The Top 5 Most Fuel Efficient 7 Passenger SUV’s Go the Extra Mile

June 12, 2012

In an economy where every dollar needs to stretch as far as possible, one of the most important considerations when looking at SUV’s is gas mileage. There are quite a few good SUV’s on the market, but not all of them make the grade for fuel economy. Thankfully there are some that not only get passing marks for this, but they are high in the ranks for overall quality. To go that extra mile without breaking the bank, here is a look at the top 5 most fuel efficient 7 passenger SUV’s.

The 2012 Kia Sorento

Kia Sorento

Kia struck SUV gold with the Sorento, and it’s easy to see why. The base model starts at $21,250. It is available in 4 trims: the Base model, the LX, the EX, and the SX. The Base model has a 6-speed manual and all other models have 6-speed automatic transmission. The Base model has a 2.4L/175hp 4-cylinder engine that produces 169 ft-lbs. of torque.

The EPA estimated fuel economy is 20 MPG city and 27 MPG highway: the second best fuel economy in a 2012 7 passenger SUV. The fuel tank will hold up to 18 gallons of regular unleaded fuel. The interior of the Base Sorrento gives you a cargo capacity of 37.0 cubic feet with all seats in place and a maximum capacity of 72.5 cubic feet. Measurements of the Sorrento are 183.9 inches in length, 67.3 inches in height and 74.2 inches in width.

Standard Sorento safety features include antilock disc brakes, height-adjustable seats, emergency braking assist and a remote anti-theft alarm system. In government crash testing, the Sorento earned four out of five stars, with four stars for overall frontal and side crash protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Sorrento the top rating of “Good” in the frontal-offset, side-impact, and roof strength crash tests.

Pros of the Sorento are the spacious third-row seat, fuel economy, abundant standard features and the long Kia warranty. Cons include suspension tuning that is too firm and that the 4-cylinder engine is lacking for frequent heavy haulers. The optional V6, however, is more than up to this task.

The 2012 Mitsubishi Outlander

Mitsubishi Outlander

If it’s space you crave along with your fuel economy, the Outlander is ready and waiting with a reasonable base price starting at $22,345. The Outlander is available in 3 trims: the ES, the SE, and the GT. The ES is front-wheel drive and all models have a continuously variable-speed transmission. The SE and GT are available in AWD. The ES has a 2.4L/168hp 4-cylinder engine that produces 167 ft-lbs. of torque.

EPA estimates for the Outlander are 23 MPG city and 28 MPG highway: the best fuel economy rating for a non-hybrid SUV. The fuel tank holds to 16.6 gallons of regular unleaded fuel. The cargo capacity of the Outlander is 36.2 cubic feet with all seats in place and a maximum capacity of 72.6 cubic feet. The Sorrento measures 183.7 inches long, 66.1 inches high and 70.9 inches wide.

For safety features the Outlander offers front and rear head airbags, an engine immobilizer, an ABS, and rear door child safety locks. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Outlander the top rating of “Good” in the frontal-offset and side-impact crash tests and an “Average” rating in the roof-strength tests.

Outlander pros include ample cargo room, superb fuel economy, and agile handling. Cons include the kid-sized 3rd row seat, a plain interior and the steering wheel is not telescopic. Unless you need an adult-sized 3rd row seat, however, these are minor complaints compared to everything else the Outlander offers.

The 2012 Toyota Highlander

Toyota Highlander

If there can be only one, the Highlander, with a starting price from $28,240, is definitely in the running. Toyota’s SUV comes in 3 trims: a Base model, the SE, and the Limited. The Base comes standard with 6-speed transmission and is front-wheel drive. All trims except the Base are available in AWD. The Base has a 2.7L/187hp 4-cylinder engine that produces 186 ft-lbs. of torque, and all models including the base have an optional V6 engine.

Mileage estimates by the EPA for the Highlander are 20 MPG city and 25 MPG highway, earning this SUV its place in the top 5 list. The fuel tank holds to 19.2 gallons of regular unleaded fuel. The Highlander’s cargo capacity is 10.3 cubic feet with all seats in place and it has a maximum capacity of 95.4 cubic feet. It measures 188.4 inches long, 68.1 inches high and 75.2 inches wide.

The Highlander’s safety features include front, rear and third row head airbags, auto-delay off headlamps, a post-collision safety system, and an ABS. The Highlander received the top rating of “Good” in the frontal-offset and side-impact crash tests from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. In government crash tests, the Highlander received an overall rating of four out of five stars: four stars for frontal crash protection and five stars for side-impact protection.

