Do Consumer Reports’ 5 Most Fuel-Efficient Small SUVs Match Their EPA Ratings?

Admittedly, most small SUVs are technically crossovers. But whatever you call them, they’re popular vehicles, especially for those looking for a singular ‘do-it-all’ car. And like many car buyers, crossover shoppers pay attention to the EPA’s fuel-efficiency ratings. However, EPA results don’t always transfer well to the real world. So, how close do the top five most fuel-efficient small SUVs tested by Consumer Reports come to the EPA estimates?

#1. The Tesla Model Y is Consumer Reports‘ most fuel-efficient small SUV

A white 2021 Tesla Model Y Long Range on Consumer Reports' track
2021 Tesla Model Y Long Range on Consumer Reports’ track | Consumer Reports via YouTube

Somewhat fittingly, the most fuel-efficient small SUV Consumer Reports tested doesn’t actually burn any fuel. As such, it’s perhaps more accurate to say it’s the most ‘energy-efficient’ small SUV. Regardless, the 2021 Tesla Model Y Long Range takes Consumer Reports’ #1 slot.

Although it’s not as fast as the Performance model, the 2021 Tesla Model Y Long Range is the more efficient EV. It has two electric motors with a combined 384 hp and 376 lb-ft linked to an 80.5-kWh battery pack, Car and Driver reports. However, that’s the pack’s gross capacity; its usable capacity is 75 kWh.

Still, because it’s an EV, the Tesla Model Y Long Range is very efficient on paper. The EPA estimates the electric crossover goes 326 miles on a charge. And it’s rated at the equivalent of 131 mpg city/125 mpg combined/117 mpg highway. However, it’s been demonstrated before that Teslas often struggle to match their on-paper claims.

But, while Consumer Reports couldn’t quite match Tesla’s fuel-efficiency, er, energy-efficiency claims, it came close. It saw the equivalent of 127 mpg city/121 mpg overall/114 mpg highway. And following the Tesla-recommended charging procedure, Consumer Reports saw 260 miles of range.

#2. Lexus UX 250h

The second most fuel-efficient small SUV Consumer Reports tested isn’t an EV. Instead, it’s a hybrid. Specifically, the 2021 Lexus UX 250h.

An overhead of a white 2021 Lexus UX 250h driving down a curving road
2021 Lexus UX 250h overhead | Lexus

Like the Tesla Model Y Long Range, the Lexus UX 250h has AWD. That’s thanks to its hybrid powertrain, which has the gasoline engine power the front wheels and an electric motor power the rear ones, Car and Driver reports. Together, the electric motor and 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine make 181 hp.

The big draw-point for a hybrid, though, is its fuel economy. And the 2021 Lexus UX 250h delivers in the mpg department. The EPA estimates it gets 41 mpg city/39 mpg combined/38 mpg highway. And Consumer Reports got close to reaching those fuel-efficiency claims. Kind of.

In a reversal of typical hybrid behavior, the Lexus UX 250h did better on the highway than the city in Consumer Reports’ testing. Reviewers saw 32 mpg city/37 mpg overall/42 mpg highway.

#3. Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

A dark-blue 2021 Toyota RAV4 XLE Hybrid on a plains road
2021 Toyota RAV4 XLE Hybrid | Toyota

There’s another hybrid Toyota crossover in the first five spots on Consumer Reports’ most fuel-efficient small SUVs list. And this one, the 2021 RAV4 Hybrid, does have a Toyota badge.

Toyota makes two hybrid versions of the RAV4 crossover. There’s the ‘regular’ hybrid and the plug-in RAV4 Prime. But, while the Prime is also on Consumer Reports’ list of most fuel-efficient small SUVs, it’s several places below the standard hybrid. And that’s in line with these two models’ EPA ratings, too. Well, sort of.

The 2021 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid features a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine linked to an electric motor. Together, the system makes 219 hp and gives the crossover AWD. And the EPA rates it at 41 mpg city/40 mpg combined/38 mpg highway.

Meanwhile, the RAV4 Prime has the same 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, but three electric motors and a larger battery pack, Car and Driver reports. That larger pack means the RAV4 Prime can run in electric-only mode. And doing so, it gets the equivalent of 94 mpg combined. But if you’re running the engine and motors together, the EPA estimate drops to 38 mpg combined.

However, not only did the RAV4 Hybrid beat the Prime in Consumer Reports’ fuel-efficiency tests, but it also came close to its EPA estimates. Consumer Reports rated the non-plug-in crossover at 32 mpg city/37 mpg combined/41 mpg highway.

#4. Honda CR-V Hybrid

A red 2021 Honda CR-V Hybrid parked on a desert road by the mountains
2021 Honda CR-V Hybrid | Honda

Fourth place in the Consumer Reports fuel-efficiency ranking for small SUVs goes to the 2021 Honda CR-V Hybrid. And while it has a similar setup to the RAV4 Hybrid and UX 250h, it has two electric motors rather than one.

Those two motors are linked to a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, which makes the CR-V the first AWD Honda hybrid, Car and Driver reports. Together, the system makes 212 hp and 232 lb-ft, which is more than the standard CR-V makes. And the EPA estimates it lets the crossover achieve 40 mpg city/38 mpg combined/35 mpg highway.

Unfortunately, Consumer Reports couldn’t quite match those fuel-efficiency estimates. In its hands the Honda CR-V Hybrid saw 32 mpg city/35 mpg combined/37 mpg highway.

#5 on ‘Consumer Reports most fuel-efficient small SUV’ list is the 2021 Ford Escape Hybrid

A red 2021 Ford Escape Hybrid drives on a desert mountain road
2021 Ford Escape Hybrid | Ford

Earlier, we said that the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid beat the plug-in Prime in Consumer Reports’ fuel-efficiency testing. But the RAV4 Prime also didn’t make the top five models. Instead, the #5 spot belongs to the 2021 Ford Escape Hybrid.

Just like Toyota, Ford makes two versions of the Escape Hybrid: a conventional one and a plug-in model. Consumer Reports, though, tested the former, which, unlike the plug-in Escape, offers optional AWD. It comes with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and an electric motor that produces a combined 200 hp. But unlike the RAV4 Hybrid’s AWD system, the Escape Hybrid’s system is “purely mechanical,” Car and Driver reports, and doesn’t involve the electric motor.


The 2021 RAV4 Prime Has Left Some People Conflicted

Regardless, the EPA rates the 2021 Ford Escape Hybrid at 43 mpg city/40 mpg combined/37 mpg city. But Consumer Reports couldn’t match those fuel-efficiency ratings. In its hands, the Escape Hybrid managed 30 mpg city/34 mpg combined/38 mpg highway.

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