The Affordable SUV
Tired of tossing your hard-earned profits into your SUV's fuel tank? It's a tough decision to switch from these gas guzzlers with large cargo areas to more economical cars with less space. Yet surprisingly, not all SUVs chug gasoline. In fact, the EPA rates many 2007 models as high as 20, 30 or more miles per gallon, based on 45 percent highway driving and 55 percent city. Hybrids with four-cylinder engines lead the pack of efficient SUVs-including Ford's front-wheel drive, automatic transmission 2007 Escape (36 city/31 highway MPG), which has an estimated yearly fuel cost of $1,310, assuming you drive 15,000 miles and pay about $3 a gallon for gas. The four-wheel-drive Escape hybrid gets 32/29 MPG, as does the Mercury Mariner hybrid, with fuel costs for both at $1,439.
There are also several gasoline-only vehicles that give you respectable mileage for your buck. Ford's regular front-wheel drive, manual transmission Escape still gives good mileage at 24/29 MPG. Subaru has two SUVs rated among the top 10 fuel-efficient SUVs: the Outback and Forester all-wheel drive versions, both with 23/28 MPG and averaging $1,782 in yearly fuel costs.
In the 20/25 MPG and above range are two two-wheel-drive models-Hyundai's Santa Fe and the Lexus RX350-and the Ford Freestyle front-wheel drive. Lower down the chart, with 17 to 19 MPG city and 21 to 24 highway, are several SUVs, including the Mazda CX-7 4WD, Subaru Tribeca B9 AWD, Toyota's FJ Cruiser and Hyundai Santa Fe 4WD.
Despite the hoopla over ethanol and its E85 mix, most SUVs equipped to run on E85 fare worse than standard gasoline models. The Chevrolet Tahoe, for example, gets 16/21 MPG, while the E85 version achieves a mere 12/16 MPG.
Jill Amadio is an award-winning automotive journalist and author.