Pros of the Highlander besides fuel economy include a passenger-friendly cabin, easy maneuverability and the flexible second-row seat. The only real con of this SUV is the major lack of hauling and passenger space. If space isn’t a major issue, don’t let that cause you to pass the Highlander by, though: it’s still an excellent pick.

The 2012 Ford Explorer

Ford Explorer

The Ford Explorer, a classic staple among SUV’s, is still in the running for the one of the best SUV’s. The Explorer starts at $28,280 and comes in 3 trims: the Base, the XLT, and the Limited. The Explorer comes standard with a 3.6L/290hp V6 engine with 255 ft-lbs. of torque and is one of only two SUV’s on the list to have a V6 standard. It has a 6-speed shiftable automatic transmission and front-wheel drive, and 4×4 is an option for all trims.

The EPA fuel economy estimates for the Explorer put it at 18 MPG city and 25 MPG highway, not the highest on the list but still good. The fuel tank holds to 18.6 gallons of regular unleaded fuel. The Explorer’s cargo capacity with all seats in place is 10.3 cubic feet, with a maximum capacity of 80.7 cubic feet. Measurements are 197.1 inches long, 70.4 inches high and 78.9 inches wide.

Standard safety features include dual front with head protection chambers side-mounted airbags, an ABS, electronic brakeforce distribution and traction control. The Explorer received the top rating of “Good” in frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength crash tests from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. In government crash tests, it received four out of five stars, with four stars for frontal crash protection and five stars for side-impact protection.

In addition to the fuel economy, pros of the Explorer include the numerous high-tech features, smooth ride and upscale cabin. Cons are that it offers less 3rd-row and cargo room than many rivals and the MyFord Touch system is sluggish and not user-friendly. If lots of features and superb ride quality matter more than space, however, you won’t go wrong with the Explorer.

The 2012 Mazda CX-9

Mazda CX-9

The Mazda CX-9 is a longtime favorite of SUV enthusiasts. The MSRP starts at $29,725 and for all the features that is quite a bargain. There are 3 trims: the Sport, the Touring, and the Grand Touring. The CX-9 has a 3.7L/273hp V6 engine that has 270 ft-lbs. of torque: along with the Explorer it is the only SUV in the list to offer V6 standard. It comes standard with a 6-speed shiftable automatic transmission and front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is optional for every model.

EPA estimates for the CX-9 are 17 MPG city and 24 MPG highway. The fuel tank can hold up to 20.1 gallons of regular unleaded fuel. Cargo capacity for the CX-9 with all seats in place is 17.2 cubic feet and the maximum capacity is 100.7 cubic feet. It measures 200.2 inches long, 68.0 inches high and 76.2 inches wide.

Standard CX-9 safety features include stability control with a rollover sensor, active head restraints, stability control and an engine immobilizer. In tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety the CX-9 was awarded the highest possible rating of “Good” in frontal-offset and side-impact crash tests, but received the second-lowest score of “Marginal” for roof-strength integrity.

Pros of the CX-9 include an upscale cabin, an easily-accessed 3rd row seat, and its sturdy build quality. On the cons side, parking in tight spots is difficult because of the long rear doors and the ride quality is very stiff. However, the quality and comfort of the CX-9 definitely outweigh these smaller negatives.

Important Stats2012 Kia Sorento2012 Mitsubishi Outlander2012 Toyota Highlander2012 Ford Explorer2012 Mazda CX-9
Engine2.4L I-42.4L I-42.7L I-43.5L V-63.7L V-6
Horsepower175 @ 6,000 rpm168 @ 6,000 rpm187 @ 5,800 rpm290 @ 6,500 rpm273 @ 6,250 rpm
Transmission6-spd man with OD6-spd CVT with OD6-spd auto with OD6-spd with OD6-spd auto with OD
DrivetrainFront Wheel DriveFront Wheel DriveFront Wheel DriveFront Wheel DriveFront Wheel Drive
Seating5 or 7 passengers5 or 7 passengers7 passengers7 passengers7 passengers
Cargo Space72.5 cu.ft.72.6 cu.ft.95.4 cu.ft.80.7 cu.ft.100.7 cu.ft.
MPG20 City / 27 Hwy23 City / 28 Hwy20 City / 25 Hwy18 City / 25 Hwy17 City / 24 Hwy
Warranty60 months/60,000 miles60 months/60,000 miles36 months/36,000 miles36 months/36,000 miles36 months/36,000 miles
MSRP$21,250 - $34,850$22,345 - $27,895$28,240 - $37,195$28,280 - $39,855$29,725 - $35,125
Category: Most Fuel Efficient SUVs


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