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Which SUVs have the best real-world fuel economy?

The revelation that Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister’s chief adviser, drove from Islington in London to County Durham during lockdown restrictions with his wife suffering from coronavirus has been headline-grabbing news since Friday. 

Some have questioned if the 264-mile journey was feasible in his diesel Land Rover Discovery Sport without having to stop for fuel after Mr Cummings claimed during a press conference on Monday that he may have only filled up once during the return trip to the family home in the capital.

We’ve used What Car?’s True MPG calculator to work out how far his Land Rover can go before it empties its fuel tank – and reveal seven mid-size SUVs with the more frugal engines in real-world driving conditions that are best for long-haul drives outside of lockdown.

Could Cummings' car go for 264 miles without needing fuel? By our calculation, the Land Rover Discovery Sport diesel could complete the journey from North London to Durham with around half a tank of fuel

Could Cummings' car go for 264 miles without needing fuel? By our calculation, the Land Rover Discovery Sport diesel could complete the journey from North London to Durham with around half a tank of fuel

Could Cummings’ car go for 264 miles without needing fuel? By our calculation, the Land Rover Discovery Sport diesel could complete the journey from North London to Durham with around half a tank of fuel

Cummings’ car used for the 264-mile trek north was his 2019 Land Rover Discovery Sport diesel.

The seven-seat SUV has a 2.0-litre engine linked to a mild-hybrid drivetrain, a 9-speed automatic gearbox and four wheel drive.

His D180 model is an R-Dynamic HSE specification, which costs from £48,300 in showrooms today.

The Discovery Sport has a 65-litre (14.3-gallon) fuel tank and the official fuel economy based on a lab test is a claimed 38.9mpg – though What Car?’s real-world test found the figure would be closer to 33.6mpg when driving on the road.

We calculated that in order to cover 264 miles with the official fuel economy statistics of 38.9mpg, the Land Rover Discovery Sport would only use approximately 6.8 gallons of fuel from its 14.3-gallon tank.

Using the What Car? True MPG figure of 33.6mpg, the trip to Durham from the capital could be completed using 7.9 gallons.

That means, even with around half a tank, Mr Cummings would have been able to drive to his parents’ home without pulling over for fuel – though only he will know how much diesel was in his Land Rover before he set off.  

Dominic Cummings, chief adviser to Prime Minister, arrives at Downing Street on Tuesday

Dominic Cummings, chief adviser to Prime Minister, arrives at Downing Street on Tuesday

Dominic Cummings, chief adviser to Prime Minister, arrives at Downing Street on Tuesday

The Discovery Sport (similae to model pictured here) has a 65-litre (14.3-gallon) fuel tank and the official fuel economy based on a lab test is a claimed 38.9mpg - though What Car?'s real-world test found the figure would be closer to 33.6mpg when driving on the road

The Discovery Sport (similae to model pictured here) has a 65-litre (14.3-gallon) fuel tank and the official fuel economy based on a lab test is a claimed 38.9mpg - though What Car?'s real-world test found the figure would be closer to 33.6mpg when driving on the road

The Discovery Sport (similae to model pictured here) has a 65-litre (14.3-gallon) fuel tank and the official fuel economy based on a lab test is a claimed 38.9mpg – though What Car?’s real-world test found the figure would be closer to 33.6mpg when driving on the road

Would the round trip be possible on a single tank? 

However, would Mr Cummings have been able to drive all the way home again without visiting a filling stations?

A simple calculations shows it would have been very difficult for Boris Johnson’s chief aide to complete the 528-mile round trip back without needing to stop.

With Land Rover’s official 38.9mpg claim, just 0.7 gallons of fuel would remain in a brimmed 14.3-gallon fuel tank after a drive of that duration – without taking into account other trips completed between the two journeys, such as driving to Barnard Castle to test his eyesight.

Using What Car?’s more realistic fuel economy figure, the Discovery Sport would need 15.7 gallons of diesel to go from Islington to Durham and back.

