Many people like SUVs because of the greater cargo space and a higher driving position they provide compared to a sedan. But one of the typical trade-offs is reduced fuel economy.
Lately, fuel prices haven't been much of a deterrent to buyers. But the price of gas is on the upswing, with a 24-cent increase in the national average price of a gallon in the last month, according to a June report from the Energy Information Administration.
Since a vehicle purchase is a long-term investment, Edmunds experts have made some forward-thinking recommendations on five SUVs that offer roomy cargo areas and high fuel economy for their respective class sizes. We've limited our picks to models that cost under $45,000.
For this article, "minimum" cargo capacity refers to the vehicle with all of its rear seats in a raised position. "Maximum" means all the rear seats are folded down. Edmunds has also recommended a trim level for each SUV. The listed manufacturer's suggested retail prices include destination fees.
TOYOTA RAV4 HYBRID
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 40 combined (41 city/38 highway)
Toyota is well versed in making hybrids, and the RAV4 Hybrid is an excellent example. Its cargo space, among the largest in the small SUV class, checks in at 37.5 (minimum) and 69.8 (maximum) cubic feet. This is just as much cargo space as the regular RAV4. The RAV4 Hybrid costs more than a comparable non-hybrid RAV4, but it'll pay for itself in a few years with the gas savings.
Edmunds also likes the RAV4 Hybrid's smooth ride and easy-to-access five-passenger seating. The downsides are a grabby brake pedal that makes it hard to stop smoothly and a front passenger seat that can be uncomfortable on long drives. 2020 RAV4 XLE MSRP: $30,765
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 31 combined (29 city/34 highway)
Kia's all-new Seltos follows the formula of its much larger sibling, the Telluride. It has distinctive styling, an upscale interior design and plenty of cargo space. The five-passenger Seltos is a lot smaller than the Telluride or even Kia's Sportage SUV, but its 26.6 (minimum) and 62.8 (maximum) cubic feet of cargo room is among the most you'll find in the extra-small SUV class.
Kia is also known for having one of the best warranties in the business and giving you a lot of standard features for an appealing price. One drawback of the Seltos, however, is that it has a somewhat firm ride quality. 2021 Seltos EX MSRP: $26,410
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 29 combined (26 city/33 highway)
Subaru's Outback is one of the brand's best-selling vehicles, and the redesigned 2020 Outback is particularly intriguing. It has a comfortable interior that's easy to see out of, strong off-road capability and very comfortable seating. For a five-passenger midsize SUV, cargo volume is ample with 32.5 (minimum) and 75.7 (maximum) cubic feet.
One issue with the newest Outback is its optional 11.6-inch touchscreen. It looks cool but buries a lot of functions and controls in complicated on-screen menus. 2020 Outback Premium MSRP: $29,905
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 27 combined (24 city/33 highway)
If you want an affordable luxury SUV that can also hold a lot of your stuff, BMW's entry-level SUV, the X1, could be the vehicle for you. Its interior is roomy for passengers and offers 27.1 (minimum) and 58.7 (maximum) cubic feet of storage. The X1 also has a strong, responsive turbocharged engine and is fun to drive on twisty roads.
Other highlights include high-quality interior materials and plenty of standard safety and technology features. On the downside, the X1 is that it is not particularly quiet on the highway. 2020 sDrive28i MSRP: $36,195
2020 BUICK ENCLAVE
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 21 combined (18 city/26 highway)
The Buick Enclave is related to another big General Motors SUV: the Chevrolet Traverse. Both provide a huge amount of cargo space for a three-row SUV, with the Enclave checking in at 23.6 (minimum) and 97.6 (maximum) cubic feet. You also get a very smooth ride, comfortable seating for adults in all three rows, and easy maneuverability at parking lot speeds.
The Enclave is a little nicer on the inside than the Traverse, though the materials and design aren't as rich as what you'd get from a luxury-branded SUV. 2020 Enclave Essence MSRP: $43,690
EDMUNDS SAYS: Having a fuel-efficient SUV that can carry a lot of cargo — whether supplies, furniture, luggage or recreation equipment — makes it easy on the wallet and easy on your mind when trying to load it up.
This story was provided to The Associated Press by the automotive website Edmunds. Rex Tokeshi-Torres is a vehicle testing technician at Edmunds. Twitter: @trackwrex.
—2020 BMW X1 review: https://edmu.in/30zEA3F
—2020 Buick Enclave review: https://edmu.in/2UzoFP3
—2021 Kia Seltos review: https://edmu.in/3cSiCvk
—2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid review: https://edmu.in/2UxohAq
—2020 Subaru Outback review: https://edmu.in/3hhcY9v
—Edmunds' Best Gas Mileage SUVs: https://edmu.in/3fdT2m5