2014 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring 2.5 - First Drive, February 2013
Few segments have grown as quickly over the last decade than these SUV-like cars that offer greater utility without the efficiency sacrifices of a larger vehicle.
Gas mileage is improving all the time too, allowing the average compact crossover to use less fuel than regular compact cars were returning only a few years ago.
Which are most efficient? We've picked the five best fuel-sippers in the compact crossover class. There are a few surprises here and the omission of a few--like the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V--that you may have expected to do better.
1. 2014 Mazda CX-5
26 mpg city, 35 highway, 29 combined
Mazda has made a big deal of its Skyactiv engine and transmission technology, and with the 2.0-liter four-cylinder the CX-5 is comfortably the most economical compact crossover on the market. With a manual transmission and two-wheel drive it achieves up to 35 mpg on the highway, while combined mileage is a respectable 29 mpg.
That drops to 28 combined if you opt for all-wheel drive--a small price to pay for those in less clement climates. It's a little sportier to drive than most, too.
2. 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek AWD
25 city, 35 highway, 28 combined
We were a little disappointed when we drove the Subaru XV Crosstrek a while back, but our disappointment doesn't stop it being one of the more efficient compact crossovers on the market. At 35 mpg highway, its four-cylinder boxer engine matches that of the Mazda CX-5's best efforts, though drops 1 mpg in the city and overall.
You do get standard AWD into the bargain though, and an automatic gearbox that may be preferable for some drivers.
3. 2013 Buick Encore
25 mpg city, 33 highway, 28 combined
A 1.4-liter engine? In a crossover? Actually, things aren't so bad--in the 2013 Encore you'll find the 1.4-liter turbocharged unit more familiar from cars like the Chevy Cruze and Sonic. The downsized unit is pretty efficient too, with the automatic transmission--up to 28 mpg combined, just shy of the Mazda above.
4. 2013 BMW X1 sDrive28i
24 city, 34 highway, 28 combined
BMWs never used to be known for their fuel efficiency--apart from a few "e"-badged models back in the 1980s which utilized long gearing and detuned engines to boost gas mileage. Nowadays it's downsized engines and an eight-speed automatic gearbox that help the X1 to its 28 mpg combined figure.
At the same time, the 2.0-liter turbocharged gasoline engine has plenty of performance potential, and BMW's trademark nimble handling should be present and correct--the sDrive28i is the only rear-drive crossover on this list.
5. 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK 250 Bluetec 4matic
24 city, 33 highway, 28 combined
Another German entrant you'd not normally find in "most efficient" lists, though perhaps this one should be a little further up--it is a diesel, after all. Edged out by its gasoline-powered German rival, the 2.1-liter diesel and seven-speed automatic combo make the GLK an easy car to cruise around in, and we expect real-world mileage to be a little better--we returned almost 35 mpg when testing it in April.
Performance from the 200-horse, 369 pounds-feet diesel is strong, and the price is hefty too--starting at $38,590. As such, the Mercedes is more a purchase for existing prestige car customers looking to reduce their bills, than a buying wanting to save from the word go.
The cars you see above are a fairly conventional bunch, all selected via the EPA's fueleconomy.gov website. But there are a few alternatives if you want a crossover with good gas mileage.