This year's crop of off-road capable new cars and SUVs boasts a wide variety of models. While features like a powerful engine and four-wheel drive do plenty to assist in difficult terrain, they also tend to reduce fuel efficiency somewhat. However, for the eco-conscious off-roader, balancing MPGs with driving versatility is an important consideration. Review the most fuel-efficient off-road new cars and SUVs to determine which one should be accompanying you off the beaten path.
5. New 2010 Toyota 4Runner (20 mpg combined)
The mid-size Toyota 4Runner is built on the same platform as the rugged Toyota Tundra pickup. As such, the 4Runner is one of the few crossover SUVs that offers true off-road capabilities. Base models come standard with 2-wheel drive and a 270-hp 4.0-liter V-6 engine that offers 17 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway. A less powerful optional engine makes 157-hp and slightly better fuel efficiency. However, this engine isn't really recommended for off-road performance. For maximum mud-capabilities, opt for the fully loaded Trail Grade model with 4x4 drivetrain. Base price for the 2010 Toyota 4Runner is $29,175.
4. New 2010 Subaru Forester (22 mpg combined)
As a compact SUV, the Subaru Forester offers less cabin space than the Toyota 4Runner. However, it is prized for a solid mixture of off-road versatility, on-road comfort and value-oriented price. Additionally, this capable SUV comes standard with all-wheel drive - a true testament to its commitment as a rugged off-roader. For the base 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, you'll get 170 horsepower and 20 mpg city/27 mpg highway. More power can be had with the 2.5-liter turbocharged engine (recommended for off-roaders). Starting price for the 2010 Subaru Forester is $20,295.
3. New 2010 Suzuki Grand Vitara (22 mpg combined)
The Suzuki Grand Vitara competes head-to-head with the Subaru Forester. Though compact, the Grand Vitara offers plenty of room for the average-sized family. Add in a low entry fee ($18,999) and solid off-road potential, and this may be model for those who take frequent family camping trips. Compared to the Forester, the Grand Vitara has a slightly harsher on-road demeanor. An improved fuel efficiency of 19 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway may override this for you, however. Those figures come from a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that musters 166 horsepower. Better off-road capabilities can be had with the 230-hp 3.2-liter V-6 upgrade.
2. New 2010 Subaru Outback (24 mpg combined)
The Subaru Outback is a powerful wagon that packs a big punch for off-road trails. Standard all-wheel drive and a maximum of 22 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway serve to make the base model a true value at $22,995. Of all the vehicles on this list, the Outback offers perhaps the best on-road driving capabilities. The base engine is a 2.5-liter base engine that offers decent enough power. However, the 3.6-liter V-6 engine is probably best for those interested in off-road capabilities.
1. New 2010 Jeep Patriot (25 mpg combined)
Compared to other off-roaders, the Jeep Patriot wins out in terms of fuel efficiency and price. A base price of $17,795 and EPA ratings of 23 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway help make it one of the best off-road new cars in terms of value. While on-road manners are a bit unrefined, the Patriot truly shines as a beefy off-road performer. The base engine is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder than delivers 172 horsepower and two-wheel drive. A less powerful 2.0-liter engine is available with 158 horsepower. For those truly dedicated to off-road driving, the 2.4-liter engine with all-wheel drive off-road package is likely your best bet.