The Ten SUVs with the Best Fuel Economy

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Introduction - The Top 10 Fuel-Efficient SUVs

Sarah Larson/Fllickr

I’ve revised our list of About.com’s Top 10 Fuel-Efficient SUVs for the 2011 model year. In order to make the list, a vehicle must be a 2011 model. I've based the ratings on the official U.S. government source for fuel economy information, FuelEconomy.gov.

There were very few surprises this year. Vehicles with hybrid powertrains dominate, and beyond that, small engines and compact dimensions contribute to higher ratings. Remember, your results may vary, depending on your driving habits, the conditions in which you drive, and other factors. But rating each vehicle relative to the others in its class levels the playing field somewhat. So even if you'll never achieve 31 mpg in your SUV, you'll probably get better fuel economy out of the higher rated vehicles than you would in the lower rated vehicles.

Without further ado, here are the top 10 most fuel-efficient SUVs of 2011.

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#1: 2011 Ford Escape Hybrid

2011 Ford Escape Hybrid. Photo © Ford

34 city/31 hwy (FWD); 30 city/27 hwy (4WD)

The Ford Escape Hybrid has been at the top of the SUV fuel-efficiency list ever since the blue oval company stuffed the powerplant into their compact crossover in 2004. Escape arrives with a 3-year/36,000 mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and a 5-year/60,000 mile powertrain warranty. Hybrid unique components are covered for eight years/100,000 miles. Prices start at $29,785 for base models, $32,295 for Limited.

Ford Escape Hybrid Test Drive and Review

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#2: 2011 Lexus RX 450h

2011 Lexus RX 450h. Photo © Lexus

32 city/28 hwy (FWD); 30 city/28 hwy (AWD)

Lexus brings efficiency and luxury together in the RX 450h. Sharing its interior and exterior design with the popular Lexus RX 350, the 450h uses a 3.5-liter V6 gasoline engine along with a high output permanent magnet electric motor (or motors, for all-wheel drive). Lexus vehicles come with a 48 month/50,000 mile basic warranty. Powertrain and restraint system coverage is provided for 72 months/70,000 miles. The hybrid-related components, including the HV battery, battery-control module, hybrid control module and inverter with converter, are covered for eight years/100,000 miles.

Lexus RX 400h Test Drive and Review.

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#3: 2011 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

2011 Toyota Highlander Hybrid. Photo © Jason Fogelson

28 city/28 hwy

The Toyota Highlander crossover can be equipped with three rows of seating, making it the people-hauling champ of the fuel-efficient SUVs. With a base price of $33,700 for the base grade and $39,950 for the Limited, the 2008 Toyota Highlander Hybrid comes with a 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty, a 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty, an 8-year/100,000-mile warranty on hybrid components.

Toyota Highlander Hybrid Test Drive & Review.

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#4: 2011 Nissan Juke

2011 Nissan Juke. Photo © Jason Fogelson

27 city/32 hwy (AT); 24 city/31 hwy (6MT)

One of the smallest SUVs on the market, the Nissan Juke aims to bring the soul of a sports car to the crossover market. More versatile than a Versa, more roadworthy than a Rogue, the 2011 Nissan Juke comes with base prices from $18,960 to $24,550 with a 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty, a 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Nissan Juke Test Drive & Review.

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#5: 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport. Photo © Mitsubishi

25 city/31 hwy (FWD-AT); 24 city/31 hwy (FWD-MT); 24 city/29 hwy (4WD)

After getting rid of the mid-sized Montero, Mitsubishi expanded its SUV lineup in the other direction by adding a compact cousin to the Outlander with the 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport. Outlander Sport catches the eye with aggressive good looks and backs them up with excellent value and a long warranty. Base prices start at $18,495, with a 5-year/60,000-mile basic warranty and 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain coverage.

