There was a time in the not so distant past when the terms “good fuel economy” and “sport utility vehicle” were mutually exclusive. SUVs were largely based on very heavy body on frame trucks with thirsty (but powerful) V8 engines.
The four-wheel drive systems they employed were, of necessity, quite heavy because of their mechanical complexity and their need to move a lot of weight. Folding in the luxury features most people wanted to make SUVs seem more like the cars they were deserting in droves created a formula for exceptionally poor fuel economy.
Thus, back then a list of the most economical SUVs didn’t really make much sense.
Today, of course, things have changed considerably.
Most sport utility vehicles are smaller and use lighter weight unit bodies now. Also, in this configuration the suspension and drivetrain components are bolted directly to the vehicle—instead of to a separate chassis, which the body is then bolted to.
Additionally, engine technologies have emerged to enable the achievement of higher horsepower and torque outputs from smaller displacement engines. These developments have brought about the prospect of having your cake (good power) and eating it too (with good fuel economy).
What follows is our list of the 10 most economical 2012 sport utility vehicles, ranked in order of fuel economy. The mileage listings in the header for each model are quoted thusly: city miles per gallon (MPG)/highway MPG/combined MPG.