Top 10 fuel sippers of 2011: SUV edition

Last week, we took a look at the 10 most fuel-efficient cars. This week, CNET Car Tech tackles the 10 SUVs with the highest combined fuel economy estimates.

Only two combined miles per gallon separated our top nonhybrid SUV from the bottom. Check out the full list to see where the Kia Sportage fits in.
Only two combined miles per gallon separated our top nonhybrid SUV from the bottom. Check out the full list to see where the Kia Sportage fits in. Josh Miller/CNET

Last week, we took a look at the 10 most fuel-efficient cars for the 2011 model year so far. This week, we're thinking bigger--literally--and tackling the 10 most fuel-efficient SUVs on the road today.

The same rules apply as did last week. We're ranking by EPA-estimated combined fuel economy for the most recent model year and splitting hybrids and nonhybrids into separate groups (five in each category) to keep this from being an electrified blowout. As there aren't any full electric or fuel cell driven SUVs available for mass adoption yet, we were able to relax our "must use an internal combustion engine" rule. We are also counting diesel powered vehicles, although none made the cut this time around.

Oddly, the most difficult decision we had to make was on what is and isn't an SUV. With crossovers blurring the line between car and SUV more with each passing generation, the decision is trickier than you'd think. We decided to stick with the EPA's categorization for simplicity, but that lead to a few raised eyebrows during the course of our survey. (Did you know that the Honda Accord Crosstour is technically an SUV? Did you know the Infiniti EX35 , isn't?)

In the hybrid camp, the usual suspects are there, after all the hybrid SUV class is still a small segment. However, in the nonhybrid category, it's a battle of inches with only 2 combined miles per gallon separating the top and bottom contenders. The judging is so close that we found ourselves having to take highway and city fuel economy averages into consideration to avoid a five-way tie at the 25 mpg level.

If you have a favorite fuel-sipping SUV or crossover, a fuel-saving anecdote you'd like to share, or a suggestion for a future shootout, let us know in the comments below.

 

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