by Chris Chase
If you read OntarioCars.ca regularly, you’ll have seen us mention many times that small cars are disappearing, often to be replaced with subcompact crossovers and SUVs.
That’s great for people who like SUVs, and for the car manufacturers who sell them. But what about fuel economy? If you’ve spent decades driving small cars because you appreciate their fuel economy, we understand if you’re nervous about having to spend more to fill the tank of a crossover or SUV. After all, they have a well-earned reputation for being relatively inefficient machines. We want to help alleviate your anxiety by highlighting a few of today’s most efficient small SUVs.
You’ll note there are a few well-known models missing from this list.
To choose which vehicles would make the cut, we only considered those with front- and all-wheel drive options (with one exception, as you’ll see below). Front-wheel drive models had to promise combined (city and highway) fuel consumption lower than 8.0 L/100 km, and AWD versions had to do better (lower) than 9.0 L/100 km. If either of a model’s FWD or AWD variants missed those marks, it was off the list altogether.
Finally, we only considered vehicles with automatic transmissions for this article. There are a couple of manuals available in this class, but we focused on automatics because they’re more popular with the majority of buyers.
2022 Toyota Corolla Cross – FWD: 7.2 L/100 km FWD; AWD: 7.8 L/100 km
Topping our list is the 2022 Toyota Corolla Cross. Though Toyota’s new small SUV is technically not on sale as we write this (in June, Toyota said its new small SUV would arrive “later” in 2021), the company has published fuel consumption estimates that make its Corolla Cross the most fuel-efficient subcompact crossover in Canada.
The Toyota Corolla Cross shares its underpinnings and basic DNA with the Corolla sedan and hatchback. That includes a 2.0L four-cylinder engine (169 hp/150 lb-ft of torque) and an automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT); an optional all-wheel drive system can send up to half the engine’s power to the rear axle.
As of this writing, Toyota had not published pricing for the Corolla Cross.
2022 Hyundai Kona – FWD: 7.4 L/100 km; 2.0L AWD: 7.9 L/100 km; 1.6T AWD: 8.2 L/100 km
The Hyundai Kona was a hit almost from the moment it arrived as a 2018 model. Maybe that was down to Hyundai’s traditionally value-packed pricing, or the Kona’s just-weird-enough-to-be-different styling that helped it stand out next to its contemporaries.
For 2022, Hyundai has rounded off some of the Kona’s sharper edges with refreshed styling. It also refined the powertrain with a new automatic CVT that makes the Kona efficient enough for a second-place finish on our list.
The new CVT is matched with a 2.0L four-cylinder carried over from 2021 with 147 hp and 132 lb-ft of torque, and you can get that combo with either front- or all-wheel drive. A 1.6L turbo four-cylinder brings a big power boost (195 hp/195 lb-ft), a seven-speed dual clutch transmission, and standard AWD – and it does so without a major economy penalty.
The Hyundai Kona is among the least expensive vehicles on this list, with prices starting at $21,999 for 2.0L Essential FWD trim. Essential AWD goes for $23,999, and the cheapest version with the 1.6L turbo motor is N Line AWD trim, at $28,099.
2021 Subaru Crosstrek – 2.0L AWD: 7.9 L/100 km; 2.5L AWD: 8.0 L/100 km
In our number three spot is the Subaru Crosstrek, one of the oldest names in the subcompact crossover class. Its calling card is standard AWD, which, surprisingly, remains a rarity among small SUVs, and makes the Crosstrek the exception to our rule about the availability of a FWD model.
The Crosstrek’s base powerplant is a 2.0L four-cylinder (152 hp/145 lb-ft) but a 2.5L engine (182 hp/176 lb-ft) is also available. Subaru owes its third-place finish to the Crosstrek’s automatic CVT, which helps make the 2.0L engine efficient enough to qualify for our sub-8.0L/100 km combined cut-off for front-wheel drive models. Despite the 2.5L engine’s extra performance, its combined rating is just 0.1 L/100 km higher.
The asterisk next to the Crosstrek’s third-place ranking is the six-speed manual transmission that comes standard with the 2.0L engine and whose 9.4 L/100 km combined fuel consumption rating is among the worst in the class.
Because the Crosstrek’s manual transmission doesn’t meet our fuel economy cut-off, our entry point is the Convenience CVT trim and its $25,795 starting price. The cheapest 2.5L Crosstrek is the Outdoor model, at $29,995.
