Sport utility vehicles (SUVs) continue to dominate America’s roadways. However, with gas prices higher over the past few years, SUV drivers want to find a more economical solution. That’s what has caused many to search out the best four-cylinder SUVs for increased efficiency.
In this guide, we cover the top SUVs with a four-cylinder engine. We also look at the pros and cons of having a 4-cylinder SUV and answer a few of your top questions.
In no particular order, the top choices of the best four-cylinder SUVs include the Hyundai Kona, Kia Sorento, Hyundai Tucson Hybrid and Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid. You may also consider the Kia Sorento Hybrid, Mercedes-Benz GLA Class, Hyundai Santa Fe, Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, Kia Soul, Mazda CX-30 and Honda CR-V.
Let’s look at the most important specs of these SUVs.
1. Hyundai Kona
The 2023 Hyundai Kona is a subcompact SUV with plenty of style. For the 2023 model year, Hyundai added some additional features to the mix, providing an even better value. These SUVs now include standard rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring and a rear USB port.
This five-passenger SUV comes standard with a 147-horsepower four-cylinder engine paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. Otherwise, there’s also a 195-horsepower turbo-four available with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.
- MSRP: $34,950
- Fuel Economy: 20/27 mpg
- Horsepower: 147-195
2. Kia Sorento
The Kia Sorento also received some upgraded technology for the new model year. It also offers space to hold five people comfortably and continues to exceed driver’s expectations.
The base model is equipped with a 191-horsepower 2.5L inline-four engine. However, there’s also a 281-horsepower 2.5L four-cylinder available. The more powerful option allows for a maximum towing capacity of up to 3,500 pounds. Either way, these engines pair with an eight-speed automatic. In a minute, we will touch on the Sorento Hybrid, which is also a good option.
- MSRP: $30,090
- Fuel Economy: 24/29 mpg
- Horsepower: 191-281
3. Hyundai Tucson Hybrid
The Hyundai Tucson Hybrid is another stylish SUV that fits perfectly for anyone looking to save money at the pump. This five-passenger model can be outfitted in several different ways, and there’s plenty of customization to ensure you have the features most important to you.
The base model includes a 1.6L turbo-four paired with a front motor to create 226 horsepower. There is also a plug-in hybrid that includes the same powertrain but is rated for 261 horsepower. All-wheel drive comes standard and both configurations include a six-speed automatic transmission.
- MSRP: $31,350
- Fuel Economy: 38/38 mpg
- Horsepower: 226-261
4. Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid
The Corolla Cross Hybrid is a brand-new model to the Japanese automaker’s SUV lineup in 2023. With several trim levels to choose from, you can save money on the base variant or upgrade to some luxury touches on a higher-end model.
All of these hybrid SUVs include the same powertrain. The 2.0L four-cylinder engine works with three electric motors and provides 196 combined horsepower. Plus, all-wheel drive is standard, so it’s very capable of whatever the road throws at it.
- MSRP: $27,970
- Fuel Economy: 45/38 mpg
- Horsepower: 196
5. Kia Sorento Hybrid
While we talk about hybrid models, we can’t overlook the benefits of the Kia Sorento Hybrid. This model has all of the great features of the gas-only SUV but with increased efficiency.
The base hybrid model includes a 1.6L turbo-four and electric motor to create 227 horsepower. There’s also an AWD plug-in hybrid model that uses the same engine, but it creates 261 horsepower. Both include a six-speed automatic.
- MSRP: $36,690
- Fuel Economy: 39/35 mpg
- Horsepower: 227-261
6. Mercedes-Benz GLA Class
On the luxury side of things, you may want a Mercedes for the drive ahead. With the Mercedes-Benz GLA Class, you enter into the luxury market at an unbeatable price. For example, even the base model includes dual 7” displays, one that’s needed for the driver’s gauges and another for the infotainment system. If you prefer, you could upgrade to the dual 10.3” displays instead.
Under the hood, you’ll find a 2.0L turbo-four engine that pushes out 221 horsepower. This SUV can be outfitted with either FWD or AWD, plus it includes an eight-speed automatic.
- MSRP: $37,500
- Fuel Economy: 24/34 mpg
- Horsepower: 221
7. Hyundai Santa Fe
The Hyundai Santa Fe hasn’t seen any major changes for the new model year, which is good because enthusiasts prefer the SUV as it is. However, the automaker has provided acoustic-laminated front windows that increase sound insulation. Plus, this five-passenger SUV provides a spacious back seat and plenty of cargo space.
Plus, it comes with a 2.5L four-cylinder that’s rated for 191 horsepower. If you want something more exciting, consider the 2.5L turbo-four that pushes out 277 horsepower. Either way, you can get FWD or AWD and an eight-speed automatic transmission.
- MSRP: $28,750
- Fuel Economy: 25/28 mpg
- Horsepower: 191-277
8. Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
While the Toyota RAV4 lineup is also a solid contender, it can’t compete with the efficiency of the Hybrid variant. Plus, a new Woodland Edition model has been released that has all-terrain tires and other off-roading goodies.
The RAV4 Hybrid includes a 219-horsepower 2.5L four-cylinder that combines with two electric motors. All-wheel drive comes standard and the powertrain is complemented with a CVT.
