Moving up to a midsize SUV means sacrificing a bit in fuel economy – but savvy consumers can still come out the winner when it comes to choosing the Best Midsize MPG SUVs.

Using fuel economy estimates from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and combing through comments from automotive experts, we’ve arrived at the following trio of Best Midsize MPG SUVs:

  • Mazda CX-7Hands-down, the Mazda CX-7 is number one in fuel economy for non-hybrid midsize SUVs. For 2010, CX-7 gets a new base 161-hp 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine (the same one used in Mazda3 and Mazda5) that achieves class-leading non-hybrid EPA fuel economy estimates of 20 mpg city/28 mpg highway. Edmunds hails CX-7’s “sharp design…peppy acceleration, precise handling and a feeling that you’re perfectly connected to the road,” while noting drawbacks such as cargo capacity and rear passenger room. U.S. News and World Report cites lack of manual transmission as negative, as well as high price relative to the competition. But CX-7’s car-like, sporty handling and excellent crash test scores are major plusses.
  • Hyundai Santa FeU.S. News and World Report calls the 5-passenger midsize Hyundai Santa Fe “a great value within its class,” and “one of the least expensive midsize SUVs.” For 2010, the front-wheel drive (FWD) Santa Fe receives a new 2.4-liter 4-cylinder base engine that achieves an estimated EPA fuel economy of 19 mpg city/26 mpg highway with standard 5-speed manual transmission. That’s among the best in its class. But there’s no longer an optional third row, and handling and power are “unremarkable.” Edmunds calls the current model “one of the better values in the $20,000-$30,000 price bracket of the midsize crossover SUV class.”
  • Volkswagen TouaregThe premium midsize 2010 Volkswagen Touareg features standard all-wheel drive (AWD) and 6-speed automatic transmission. The V6 TDI model is powered by a 221-hp 3.0-liter turbodiesel engine that gets EPA-estimated 18 mpg city/25 mpg highway – which is 25 percent better fuel economy than the gasoline-powered 3.6-liter engine. Edmunds says Touareg “combines extraordinary on-road civility and luxury with real off-road prowess, and it offers an excellent turbodiesel V6.” Don’t look for third-row seating or extra cargo capacity, however, and Touareg can get pricey. Consumer Guide says, “These VWs…reward owners with first-class cabin décor, competent SUV road manners, and terrific off-road prowess,” and the diesel is “frugal,” adding “useful around-town power when compared to the gasoline V6.”

Other contenders for Best Midsize MPG SUVs include Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia, Honda Pilot, and Nissan Murano.

See a list of the top 10 SUVs with best MPG

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