As we enter the 2012 model year, the average gas mileage for sport utility vehicles continues to creep higher and higher. A couple of hybrid SUVs now offer more than 30 mpg in combined efficiency, and a couple standard gas models come pretty close. Keep reading to compare the five most fuel-efficient 2012 SUVs so you can find the one that best meets your needs.
2012 Mitsubishi Outlander (27 mpg combined)
The 2012 Outlander benefits from a small size and efficient engine to deliver a maximum of 25 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. Despite the thriftiness of the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, the Outlander manages to be one of the most nimble and sportiest options in the affordable compact SUV market. The Outlander also benefits from an available third-row seat (although, it's a bit cramped). In terms of design, Mitsubishi takes a less-is-more approach – a fact that may or not appeal to your aesthetic. Maximum cargo room for the Outlander is listed at 77 cubic feet, which is above average for a compact SUV. Initial asking price for the 2012 model comes in at $22,345.
For those who need the added space of a midsize SUV, the 2012 Highlander Hybrid combines exceptional roominess with above-average fuel efficiency. Three rows of seating are now standard on all models – making it the only vehicle with a seven-passenger maximum occupancy to make this list. Thanks to a 3.5-liter V-6 engine that is mated to three electric motors, this 2012 hybrid SUV manages 28 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. Base models come with an MSRP of $38,540. For that price, you'll get 17-inch wheels, automatic headlights, cruise control, AC, power driver's seat, rearview camera, Bluetooth, six-speaker stereo and more. Thanks to the fold-flat rear seats, the Highlander Hybrid offers an impressive 94 cubic feet of maximum storage.
The EPA lists the Nissan Juke as an SUV. However, given the vehicle's size, some might classify the Juke as a hatchback. Regardless, the vehicle offers a good balance of nimble handling and efficient gas mileage. At its best, the 2012 Juke promises 27 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway. These numbers come courtesy of a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. Maximum cargo capacity is listed at 36 cubic feet, which is pretty low compared to most SUVs. For a starting price of $19,990, base models come standard with 17-inch wheels, full power accessories, keyless entry, cruise control, AC, Bluetooth, six-speaker stereo and more.
The Lexus RX 450h boasts the same efficient engine that can be found in the Toyota Highlander Hybrid. However, thanks to its small size, it manages slightly higher fuel numbers. According to the EPA, two-wheel drive models deliver 32 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway (all-wheel drive models drop to 30 mpg in the city). As expected from the Lexus nameplate, interior accoutrements are impeccable. Base models come standard with 18-inch wheels, foglights, keyless ignition, power front seats, dual-zone climate control, interior wood trim, reclining 2nd-row seats, nine-speaker stereo and more. All this can be had for a base price of $45,235.
For 2012, the Ford Escape Hybrid returns as the most fuel-efficient SUV on the road. All models come with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that links with a battery-powered electric motor to deliver 177 horsepower. Fuel efficiency for front-wheel drive models is listed at 34 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway (all-wheel drive models offer 30 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway). Base models start at $30,570 and come standard with 16-inch wheels, automatic headlights, foglights, power driver's seat, steering-wheel audio controls, full power accessories, cruise control, dual-zone climate control and more.