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#6: 2011 Hyundai Tucson

Hyundai Tucson. Photo © Jason Fogelson

23 city/31 hwy (2.0-FWD-AT); 20 city/27 hwy (2.0-FWD-MT); 22 city/31 hwy (2.4-FWD-AT); 21 city/28 hwy (2.4-AWD-AT)

Hyundai's Tucson underwent a makeover for the 2010 model year, and returns for 2011 with two engine choices: a 2.0-liter inline 4-cylinder, or a 2.4-liter inline 4-cylinder. The bigger engine puts out a little more power, and comes with the option of all-wheel drive. The 2011 Hyundai Tucson carries base prices from $18,895 to $24,845, a 5-year/60,000-mile basic warranty, a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty

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#7/8 (two-way tie): 2011 Jeep Compass

2011 Jeep Compass. Photo © Jason Fogelson

23 city/29 hwy (2.0-FWD-MT); 23 city/27 hwy (2.0-FWD-AT); 23 city/28 hwy (2.4-FWD-MT); 22 city/28 hwy (2.4-4WD-MT); 21 city/27 hwy (2.4-FWD-AT); 21 city/26 hwy (2.4-4WD-AT); 20 city/23 hwy (2.4-4WD-AT with Low Range)

The urban cousin to the Jeep Patriot, the newly-redesigned Compass is closer to Grand Cherokee than Wrangler in terms of style and substance. Base prices for the 2011 Jeep Compass start at $19,295. Like with the Patriot, Compass buyers can choose between a 2.4-liter and 2.0-liter inline 4-cylinder engine, front-wheel drive and four-wheel drive, and continuously variable automatic transmission or five-speed manual. Compass is covered by a 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty and a 5-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

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#7/8 (two-way tie): 2011 Jeep Patriot

2011 Jeep Patriot. Photo © Jason Fogelson

23 city/29 hwy (2.0-FWD-MT); 23 city/27 hwy (2.0-FWD-AT); 23 city/28 hwy (2.4-FWD-MT); 22 city/28 hwy (2.4-4WD-MT); 21 city/27 hwy (2.4-FWD-AT); 21 city/26 hwy (2.4-4WD-AT); 20 city/23 hwy (2.4-4WD-AT with Low Range)

The real bargain in the Jeep lineup, the Patriot brings classic Jeep style to a capable compact crossover. The 2011 Jeep Patriot starts with base prices as low as $15,995, with a choice of 2.0-liter or 2.4-liter inline 4-cylinder engines, front-wheel or four-wheel drive and manual or continuously variable automatic transmissions. Patriot carries Jeep's 3-year/36,000 mile basic warranty and a 5-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

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#9/10 (two-way tie): 2011 Ford Escape (gas)

2011 Ford Escape Gas. Photo © Ford

23 city/28 hwy (I4-FWD-MT); 21 city/28 hwy (I4-FWD-AT); 20 city/26 hwy (I4-4WD-AT); 19 city/25 hwy (V6-FWD-AT); 18 city/23 hwy (V6-4WD-AT)

Not everybody wants a hybrid, so Ford has not abandoned the traditional "gas only" Escape. Buyers can choose a 2.5-liter Duratec inline 4-cylinder engine, or a 3.0-liter Duratec V6. Choosing the bigger engine comes with a substantial performance boost, along with a significant penalty in fuel economy. Base prices start at $21,240 with a 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty and a 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Ford Escape Test Drive & Review

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#9/10 (two-way tie): 2011 Mazda Tribute

2011 Mazda Tribute. Photo © Mazda North America

23 city/28 hwy (I4-FWD-MT); 21 city/28 hwy (I4-FWD-AT); 20 city/26 hwy (I4-4WD-AT); 19 city/25 hwy (V6-FWD-AT); 18 city/23 hwy (V6-4WD-AT)

One of the relics of Ford's ownership stake in Mazda, the 2011 Mazda Tribute is a rebadged version of the Ford Escape. That's not necessarily a bad thing, because the Escape is a pretty good crossover vehicle on its own merits. Prices for the 2011 Mazda Tribute start at $20,555, with the choice of a 2.5-cylinder inline 4-cylinder engine, or a 3.0-liter V6. Transmission options are a 5-speed manual or 6-speed automatic, with either front-wheel or four-wheel drive. The Tribute gets a 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty and a 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.