Best fuel efficient mountain car?

Hi! My husband and I live in the mountains in snow country. Right now we have a 97 Subaru Legacy and a 02 Outback. We are starting to think about replacing the 97 Legacy. We have liked our Subarus so far, but would like to find something more fuel efficient, yet retain the important features for mountain/snow driving (all wheel or front wheel drive, high clearance, heated seats, etc.)

I am curious as to how the various Hybrid SUVs are performing and if they really get much better gas milage than a regular subaru wagon. We would be open to looking at volkswagons, hondas, toyotas, and so on.

We have two little kids so safety and space are important. I like the wagons and crossovers for their space and ability to lug lots of gear around.

We would prefer to find a used vehicle (1 to 3 years old) if possible too.

Any suggestions?

It’s really hard to recommend something over a Subaru for what you describe. There are only 3 hybrid CUVs, the Escape (which sounds a little small for what you describe) and the Toyata Highlander/Lexus RX400H (which might be a lot more money, money you’d never recover in gas savings, and some report poorer-than-expected mpgs). I’d get a Subaru, the new Legacy/Outback is available with a CVT tranny that supposedly gets improved mpgs.

Many people do not realize that fuel mileage is second in terms of life time per-mile vehicle cost. Depreciation is first, followed by maintenance, insurance and taxes. Audi A4 Avant with the 2.0 T engine is very fuel efficient, but the other costs outweigh mileage.

Living in CO for 33 years I still think Subaru is your best bet. I’d also consider Hyundai Tuscon and Santa Fe, Honda CRV and Toyota RAV4. VW TDI will give great mileage but it’s FWD.


Most hybrids don’t make good mountain snow cars. Do any come in a 4WD or AWD version?

Frankly you have the cars I would look to first if I lived in that kind of area.

The only hybrid SUV that get decent mileage (better than your Subaru) is the Ford Escape (or Mercury Marine) hybrids. They are similar size to your Subaru and come in AWD versions.

Otherwise the Toyota Highlander Hybrid is really set up for power and not that great for fuel mpg. Other AWD or 4WD’s are often bigger, luxury, or heavier truck versionsl. There are a few AWD Crossover’s hitting the market but I don’t think they surpass the Subaru in mpg.

I believe the Legacy gets around 30 MPG.

It appears that the RAV4 awd is the fuel efficient choice for larger than car like SUVs in both 4 and 6 cylinder. The newest Outbacks seem to have better clearance than the old, which on our mountain with the drifts is a big plus. I’m not a hybrid fan until they are more cost competitive. Otherwise, I would recommend you try the slightly smaller Forester as well. I would hope the new Subarus would have a center locking feature as well, but don’t know if they do. That would be a decider for me. The fall back is another Outback. If they just get off their butts and find a way to make the Subaru Diesels environmentally compliant and sell them here, it would be a no brainer for you and many others.
Best of luck

For what your needs are stick with Subaru. Their go-in-snow, safety, space, low maintenance cost and reasonable gas mileage can’t be beat. You can get something else that will improve on gas mileage, but it will NOT give you the peace of mind (as in always goes and safe) that Subaru will. It’s like saying “We have something we really like. Should we look for something else?” No.