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Who Makes The Most Fuel-Efficient Cars? Subaru Is Now Number 3 With An AWD Lineup

Are the 2021 Subaru Forester, Outback, Crosstrek, and Ascent models fuel efficient? A new EPA report says Subaru’s all-wheel-drive lineup is number three. See who is number one and two.


Who makes the most fuel-efficient cars? The new EPA Automotive Trends Report is out and reveals Subaru is the number three automaker with the lowest greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and best fuel economy. The annual report says Honda is number one. Hyundai is number two, Subaru number three, followed by Kia and Mazda to round out the top five. Subaru dropped from number two in last year's report.

It is impressive because Subaru’s entire lineup comes standard with all-wheel-drive except for the rear-drive BRZ sports coupe. Honda and Hyundai have many cars that are front-drive only and are more fuel-efficient. The all-wheel-drive components weigh more and place a higher load on the engine. According to a report from Edmunds, these factors will decrease fuel economy by about 1-2 mpg.

2021 Subaru Forester, 2021 Subaru Crosstrek, 2021 Subaru Outback

Subaru’s entire fleet of all-wheel-drive models has an average fuel economy of 28.4 mpg, increasing from 27.3 mpg in 2014. Honda’s fleet is 28.9 mpg and Hyundai 28.5 mpg. The 2021 Subaru Forester, Outback, Crosstrek, and Ascent models are the automaker’s top-selling models, and all trims come with all-wheel-drive.

The new EPA report says real-world emissions increased slightly from last year’s record low because market shifts away from cars towards SUVs and pickups offset some fleet-wide improvements. Automakers have also increased horsepower in new models, and weight is slowly rising, further lowering the average mpg.

2021 Subaru Forester, 2021 Subaru Crosstrek, 2021 Subaru Outback
Photo credit: Competition Subaru

Subaru increased fuel mileage in the 2021 Outback wagon and Ascent 3-Row all-wheel-drive models using new turbocharged engines with direct-injection technology. They also use a stop/start system that shuts the engine off when the vehicle is idling and saves fuel.

Subaru uses the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) automatic gearbox in all its SUVs, saving fuel. Subaru uses direct-injection in 98 percent of its vehicles, 94 percent have a CVT automatic transmission, 52 percent use stop/start technology, and 23 percent have a turbocharged engine.

2021 Subaru Forester, 2021 Subaru Crosstrek, 2021 Subaru Outback

Subaru’s lineup of 2021 Forester, Outback, Crosstrek, and Ascent SUVs come in number three among all automakers and have low emissions and the highest fuel mileage. They can accomplish it with an entire lineup of all-wheel-drive models.

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Denis Flierl has invested over 30 years in the automotive industry in a consulting role working with every major car brand. He is an accredited member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press. Check out Subaru Report where he covers all of the Japanese automaker's models. More stories can be found on the Torque News Subaru page. Follow Denis on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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Photo credit: Subaru


John Goreham    January 9, 2021 - 2:39PM

Say what you will about the shift to CVT's but the fuel economy results are great. I plan to buy a plug-in hybrid like the RAV4 Prime next. Maybe Subaru will have a reveal soon?

Gisele Fontaine (not verified)    January 9, 2021 - 9:41PM

After throughout research, I bought my new 2013 Crosstrek. Unfortunately, I also bought one of the lemons that burned oil! Subaru dealership in Moncton, NB and Subaru Canada all gave me run around: our cars don't burn oil, we can do an oil consumption check ect. Long story short, they did not want to deal even for a trade. I now am on my 2nd Mazda CX, Towne Mazda in Miramichi, NB have an awesome Service Team. EXPENSIVE LESSON learned, loved my Crosstrek but lies and BS were on my dime.

Judy Morrill (not verified)    January 10, 2021 - 11:23AM

I purchased a 2020 Legacy and been averaging 30 MPG. Standard engine mixed. driving but slightly more highway miles.

DeanMcManis (not verified)    January 11, 2021 - 1:39AM

Of course this list excludes EV automakers, whose cars use zero gasoline. It is good that Subaru made this list, but it is partly due to the fact that they have a very limited vehicle offering with only a few models, and no large vehicles like pickups to bring down their corporate average. But building reasonably economical vehicles across their whole line up is worthy of praise.