That means Mr Cummings would need to pump an extra 1.4 gallons into his car to prevent him and his family from being stranded on the side of the road.

The 7 most fuel efficient mid-size SUV Discovery Sport alternatives based on real-world tests

What Car? conducts a True MPG test of as many cars sold in UK showrooms as possible.

This is a controlled measurement, conducted on closed roads and replicating town, rural and motorway driving, though adhering to speed limits and driving in a gentle manner.

These are the seven family-size SUVs it has tested and found to be incredibly fuel efficient.

To put their fuel-sipping credentials into context, we’ve also compared how many gallons of fuel each will use to drive 264 miles compared to Dominic Cummings’ Land Rover.

The Mazda CX-5 has a True MPG figure of 48.3mpg, meaning it needs just 5.5-gallons of diesel to complete the same 264-mile journey

The Mazda CX-5 has a True MPG figure of 48.3mpg, meaning it needs just 5.5-gallons of diesel to complete the same 264-mile journey

The Mazda CX-5 has a True MPG figure of 48.3mpg, meaning it needs just 5.5-gallons of diesel to complete the same 264-mile journey 

7. Mazda CX-5 2.2 Skyactiv-D 150

Price: from £29.060

Claimed MPG: 49.6mpg

What Car? True MPG: 48.3mpg

True MPG gallons used to complete a 264-mile journey: 5.5 gallons

Fewer gallons used than Dominic Cummings’ Land Rover: 1.3 gallons

This diesel-powered Mazda is a medium-size family car oozing style and sporty looks.

For a diesel engine, it’s refined and quiet. The only downside is it only comes as a five-seat option, unlike Cummings’ seven-seat Discovery Sport. 

The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is an ideal big-mileage SUV that combines petrol and electric power and is far more fuel efficient than Mr Cummings' diesel Land Rover

The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is an ideal big-mileage SUV that combines petrol and electric power and is far more fuel efficient than Mr Cummings' diesel Land Rover

The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is an ideal big-mileage SUV that combines petrol and electric power and is far more fuel efficient than Mr Cummings’ diesel Land Rover

6. Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Price: from £33,450

Claimed MPG: 49.5mpg

What Car? True MPG: 49.0mpg

True MPG gallons used to complete a 264-mile journey: 5.4 gallons

Fewer gallons used than Dominic Cummings’ Land Rover: 1.4 gallons

Toyota ditched diesel powertrain years ago, investing itself into hybrid technology instead. 

The RAV4 Hybrid is impressively economical for a medium-size SUV using unleaded and the price is reasonable compared to rivals. Reliability is strong too.

The Kia Niro is available with conventional engines, a plug-in hybrid and full electric version. The one tested here is the self-charging hybrid model

The Kia Niro is available with conventional engines, a plug-in hybrid and full electric version. The one tested here is the self-charging hybrid model

The Kia Niro is available with conventional engines, a plug-in hybrid and full electric version. The one tested here is the self-charging hybrid model

5. Kia Niro Hybrid

Price: from £24,900

Claimed MPG: 58.9mpg

What Car? True MPG: 50.1mpg

True MPG gallons used to complete a 264-mile journey: 5.3 gallons

Fewer gallons used than Dominic Cummings’ Land Rover: 1.5 gallons

Another hybrid to make it into the most frugal SUV list is Kia’s self-charging Niro.

There’s a fully electric version, too, which offers one of the longest ranges of any new EV on sale – and it was What Car?’s car of the year in 2019. 

The Seat Ateca is not only great to drive but would use 1.5-gallons less than Mr Cummings' Land Rover to travel from North London to Durham

The Seat Ateca is not only great to drive but would use 1.5-gallons less than Mr Cummings' Land Rover to travel from North London to Durham

The Seat Ateca is not only great to drive but would use 1.5-gallons less than Mr Cummings’ Land Rover to travel from North London to Durham

4. Seat Ateca 1.6 TDI 115

Price: from £25,560

Claimed MPG: 56.5mpg

What Car? True MPG: 50.2mpg

True MPG gallons used to complete a 264-mile journey: 5.3 gallons

Fewer gallons used than Dominic Cummings’ Land Rover: 1.5 gallons

Another example of a mid-size family SUV, the Ateca is among the best models to drive in this category.

