While it is true that small cars often get the best gas mileage, they generally are poor at driving in snow or other difficult conditions. All-wheel-drive vehicles are better at this, but most have poorer gas mileage. However, it is still possible to find an AWD automobile which has relatively good gas mileage (no less than 20 MPG in city/town areas). Few trucks meet this criteria, but a number of small SUVs, station wagons, and other cars do.
SUBARU: Most AWD cars and SUVs made by Subaru have gas mileage in the 20-30MPG range. For example, the 2000 Subaru Forester and Subaru Legacy Wagon both (with automatic transmission) receive about 22-27 MPG. There is also usually not much difference in gas mileage between Subaru sedans and wagons.
TOYOTA: The new Toyota AWD hybrid vehicles have high gas mileage, but are still quite expensive to purchase. The 2001 Toyota RAV4 gets 23-27 miles per gallon. The older 1992 Toyota Corolla All-Trac wagon receives about 23-29.
EAGLE: The 1995 AWD version (with manual transmission) of the now-discontinued Eagle brand’s Summit Wagon receives 20-24 MPG. The 1998 Eagle Talon AWD version sports car gets about 21-28 miles per gallon.
AUDI: Audi offers several car models available in Quattro versions, meaning that they have all wheel drive. Depending upon the model, Quattro versions usually range from about 17-31 MPG. The 1999 Audi A4 Quattro has gas mileage of about 21-29MPG, and the 2007 Audi A4 Avant Quattro gets 22-31.
MERCEDES: Some all-wheel-drive Mercedes cars (identified as “4Matic” versions) meet this criteria, although not all of them do. The 2002 Mercedes E320 4Matic gets 20-27 MPG, and the 2007 ML320 CDI 4Matic SUV receives 21-27 miles per gallon.
MAZDA: The manual-transmission version of the 2003 Mazda Tribute SUV gets 22-25 MPG. Most other AWD Mazda vehicles, including trucks and MPV wagons/vans, do not get a minimum of 20 MPG in city/town driving.
ISUZU: The small Isuzu Amigo SUV gets about 20-23 MPG in the manual transmission 2.2 liter version, although the other AWD variations on it have lower gas mileage. None of the 2007 Isuzu all-wheel-drive models meet the 20+ city/town MPG criteria for this article.
PLYMOUTH: The AWD version of the 1992 Plymouth Laser sports car receives about 20-25 miles per gallon. The ’93 Plymouth Colt Vista AWD station wagon gets 22-26 MPG, and 20-24 in the 1994 model. Most or all newer Plymouth vehicles are not available in AWD versions or have too low gas mileage.
SUZUKI: Some of Suzuki’s smaller sport utility vehicles and cars have high gas mileage. The 2003 Suzuki Vitara gets 22-25 MPG, and the Suzuki Aerio car gets 24-28 MPG. The older 1994 Suzuki Sidekick 4WD receives 23-26 MPG. Small Suzuki SUVs generally are more efficient than the similar Jeep Wrangler vehicles.
MITSUBISHI: The 2005 Mitsubishi Outlander SUV gets 21-27 miles per gallon, while the ’95 Expo AWD wagon/van gets 20-24 MPG, and the ’97 Eclipse sports car receives 21-28.
VOLKSWAGEN: The 4Motion version of the 2004 Volkswagen Passet Wagon receives about 20-30 MPG (depending upon transmission type); the sedan version’s gas mileage shows little difference. Most other VW models are not available with AWD, and the Vanagon Syncro 4WD van of the late ’80s and early ’90s only gets about 16 miles per gallon.
JEEP: Most Jeeps have poor gas mileage below 20MPG. However, there are a few exceptions, like the 1992 Jeep Comanche truck (2.5 liter, manual version) which gets 20-22 MPG, the 2006 diesel Jeep Cherokee (22-26 MPG), and the 2007 Jeep Compass SUV (23-26/automatic or 25-29/manual).
While there are surely other vehicles which fit this criteria that I have overlooked, this gives you a number of models to consider purchasing if you need an automobile of this type. Keep in mind that the fuel, transmission, and engine type on different versions of the same model can significantly affect its fuel efficiency.
Miles per gallon statistics were gathered from the FuelEconomy.gov website.