As you might well imagine, breaking the 30-MPG barrier with a sport utility vehicle remains a rather exceptional accomplishment. So much so, only nine vehicles in the category return 30-MPG or better. Further, as you might have also guessed, the best 30-MPG SUVs for 2016 are all crossover models. If you’re looking for something truly offroad capable on this list, while your options are severely limited, you do have one pretty good choice. However, the rest are all designed to perform at their best on pavement. Which, honestly, is where most people expect vehicles in the category to shine anyway. The good news is pretty much all of them are attractive, fun to drive, and reasonably priced.
The Best 30 MPG SUVs For 2016
BMW X3 Xdrive28d: 27-City/30-Combined/34-Highway
Yes, there is a BMW crossover sport utility capable of returning 30 miles per gallon combined. Hailing from Germany, the BMW X3 xDrive28d runs a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder diesel engine to elbow its way onto this list of the best 30-MPG SUVs for 2016. The engine is good for 180 horsepower and 280 ft-lbs of torque. In typical BMW fashion, the X3 diesel goes like it owns the road; with a supple ride, terrific handling, and markedly quiet operation. The interior treatment is tastefully upscale, if somewhat subdued, and build quality is first rate. Yes, if you want to equip the X3 nicely, you’ll start to run into a bit of spend, but the base model is solidly livable. All-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission are standard. Pricing starts at $42,100.
Photo Credit: Honda
Honda HR-V: 28-City/31-Combined/35-Highway
The all-new for 2016 Honda HR-V is the smaller and lighter sibling to the brand’s segment-leading CR-V crossover sport utility. Riding upon the same platform underpinning the incredibly commodious Honda Fit, the HR-V brings a cavernous interior to the compact crossover SUV category. The size of the HR-V’s heart matches its cargo capacity too. While far from the fastest model in its category, it’s easily one of the most agile, and given it made this list, the Honda is absolutely one of the most fuel-efficient compact crossovers out there. Earning the model its place on this list of the best 30-MPG SUVs for 2016 is the Honda HR-V’s 1.8-liter inline four-cylinder engine, which is good for 141 horsepower and 127 ft-lbs of torque. The front-wheel drive powertrain is fed by a continuously variable transmission. Pricing starts at $19,115.
Photo Credit: Toyota Media
Lexus RX 450h: 32-City/30-Combined/28 Highway
Credited with inventing the mid-size luxury crossover SUV category, the Lexus RX has served as the benchmark for the segment during its entire existence. Handsome exterior styling is nicely complemented by a tastefully opulent interior treatment. And, the whole package rides upon one of the smoothest and quietest powertrains in existence. Further, the Lexus model blesses its occupants with an outstanding palette of the most contemporary luxury and safety features in the segment. For the 2016 model year, a seven-inch display screen and a rearview camera have been added to the standard equipment list. The hybrid powertrain is comprised of a 3.5-liter V6 engine teamed with two electric motors for the front drive model qualifying for this list of the best 30-MPG SUVs for 2016. A continuously variable transmission is tasked with distributing thrust. Pricing starts at $47,620.
Lexus NX 300h: 35-City/33-Combined/31-Highway
Introduced as an all-new model for 2015, the Lexus NX 300h goes into MY 2016 with minimal changes. Holding the distinction of being the most fuel-efficient luxury crossover SUV on offer today, the Lexus NX 300h is, of course, one of the best 30-MPG SUVs for 2016. The new Lexus may be smaller in size, but the company outfitted it like a full-size model. You’ll find automatic LED headlights, heated mirrors, driver selectable vehicle dynamics settings, dual-zone automatic climate control, and power adjustable front seats—among other outstanding luxury features. Power comes from a 2.5-liter inline four mated to a pair of electric motors producing a total system output of 194 horsepower. Both the front-drive and the all-wheel drive versions of the NX 300h best 30 MPG combined fuel economy. Pricing starts at $39,720.
Photo Credit: Mazda
Mazda CX-3: 29-City/31-Combined/35-Hghway
While everybody’s been busy fawning all over the glamorous new MX-5 Miata two-seat roadster, Mazda has also—quietly—introduced the all-new 2016 Mazda CX-3, which is ushering in a sportier alternative in the subcompact crossover segment. As the flying “M” badge in its grille suggests, the 2016 Mazda CX-3 is the crossover for those who love to drive. Nimble handling, light weight, quiet, and good-looking, the Mazda CX-3 makes a very compelling case for itself among the best 30-MPG SUVs for 2016. Standard features include automatic headlights, a rearview camera, full power accessories, and a seven-inch touchscreen interface for infotainment features. Power comes from a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine good for 146-horsepower and 146 ft-lbs of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission feeds the front wheels to make 31 MPG. Pricing TBA.
