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10 AWD SUVs Under $35K With The Best Fuel Economy

My father is looking for his next vehicle, and considering smaller SUVs as long as they get great fuel economy. He’s on a budget. I’ve researched 10 of the most affordable, smaller SUVs with the best (gasoline) fuel economy available today.


Note, when I say affordable, I mean under $35,000 US (well below our current average price for a new vehicle). My father is on a limited budget, he needs something reliable, with AWD (since he is moving to a rural region with snowy winters and rainy weather at other times of the year), and spacious enough for him to haul camping gear and woodworking supplies in. He might even do a little Uber or Lyft driving in it once he settles into his new home to generate extra income, so he intends to keep his fuel costs as low as possible.

Lucky for my father there are a number of fuel efficient, AWD compact and subcompact SUVs on the market today that get good fuel economy, top among them being hybrids (HEVs). Of course a fully electric (EV) SUV would have the lowest fuel costs, but other than perhaps finding a used EV, there are no EVs with AWD in this price range (I’ll return to that topic in a follow up piece however). Here are the 10 most fuel efficient gas powered AWD SUVs currently available, under $35,000 (not including destination or any other fees), in base model configuration. Specifically, this list includes the top 5 HEV models and 5 of the top regular/non-hybrid models in order of their combined highway/city MPG figures as reported by (when available): Toyota Corolla Cross HEV at 42 MPG and $27,970 MSRP, Toyota Rav 4 HEV at 40 MPG and $31,225 MSRP, Toyota Venza HEV at 39 MPG and $34,620 MSRP, Kia Sportage HEV at 38 MPG and $29,290 MSRP, and Honda CRV HEV at 37 MPG and $34,850 MSRP. For non-hybrid AWD models, there are actually several models that essentially tie, some of which I am leaving off so I can narrow the list and focus on those that stand out for a (stated) reason. These are: Nissan Rogue at 31 MPG (the best MPG, and most interior volume of any non-hybrid, compact AWD SUV) at $29,410 MSRP, the Toyota Corolla Cross (most passenger volume and most horsepower - in the most efficient trim - of the 3 subcompact SUVs on this list) at 30 MPG and $24,910 MSRP, Subaru Crosstrek (most ground clearance on this list and excellent standard safety features) at 30 MPG and $24,995 MSRP, Hyundai Kona at 30 MPG and $24,100 MSRP (lowest price option on this list, when the SE trim becomes available later this year), and Kia Seltos (more capable AWD system and excellent standard safety features) at 29 MPG and $24,390 MSRP. I want to note a somewhat arbitrary aspect of this list, as there are several other SUVs that get around 28-30 MPG that I didn’t include, like the non-hybrid Honda CR-V, Toyota Rav 4 and the Mazda CX-30. I left these off for various reasons (price, utility/interior volume, hybrid version is a better implementation of the model, etc.), but that is not to say they aren’t competitive options.

Among the brands, it is clear that Toyota has the most fuel efficient options to choose from, and the roominess of their subcompact Corolla Cross makes it competitive with the SUVs of the larger compact class. Kia offers the lowest price of entry/better value in the compact hybrid SUV set, and some of the best standard safety features (as well as the best warranty) too. Nissan impresses with the best MPG and most interior volume of the non-hybrid compact SUVs on this list. Subaru offers perhaps the most capable SUV on this list (in terms of core SUV features like: ground clearance, capable AWD and safety systems, and better cargo and passenger volume). Hyundai offers the lowest price of entry, period, or will in the coming weeks when the SE trim of the Kona arrives at dealers. Honda’s CR-V hybrid may have the lowest fuel economy of the hybrid SUVs on this list, and the highest sticker price, but it actually has the most interior volume of any compact SUV on this list (at 105.9 cubic feet, though interestingly the Corolla Cross has 114.9) and one of the better/more capable AWD systems too; it’s a solid choice. Really, all the vehicles on this list would be great choices and it may just come down to price, standard features, warranty or predicted reliability for anyone trying to make a decision.

Which do you find most appealing, and why? Are there vehicles you felt should have been on the list, if so which ones and why? Please leave your questions or comments below.

Images courtesy of Kia.

Justin Hart has owned and driven electric vehicles for over 15 years, including a first generation Nissan LEAF, second generation Chevy Volt, Tesla Model 3, an electric bicycle and most recently a Kia Sorento PHEV. He is also an avid SUP rider, poet, photographer and wine lover. He enjoys taking long EV and PHEV road trips to beautiful and serene places with the people he loves. Follow Justin on for regular electric and hybrid news coverage.