High MPG vehicle options with decent ground clearance

I come from a family of jeeps and love camping, but my poor 3" lifted 2001 VW Jetta diesel at 250k miles is near the end of her life. Its the prefect size and i like the security of the trunk a sedan provides from thieves, and yes it an awesome camping vehicle and gets around 46 MPG (probably much less these days, as my turbo damaged).

Anyway im looking for a new car - sure I can borrow the family jeep, but was thinking more of the likes of another lifted sedan or worse case some hybrid or crossover (preferably something diesel so even with a tiny engine there is a good bit of power).

Lately have been looking at - Nissan Rogue, Toyota RAV, Subaru crosstech, chevy equinox, but was hoping to get some other ideas. Sadly most of the newer VW diesels are much more difficult to lift. And im really trying to maximize my MPG , but also able to easily tackle some light/moderate off-roading. Ground clearance is important as my thick metal skidplate om my jetta looks like it came out of a war zone… perhaps there are some places that make kits for some of these sedans but I am having trouble finding any… Ideally id like 8" of ground clearance as i do a lot of primitive camping.

I would do a hybrid (engine[primary] + battery[secondary]) or one of those all electric range-extended cars with tiny engine to charge batteries (battery[primary] + engine[secondary]). Obviously i cant nor would i want to put 30" tires on a prius but im looking for some helpful suggestions that perhaps something im not seeing - the lowest gas millage that willing to accept is 33MPG at bare minimum (as thats pretty big step from my current 40+MPG). If anyone has any suggestions that would be great given the parameters listed above.

hope to have a good discussion

Summary looking for vehicle with :
a) 33+ mpg
b) ground clearance (at least 7-8+ inches)
c) 4 door

Bonus if it has:

  1. secure storage area
  2. power (diesel)
  3. fender space for larger tires
  4. awesome gas mileage

Rav4 hybrid.

1 Like

You are unlikely to find awesome gas mileage in an SUV or crossover, due to the air resistance–except maybe in town mileage.

1 Like

If you were willing to lift a Jetta for additional ground clearance, you might be willing to do the same for a Chevy Cruze. There is a diesel version of the Cruze.

Here is a review of the Cruze. If you don’t dislike the steering of a Jeep, you might not mind the loose steering of the Cruze TD.

I think you should relax some of your restrictions and get a Subaru Outback instead of messing around with trying to lift a car.


The first thing to do a make a realistic list.


Tesla Model X P100D

a) 80-90+ mpg equivalent

b) 6-9 inch ground clearance (user adjustable, GPS memory function so you only have to adjust it once in a given area)

c) 5 door

  1. The frunk locks and since there’s no engine under the hood you can store stuff in it.

  2. 603hp

  3. plenty of room for tires

  4. see your answer to a)

Or, if you want more realistically-priced vehicles, post your budget. :wink:

1 Like

You can get a Chevrolet Colorado LT with the 2.8L diesel. It gets 25 mpg average (22 city, 30 hwy) and has an 8.3 inch clearance. A cap would give you a secure bed, but the diesel only seems to be available in the crew cab. You have the whole back seat for secure storage.

2018 Chevy Equinox Diesel. 32 MPG combined, 39 highway. Slowest in its class (0-60 MPH is 10.2 seconds) due to the diesel engine, but it seems to check off the boxes you want checked. 7" ground clearance stock. Pretty much the rest of the known world that wants to do what you are describing goes with a Subaru. Take your pick of the Forester, Outback, or Crosstrek. They all have the most ground clearance in their given classes and they all have a community of folks making skidplates and off-road gear to go with them. 2018 Crosstrek gets 33 highway and comes stock with almost 9 inches of minimum ground clearance. Stick shift or automatic are both available. Unexpected idea? Fiat Panda diesel import and restoration project car.

1 Like

yes def on my list - thanks


yes which is why also considering lifted sedan. My TDI jetta (manual) got nearly 50mpg when i got it after the lift the best i could get was 44-46 (but that # still better than most suv/crossover).

Shadowfax & Volvo_V70

list pretty realistic - who wouldn’t want a vehicle that could offer these options… most foreign cars / trucks already offer alot of this sadly however they are just not available in the US (ie. vw amorak, et al) . It just seems … when gas prices were high several years back there were more options.

And Yes granted there are financial concerns… but Tesla not an option as it is electric only… besides tesla is for the flashy type that just wants attention and pretty useless vehicle for my needs (limited range)… if I owned a business and needed a fleet of vehicles would def go with Via Motors (http://www.viamotors.com/vehicles/electric-truck) as it also has a gas backup and more realistic option than tesla…

looked into this already and its in my list - thanks

yes the equinox was mentioned in the OP, and ive already looked at the subaru crosstech - not as good mileage wise as nissan rogue hybrid (test driven both) but the subaru has better ground clearance and good host of aftermarket parts so seriously looking into the crosstech, just want to make sure there are not better options (as crosstech only 26-33mpg).

do like your suggestion of the panda its just sad there is nothing domestically, a im sure out here it PITA to if not impossible to import something not made for the us market. Dont really need a project car either - just do a lot of driving in a lot of traffic, and need something that can can also tackle some nasty dirt roads.

other options im considering (lifted Mitsubishi mirage, ford escape hybrid, W-15)

Obviously there is some give and take, just wish the cross-tech got better gas mileage…

How serious is your off-roading? The Rogue hybrid is definitely not an off road vehicle.

That number alone would take it off my list. That much HP is for extreme performance. And who knows what compromiss were made in other areas like reliability, to achive that?

In fact, I think today’s cars (in the US mainly) have way too much HP. If there was a 100 HP limit, how much gasoline would the country save?

I drove a 45 HP Renault for years with no problem, it got me where I wanted to go. Isn’t that the bottom line?


With the aside that I suggested it as a joke to prod the OP into giving us a budget, you have to remember that electric motors change a lot of equations, including what is and isn’t reliable. Drivetrain-wise an electric car is most likely going to be a lot more reliable than a normal car no matter how powerful it is.

1 Like

Yes, that is true. But if they used a smaller motor, how much would that extend the range? And reduce the selling price? (don’t forget the smaller motor is lighter and also all the power electronics become smaller and lighter)

In other words, putting in a powerful motor gains the average user nothing, and is a net loss.

I do a lot of hunting and have done some pretty insane stuff in my jetta if my skidplates are any testament to the torture that that the jetta has been through… going through large streams, lots of rocks, severely rutted out roads etc… granted im still not going to go through the diablo dropoff or rock crawling in the jetta - thats what the jeep is for… and yes i do have a jeep but its gets crappy gas milage, olnly seats 2 with all my gear and has been broken into twice while i was up hunting in mountains w/ $800+ of gear stolen. :frowning: But im def not your run of the mill driver… there are people who use the vehicle to go anywhere (brute force), but as an avid off-roader, with lot of skill over the years ive tackled really rough stuff with just skill in my FWD jetta.

https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/california/lockwood-miller-jeep-trail (been there and worse with jetta)
see picture at top for typical roads in the jetta when out in country, will see if i cn find other pictures but this should give you a rough idea…

Not when im up in the snow and the batteries are cold… thats why i love stick shift as if the battery dead or low due to weather you just park in a hill pop the clutch and drive off… thats why i would never get 100% electric without a standard ICE built in as backup