MPG Fuel Efficient Vehicle Comparison -Top Ten Most Fuel-Efficient SUVs for 2006

MPG Fuel Efficient Vehicle Comparison -Top Ten Most Fuel-Efficient SUVs for 2006

Regardless of whether your mode of transportation is a Schwinn, a Hummer H1, or a pair of worn-out Nikes, fuel-prices are hitting your wallet just like the rest of us. Fact is, a rise in the cost of a barrel of crude means a jump in the cost of gas, which in turn means higher transport costs, which in turn means your local grocer is paying more for a load of produce and you’re paying more for a head of lettuce, and your plumber is charging more to cover his increased overhead, not to mention the extra funds he needs to feed his family and put clothes on his kids’ backs. When gas prices rise, everything else gets more expensive, and when cars start selling like hotcakes in rapidly expanding markets like China and India, demand usually dictates more pain at the pump.

This is especially painful for drivers who need a spacious and roomy vehicle such as SUVs, a ride that is typically unkind in its unquenchable thirst for petrol. Indeed, there are times when a Toyota Prius or a bus pass won’t do, so we’ve compiled a list of ten fuel-efficient, 2006 SUVs that are currently available, all boasting respectable EPA-rated fuel economy figures and more utility than a Little Red Wagon.

Each model on the list achieves at least 24 mpg in mixed driving when mated to an automatic transmission – the transmission type most consumer choose – and is ranked according to our editors’ recommendations and personal choices. According to the EPA, nine of the vehicles get 25 mpg combined or better, so to make this a proper Top 10 list, we voted in our favorite member of the 24-mpg club to round things out. All EPA data is current as of April 2006.

1st Place

If the name RAV4 brings to mind a small, awkwardly-designed, underpowered cute ‘ute, it’s time to visit your Toyota dealer to reboot your impression of this capable SUV. Redesigned for 2006, the RAV4 still falls to the feminine side of the gender scale, but it presents a more upscale look compared to the 2005 model and makes the impressive original look like a shop-class experiment. Behind the sleek sheetmetal is a spacious cabin with seating for up to seven passengers, front- or all-wheel-drive capability, and a choice of powertrains. Base models, starting at a smidge below $22,000, are equipped with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine pushing 166 horsepower and 165 lb.-ft. of torque that’s mated to a four-speed automatic transmission. In front-wheel-drive guise, this fuel-efficient version returns an EPA-estimated 24 mpg city, 30 mpg highway, and 26 mpg combined; add four-wheel drive and those figures change to 23 mpg city, 28 mpg highway, and 25 mpg combined. In addition, the base price rises by $1,400 with 4WD.

If that was the end of the story, the 2006 Toyota RAV4 would appear as a competent SUV with impressive fuel efficiency, though a little light on power for some tastes. However, there’s more to this little ‘ute, like an available 3.5-liter V6 pushing 269 horsepower and 246 lb.-ft. of torque through a five-speed automatic transmission. Best of all, fuel economy closely mirrors that of the four-cylinder. With power going only to the front wheels, a RAV4 with the V6 is rated at 22 mpg city, 29 mpg highway, and 25 mpg combined; four-wheel-drive models are rated at 21 mpg city, 28 mpg highway, and 24 mpg combined. The base price of a four-wheel-drive Limited model with the six-cylinder engine is about $26,000, which makes the RAV4 about similar in price and economy to the Honda CR-V despite more than 100 extra horsepower.

2nd Place - Honda CR-V 3rd Place - Honda’s Element 4th Place - Subaru Outback 5th Place - Ford Escape Hybrid 6th Place - Subaru Forester 7th Place - Lexus RX 400h 8th Place - Mercury Mariner Hybrid 9th Place - Toyota Highlander Hybrid 10th Place - Chevrolet HHR.

By Kevin Hobbs

Kevin Hobbs is an team member of Autobytel , a leading automotive resource for SUVs, new and used cars, and auto reviews. Chris Wardlaw, Brian Chee, and Thom Blackett are the editorial writers for Autobytel.



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