Skip to main content

Not everyone can afford a hybrid, but these fuel-efficient small SUVs can make you feel like you’re driving one.

Not only is fuel efficiency good for the environment, but it also saves you money in the long run. No one wants to add to the long-term costs of their vehicle. But it’s sometimes easy to forget to calculate fuel costs into your automotive budget. 

Thankfully, there are a handful of small SUVs that will save you big bucks at the fuel pump over the years.

How fuel efficient are small SUVs in general?

This segment is one of the most fuel-efficient in the automotive industry. Of course, some hybrid models achieve ridiculously high numbers. But most non-hybrid small SUVs manage to get gas mileage similar to or just below that of a midsize sedan.

Manufacturers tend to cite highway gas mileage when bragging about fuel efficiency. We don’t blame them, as that number tends to be the highest, most impressive figure.

However, it’s better to examine the combined city and highway rating for a more accurate estimation of what you might achieve.

The EPA fits a wide range of models into its definition of a small SUV. While some vehicles fall significantly short, many get between 27-30 MPG combined. However, three models stand above the competition, surpassing the 30 MPG marker.

2021 Chevy Trailblazer

A red 2021 Chevy Trailblazer parked in a driveway in front of a house
A parked 2021 Chevy Trailblazer | Chevrolet

GM’s trucks and SUVs are known for being exceptionally fuel-efficient, and its newest small SUV is no different.

The all-new Trailblazer is nearly the polar opposite of its predecessor, which Chevrolet discontinued in 2009. The classic Trailblazer was a rugged SUV capable of off-road adventures. 

Meanwhile, the revived model launched in 2020 as a stylish, fuel-efficient crossover built to take on your morning commute.

The 2021 Chevy Trailblazer achieves an EPA-estimated 31 MPG combined. However, there’s a catch. 

Chevrolet offers this model with a choice of two engine options. Unfortunately, both are weak turbocharged three-cylinders. A 137-hp 1.2-liter version comes standard, and it only gets 29 MPG combined.

However, you can opt to equip the 155-hp 1.3-liter engine on the LT trim, and pairing it with front-wheel drive gets you the best fuel economy. Notably, this powerplant comes standard on the 2021 Chevy Trailblazer’s ACTIV and RS trims.

2021 Buick Encore GX

A blue 2020-2021 Buick Encore GX ST small SUV parked in front of a building
The 2020 Buick Encore GX on display | Buick

2020 was a busy year for GM, as it also launched the Buick Encore GX. This model is somewhat of a cousin of the Trailblazer. Both models feature the same powertrain options. However, you’ll notice some differences.

Like the 2021 Chevy Trailblazer, you’ll need to equip the 1.3-liter three-cylinder engine to get the best fuel economy rating. And while the Encore GX also gets 31 MPG combined, the EPA reported a slight difference between the two small SUVs.

According to the EPA’s estimates, the 2021 Buick Encore GX gets 30 MPG in the city and 32 MPG on the highway. Meanwhile, the Trailblazer manages just 29 MPG in the city and 33 on the highway.

So, if you’re deciding between the two vehicles, you may want to consider how often you hit the highway.

2021 Kia Seltos

A gold 2021 Kia Seltos small SUV driving down a city road
The 2021 Kia Seltos in action | Kia

The 2020 Buick Encore GX’s Initial Safety Assessment Raises Eyebrows

There’s something to be said for new small SUVs. Kia debuted Seltos for the 2021 model year, and the small SUV has quickly become one of the brand’s most popular models.

This model holds a distinct advantage over the 2021 Chevy Trailblazer and the 2021 Buick Encore GX. The 2021 Kia Seltos narrowly edges out its rivals in highway fuel economy, earning an EPA-estimated 34 MPG. Meanwhile, it earns 29 MPG in the city, resulting in 31 MPG combined.

Additionally, the 2021 Kia Seltos can achieve these figures with its standard powertrain. This 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine delivers spirited performance. And with 146 hp, you won’t feel as strong of an urge to upgrade to a more powerful yet less efficient powerplant. However, a 175-hp 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is available.

Overall, the 2021 Kia Seltos may be the better buy over the 2021 Chevy Trailblazer and 2021 Buick Encore GX. Its standard engine delivers enough thrills and equal fuel economy so that you can save on gas and the small SUV’s price.