Photo Credit: MINI
MINI Cooper Countryman: 27-City/30-Combined/34-Highway
Some people will argue the point of the MINI Countryman’s consideration among subcompact crossover SUVs, but if style is your thing, and you’ve a fair amount of stuff to bring, the MINI Cooper Countryman will definitely fill the bill. The Countryman is first and foremost a MINI, so sharp handling, sprightly acceleration, and outstanding build quality place it firmly in the group of best 30-MPG SUVs for 2016. You’ll find a surprisingly roomy interior too. Yes, the Countryman does ride a bit more stiffly than some of its competitors, but it will also run off and leave all of them on a twisty road. Power for the 30-MPG version comes from a 1.6-liter inline four-cylinder engine with 121 horsepower and 114 ft-lbs of torque. Happily, the Countryman’s six-speed manual transmission both increases driving fun and returns the best fuel economy. Pricing starts at $22,750.
MINI Cooper Paceman: 27-City/30-Combined/34-Highway
If the Countryman’s four doors are two too many, consider Cooper Paceman. Essentially the same ride with two less doors, the Paceman offers the advantage of even sharper handling. If you’re among those who preferred the more eclectic interior layout of the previous generation of MINI’s Hardtop, you’re in luck. Paceman is based upon the earlier platform, so the interior has more in common with the 2013 Cooper Hardtop. Also, if you need to transport four adults, the Paceman will be more amenable over longer distances than the standard two-door Cooper. Power for the 30-MPG version of the Paceman comes from a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with 121 horsepower and 118 ft-lbs of torque. Front-wheel drive and the six-speed manual transmission land Cooper Paceman on the best 30-MPG SUVs for 2016 list. Pricing starts at $23,550.
Photo Credit: Nissan
Nissan Juke 28-City/30-Combined/34-Highway
A mild styling update for the 2015 model year brought Nissan’s froggy-looking little crossover a new grille, headlights, taillights, and a revised rear fascia treatment. Even with the updates, the look of the Nissan Juke still qualifies as polarizing. However, anyone who has ever bothered to actually drive the diminutive crossover SUV has come away from the experience with exceedingly positive vibes. Whatever your feelings about its exterior styling, you drive it from the inside right? Powering the Juke, and qualifying it for this list of the best 30-MPG SUVs for 2016, is a 1.6-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine good for 188 horsepower and 177 ft-lbs of torque. You’ll see the 30-MPG figure with the front-drive powertrain and the continuously variable transmission. Pricing starts at $20,250.
Photo Credit: Christian Wardlaw
Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid: 30-City/31-Combined/34-Highway
The Subaru XV Crosstrek is a runaway best seller for Subaru, and for good reason. Capable offroad, the Crosstrek is good looking and benefits from Subaru’s reputation for reliability. What’s more, it’s the only model on this list of the best 30-MPG SUVs for 2016 with true off road capability. Given this, and the fact it employs a hybrid powertrain, you better bet people love it. Subaru’s first mainstream mass-produced hybrid powertrain is comprised of a 2.0-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine and an electric motor producing a total system output of 160 horsepower and 163 ft-lbs of torque. A continuously variable transmission feeds all four wheels. Another plus—the XV Crosstrek Hybrid is more powerful and returns better fuel economy than the standard model. Pricing starts at $25,995.
Honorable Mention – Chevrolet Trax: 26-City/29-Combined/24-Highway
The tiny Chevy missed the best 30-MPG SUVs for 2016 cut by one MPG, so we felt kind of bad about leaving it out—particularly since we like it so much. Compact SUVs don’t get much smaller than Chevrolet’s Trax, giving it a significant advantage around town—where it’s easy to maneuver and park. Further, interior comfort is surprisingly good for full-size adults. Trax also offers Chevrolet’s MyLink interface for smartphones. Other standard features include automatic headlights, keyless entry, full power accessories, and air conditioning. You’ll also find integrated smartphone applications, a rearview camera, and Bluetooth connectivity for telephony and audio streaming. Power comes from a 138-horsepower, turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine with 148 ft-lbs of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission routes power to the front wheels for the best fuel economy. Pricing starts at $20,120.