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When you think about Subarus, you probably think about all-wheel-drive cars and crossover suvs designed to battle winter blizzards and journey further into the, um, Outback than a typical vehicle can. After years of exposure to the company’s advertising, you might also wonder what it is, exactly, that makes a Subaru a Subaru. As it turns out, in addition to AWD, fuel efficiency is high on the list and three of the brand’s models are in the top 5, best all-wheel-drive MPG cars.
With summer half over and strange weather patterns affecting most of the country, we started considering what winter might bring, and how drivers might best combat severe weather during the colder months. Given that consumers are sensitive to fuel economy, and because most car buyers choose automatic transmissions, we decided to find out which vehicles equipped with all- or four-wheel drive and an automatic were the most fuel-efficient on the road today.
The results were just as surprising to us as they are to you, but not, apparently, to Subaru. We list the best awd mpg cars here, from most fuel-efficient to, well, least most fuel-efficient.
Best MPG AWD Cars with Automatic Transmissions: Subaru Impreza
The Subaru Impreza is the most fuel-efficient vehicle you can buy with an all-wheel-drive system, rated to get 27 mpg in the city, 36 mpg on the highway, and 30 mpg in combined driving when equipped with a Lineartronic continuously variable transmission. Redesigned for 2012, the Impreza is sold in 5-door hatchback and 4-door sedan body styles, each equipped with a new 2.0-liter horizontally opposed 4-cylinder engine making 148 horsepower. Though the Lineartronic CVT produces the best mpg all-wheel-drive fuel economy, the standard 5-speed manual transmission is no slouch, putting up numbers nearly as impressive. No pun intended.
Best MPG AWD Cars with Automatic Transmissions: Subaru XV Crosstrek
Remember the Impreza Outback Sport? Good. Now forget it, because next year the 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek replaces it. The new XV Crosstrek is based on the 5-door Impreza hatchback, but Subaru fortifies the chassis and modifies the styling to give this compact crossover SUV a distinct personality. Under the hood, though, the XV Crosstrek’s Impreza-ness bleeds through in the form of a 148-horsepower, 2.0-liter horizontally opposed 4-cylinder engine that’s connected to Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT. Given the similarities between the two models, it comes as no surprise to find it in the #2 slot on our list of best all-wheel-drive mpg cars thanks to fuel economy ratings of 25 mpg in the city, 33 mpg on the highway, and 28 mpg in combined driving.
Best MPG AWD Cars with Automatic Transmissions: Subaru Legacy
If the Subaru Impreza is a little too small for your family sedan needs, try the Subaru Legacy, which for 2013 is the third best AWD mpg car. The 2013 Legacy is equipped with a new 2.5-liter horizontally opposed 4-cylinder engine that’s both more powerful and more fuel-efficient. Combined with a new version of the Lineartronic CVT, the 2013 Legacy is rated to get 24 mpg in the city, 32 mpg on the highway, and 27 mpg in combined driving. Not bad for a roomy, mid-sized, all-wheel-drive family car. Additionally, the 2013 Legacy is modestly restyled and re-tuned, and is available with Subaru’s new EyeSight driver-assist safety technology.
Best MPG AWD Cars with Automatic Transmissions: BMW 528i xDrive
Luxury car buyers looking for great fuel economy should consider test-driving the BMW 528i xDrive, a mid-level sport sedan that delivers 22 mpg in the city, 32 mpg on the highway, and 26 mpg in combined driving courtesy of a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine and an 8-speed automatic transmission. Part of the magic here is BMW’s new automatic stop/start technology, which shuts the engine off while the car is idling in traffic or at intersections. The other part is Driving Dynamics Control technology, which programs the 528i’s powertrain to deliver maximum fuel efficiency when the driver select ECO PRO mode, making the 528i one of the best all-wheel-drive mpg cars on the road.
Best MPG AWD Cars with Automatic Transmissions: Mazda CX-5
The 2013 Mazda CX-5 is notable for two reasons. First, it debuts Mazda’s new “Kodo” design theme, which will roll out to all models in years to come. Second, and more important, the CX-5 is the first Mazda to get a full suite of “SkyActiv” engine technologies, which combine lightweight vehicle construction with fuel-efficient, direct-injected 4-cylinder engines. Installed in the CX-5, the 2.0-liter SkyActiv G 4-cylinder engine makes 155 horsepower, and when paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive is rated to get 25 mpg in the city, 31 mpg on the highway, and 28 mpg in combined driving, impressively joining our list of best all-wheel-drive mpg cars.