mph you drive over 50 mph, it reduces your SUV’s gas mileage by seven percent or more, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
  • Use apps like GasBuddy to locate the cheapest gas prices around you.
  • Make sure your SUV receives regular service by way of oil changes, tire rotations, and replacing the spark plugs as your manufacturer recommends. When you do these things, you keep your SUV in top condition, which will help it achieve the best fuel economy.
  • As part of service, be sure to inspect your SUV’s tires regularly. Properly inflated tires can reduce fuel consumption by as much as three percent according to Wikihow.
  • If you can help, keep the weight in your SUV to a minimum. Lugging around a bunch of stuff will make your SUV heavier, and the more weight it has to haul around, the less efficient it will be.
  • You should refrain from using roof racks, as these reduce air resistance--one way your SUV delivers good efficiency.

Useful SUV Links

Recommended SUV News & Reviews

∗ Monthly payments are only an example shown for convenience. Estimated monthly payments based on 3.9% APR, 60 month financing, and 20% down payment. Taxes and other fees are not included in price or payment. Subject to approved buyer credit. Actual purchase terms may vary. Payment calculations may not reflect actual financing terms. Down payments subject to availability, approved buyer credit and lender requirements.