2022 Kia Seltos – 2.0L FWD: 7.7 L/100 km; 2.0L AWD: 8.2 L/100 km; 1.6T AWD: 8.7 L/100 km
Next up is the Kia Seltos, a newcomer that joined the subcompact crossover class as a 2021 model. Though closely related to the Hyundai Kona, the Seltos’s body is longer and rides on a stretched wheelbase.
Despite using the same powertrains as the Hyundai Kona, the Seltos is a bit less efficient. Its version of the Hyundai Motor Group’s 1.6L turbo four-cylinder also gives up 20 hp to the Kona, for a total of 175 hp.
Kia Seltos prices start at $23,395 for LX FWD and $25,395 for LX AWD. The 1.6L turbo-powered engine comes in SX Turbo trim at $32,995.
2022 Chevrolet Trailblazer – 1.3L FWD: 7.6 L/100 km; 1.2L FWD: 7.8 L/100 km; 1.3 AWD: 8.4 L/100 km
Chevrolet revived the Trailblazer name in 2021 for a new subcompact crossover model. It slots in above the existing Trax, which remains as Chevy’s entry-level utility. (Despite its smaller size, the Trax’s less-impressive fuel consumption ratings didn’t qualify it for this list.)
The Trailblazer’s most efficient configuration matches a 1.3L three-cylinder turbo engine with a CVT and front-wheel drive. A less-powerful 1.2L turbo reserved for the base LS trim is also less thrifty. All-wheel Trailblazers use the 1.3L engine with a nine-speed automatic transmission.
Trailblazer pricing starts at $23,998 for an LS FWD model with the 1.2L engine. If you move up to LT trim, you can add the more efficient 1.3L engine for $495, for a total of $26,193. LS AWD, which comes standard with the 1.3L, starts at $25,998.
2022 Volkswagen Taos – FWD: 7.6 L/100 km; AWD: 8.5 L/100 km
The 2022 Volkswagen Taos is VW’s first-ever subcompact crossover. It effectively replaces the Golf TSI, leaving the Jetta sedan as the brand’s entry-level car model; the sporty Golf GTI and Golf R models have been redesigned and carry on as 2022 models.
As with most of VW’s models, the Taos’s power comes from a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, this one a 1.5L that makes 158 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. The front-wheel drive Taos uses only marginally more fuel than the old Golf TSI did, and while adding AWD increases fuel consumption significantly, the resulting combined estimate still falls well under our 9.0L/100 km benchmark.
Taos prices start at $26,695 for Trendline FWD and $29,195 for Trendline AWD.
2022 Honda HR-V – FWD: 7.8 L/100 km; LX AWD: 8.2 L/100 km; Sport/Touring AWD: 8.5 L/100 km
The Honda HR-V is another subcompact crossover that will soon be redesigned. Honda hasn’t revealed when that will happen, but we expect a second-generation HR-V to arrive next year as a 2023 model.
For now, the 2022 HR-V carries over, riding on a platform inspired by the now-defunct Fit hatchback that gives this crossover more interior space than you’d expect, given its size.
The HR-V gets a modest 141 hp and 127 lb-ft of torque from a 1.8L four-cylinder engine. Front-drive versions squeak under our fuel economy cut-off with a 7.8L/100 km combined rating. If you want all-wheel grip and the best possible fuel economy, LX AWD is where you’ll get both. The HR-V’s Sport and Touring trims, both of which are standard with AWD, are a bit less thrifty.
2022 Honda HR-V pricing starts at $25,705 in LX FWD trim, and LX AWD comes in at $28,005.
Buick Encore GX – 1.2L FWD: 7.8 L/100 km; 1.3L FWD: 7.9 L/100 km; 1.3L AWD: 8.6 L/100 km
A vehicle’s powertrain is not the only thing that determines how efficiently it will get you around. Despite sharing its engines and drivetrains with the Chevrolet Trailblazer, the Buick Encore GX uses more gasoline and is the final vehicle whose front- and all-wheel drive variants meet our combined fuel consumption rating cut-offs.
For the Encore GX, Buick uses the same 1.2L and 1.3L turbo three-cylinder engines Chevrolet puts in the Trailblazer. The 1.2L comes only with FWD and a CVT, and all 1.3L versions get AWD and a nine-speed automatic. Prices start at $26,198 for Preferred FWD trim, while Preferred AWD carries a $28,198 MSRP.