- MSRP: $31,225
- Fuel Economy: 41/38 mpg
- Horsepower: 219
9. Kia Soul
The Kia Soul has been redesigned slightly and is more stylish than ever before. With the new grille and headlight design, you may not know what you are looking at first glance. Most important is the price of the new Soul, making driving much more affordable.
With every new Soul model, you get a 147-horsepower 2.0L four-cylinder engine. This pairs with FWD and a CVT for even better efficiency. If you prefer a used model, you can find one with the 201-horsepower 1.6L turbo-four engine that was just dropped from the lineup.
- MSRP: $19,890
- Fuel Economy: 29/35 mpg
- Horsepower: 147
10. Mazda CX-30
The Mazda CX-30 is a lot of fun to drive, with superior acceleration and handling. Plus, the new model year brings a boost to horsepower and efficiency. As expected, the CX-30 comes with all of the latest in-cabin technology, including Bluetooth, an 8.8” touchscreen display, two front USB inputs and Wi-Fi capability. You can also opt for available Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, as well as SiriusXM satellite radio.
The standard powertrain includes a 191-horsepower 2.5L four-cylinder. There’s also an available 250-horsepower 2.5L turbo-four. Both engines work with a six-speed automatic.
- MSRP: $22,950
- Fuel Economy: 26/33 mpg
- Horsepower: 191
11. Honda CR-V
The Honda CR-V just entered a new generation and the upgrades are better than ever. Of course, this CR-V is still fun to drive and efficient, but now it also includes high-tech features that compete with other brands.
Under the hood is a 190-horsepower 1.5L four-cylinder. You can choose FWD or AWD and a CVT. There’s also a hybrid model available if you are looking for something even more efficient.
- MSRP: $29,705
- Fuel Economy: 28/34 mpg
- Horsepower: 190
Pros and Cons of a 4-Cylinder SUV
The 4-cylinder engine has many advantages over larger options. However, to evaluate what’s best for you, it’s important to evaluate the costs, power, and efficiency differences. After determining what’s important to you, the decision to choose a 4-cylinder will come much easier.
Here are the three factors and how the 4-cylinder performs.
In general, the four-cylinder engine is going to be cheaper to manufacture than something larger. It also doesn’t need a lot of room, which means it can be installed in smaller vehicles. Because production costs are lower, you can expect the manufacturer to pass on the savings with a lower sticker price.
Not only that, but four-cylinder engines are often cheaper to maintain. If something goes wrong, the repair costs are typically lower as well. You can swap out most four-cylinder engines for far less than it would cost to get a V6 or V8 replacement.
A big trade-off with the four-cylinder engine is power. While turbocharged four-cylinders have come a long way, they don’t normally compete with today’s V6 or V8 engines.
If you are only driving on the highway for a daily commute, you may not need this extra power. However, if you are towing and hauling gear, a bigger engine may be more your speed.
One of the biggest selling features of the four-cylinder engine is its efficiency. Because of its smaller size and carbon footprint, the best fuel economy numbers are found with the four-cylinder.
However, it’s important to evaluate all of the specs before making a decision. In some cases, the difference in power output received by choosing a larger engine doesn’t create that big of a gas mileage gap. Yet, every extra mile that can be traveled on a tank of fuel quickly adds up over time.
Is a 4-cylinder engine good for an SUV?
The four-cylinder engine is a great choice if you prioritize efficiency and cost. Some modern turbocharged four-cylinder engines can also rival V6 motors. However, if you need to tow heavy items or you plan to haul a lot of people, the four-cylinder engine may not be your best option.
What SUVs have 4 cylinders?
Most automakers have four-cylinder SUVs in their lineup. We recommend checking into the Hyundai Kona, Kia Sorento, Hyundai Tucson Hybrid and Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid. Some other top choices include the Kia Sorento Hybrid, Mercedes-Benz GLA Class, Hyundai Santa Fe, Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, Kia Soul, Mazda CX-30 and Honda CR-V.
Does Toyota have a 4-cylinder SUV?
Toyota has several SUVs equipped with a four-cylinder engine. The Toyota Corolla Cross, C-HR and RAV4 all have an efficient 4-cylinder. There are also hybrid options that incorporate a four-cylinder, including the RAV4 Hybrid, Corolla Cross Hybrid and Venza models.
Is a 4-cylinder better on gas than a V6?
The four-cylinder engine is smaller than a V6, so it is more efficient. In most cases, the four-cylinder is going to output less power than a larger engine, although that’s not always the case with today’s turbocharged motors. Evaluate all of the specs of a 4-cylinder compared to the V6 before making a choice.
If you are looking to maximize efficiency, but you don’t want to drive a car, there are plenty of four-cylinder SUVs worth checking into. While we provided you with a short list of options, there are so many more models that deserve a second look. Go through the lineups of each automaker to see what’s available. Ideally, you could head to a local dealership to check them out in person.
Of course, the four-cylinder SUV doesn’t fit every lifestyle. For example, if you have a large family or you need to tow heavy loads, you will probably need a more powerful model. Evaluate your needs before sacrificing power to achieve more efficiency. If you make the wrong choice, you will become disappointed at the lack of power.