As well as being fun in the bends, the Ateca is frugal and undercuts sister cars from the VW Group on price.

The Sportage is Kia's best-selling model in the UK. The 1.7-litre diesel engine in the version tested here is no longer available, though is replaced with an equally-frugal 1.6-litre motor

The Sportage is Kia's best-selling model in the UK. The 1.7-litre diesel engine in the version tested here is no longer available, though is replaced with an equally-frugal 1.6-litre motor

The Sportage is Kia’s best-selling model in the UK. The 1.7-litre diesel engine in the version tested here is no longer available, though is replaced with an equally-frugal 1.6-litre motor

3. Kia Sportage 1.7 CRDi

Price: from £25,150*

Claimed MPG: 61.4mpg**

What Car? True MPG: 51.4mpg

True MPG gallons used to complete a 264-mile journey: 5.1 gallons

Fewer gallons used than Dominic Cummings’ Land Rover: 1.7 gallons

The Sportage is one of the most popular mid-size SUVs in the UK, and the Korean brand’s best-selling model in the country.

The 1.7-litre diesel engine tested here is no longer available, replaced by a new 1.6-litre motor that should be just as economical.

Mr Cummings might be better off choosing a British-built model for his long-distance treks, with the Sunderland-made Nissan Qashqai proving very fuel efficient

Mr Cummings might be better off choosing a British-built model for his long-distance treks, with the Sunderland-made Nissan Qashqai proving very fuel efficient

Mr Cummings might be better off choosing a British-built model for his long-distance treks, with the Sunderland-made Nissan Qashqai proving very fuel efficient

2. Nissan Qashqai 1.5 dCi 110

Price: from £22,185*

Claimed MPG: 74.3mpg**

What Car? True MPG: 51.9mpg

True MPG gallons used to complete a 264-mile journey: 5.5 gallons

Fewer gallons used than Dominic Cummings’ Land Rover: 1.3 gallons

The Qashqai, built in the UK, is one of the UK’s finest automotive exports as well as being the best-selling SUV in Britain every year since it first hit the market over a decade ago.

This 1.5-litre 110 diesel motor is no longer available, replaced with 115 version that What Car? has yet to test. 

The Reanult Kadjar is the sister car to the Nissan Qashqai. This now-discontinued diesel engine returned a staggering 55.2mpg in real-world tests, meaning it would use 2 gallons less diesel than Dominic Cummings' Land Rover to travel from the capital to his parents' house

The Reanult Kadjar is the sister car to the Nissan Qashqai. This now-discontinued diesel engine returned a staggering 55.2mpg in real-world tests, meaning it would use 2 gallons less diesel than Dominic Cummings' Land Rover to travel from the capital to his parents' house

The Reanult Kadjar is the sister car to the Nissan Qashqai. This now-discontinued diesel engine returned a staggering 55.2mpg in real-world tests, meaning it would use 2 gallons less diesel than Dominic Cummings’ Land Rover to travel from the capital to his parents’ house

1. Renault Kadjar 1.5 dCi 110

Price: from £23,295*

Claimed MPG: 74.3mpg

What Car? True MPG: 55.2mpg

True MPG gallons used to complete a 264-mile journey: 4.8 gallons

Fewer gallons used than Dominic Cummings’ Land Rover: 2.0 gallons

The Kadjar and Nissan Qashqai are sister cars, so it’s unsurprising to see the Renault topping this chart.

Like its Nissan sibbling, this 110 diesel engine has been discontinued and replaced with a 115 version that hasn’t been through the rigorous True MPG test. That said, it is likely to be more economical than Mr Cummings’ 2.0-litre Land Rover Discover Sport. 

Notes

* – Model is no longer on sale. Price for comparative new model on sale

** – MPG figures based on official test using old NEDC test cycle and not current WLTP cycle 

Source: Daily Mail – Articles

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