Diesel Power! Top 10 most fuel-efficient Diesel SUVs in the Philippines

Dec 05, 2019 | Same topic: Best advice for car buyers
Filipinos hold diesel fuel near and dear to our hearts, so Philkotse is listing down the best diesel SUVs available in the Philippines for your choice.

SUVs are the next big thing in cars, with their rising sales proof that people want them more than ever. And why not? SUVs combine the space of a car with the ride height, stability and peace of mind that a truck brings.

Once gotten used to an SUV's commanding view of the road, there's little reason to go back to your low riding sedan or hatchback. The fact that half of the world's best-selling cars in 2019 so far are SUVs and trucks is proof of that.

In the Philippines, SUVs have always been sold alongside their sedan stablemates. But what caused these rigs to suddenly become popular in the last two decades? One reason is the price of fuel; although diesel-powered vehicles are typically more expensive than their gasoline counterparts, diesel fuel tends to be cheaper per liter. Another reason is that diesel brings as much as 30% more energy per volume than gasoline. And with advancements in diesel technology, oil burners are already comparable to gasoline cars in terms of acceleration. 

It started with old-school diesel SUVs in the Philippines; they were slow, unrefined, and belched out smoke more frequently than your average kapre. As they felt like the huge unwieldy trucks that they are, these SUVs were more closely associated with the ubiquitous jeepneys plying the roads. 


You don't see much of these new things around anymore

All that changed when automakers started releasing their best diesel SUVs, capturing the market as they blended well with Filipino sensibilities and budgets. This new generation of diesel 4x4 SUVs can handle far-flung provincial roads with no problems, thanks to their robust drivetrains and rugged tires. The ride height also came handy in traversing flooded roads, as well as shielding everyone on board from ruts and potholes in relative comfort.

>>> Read more: Reasons why an SUV is the best option for Filipino motorists


Back then, a station wagon was the only option if you wanted space 

That last part about comfort is thevedge that these SUVs have over sedans and hatchbacks. The ideal fuel-efficient 3 row SUVs fits seven occupants, and if you know anything about Filipino motoring, buying a car is a decision that involves the family more than anything else. You'll want to take your family out on weekend trips, whether its to the local mall or out of town - this includes everyone, their luggage, and sometimes the pets as well!

Family SUVs

These days, a family outing calls for nothing less than an SUV 

Today, we’ll be listing down the best diesel SUVs available in the Philippines in terms of fuel efficiency. From diesel compact SUVs to mid-sized SUVs, you'll find them all right here!

#1. Toyota Fortuner - 10.7 km/l (city)

No self-respecting SUV buyer will even dream of leaving out the mighty Toyota Fortuner. This model is the grand-daddy of them all; before it arrived, one's choice of SUVs was limited to gas-guzzling behemoths. With the Fortuner, Toyota proved that you can buy a fuel-efficient SUV in the Philippines and be adventurous without harming the environment.


The Toyota Fortuner is the grand-daddy of modern mid-size SUVs

The Fortuner is powered by either a 2.4L or 2.8L DOHC 16-valve inline-four D-4D with VNT (Variable Nozzle Turbo). Our choice would be the bigger mill that makes 175 hp@ 3400 RPM and 450 Nm of torque that comes in early at 1600-2400 RPM.

The 2.8L V variant can also be considered a fuel-efficient luxury SUV, offering an interior swathed in supple leather. Tested at 10.7 km/l in moderate to heavy traffic, the top-spec Fortuner bolsters Toyota’s reputation for bulletproof engines and great aftersales support. This car should definitely be on top of your list.

Toyota Fortuner 2.4 G 2WD MT 
Toyota Fortuner 2.4 G 2WD MT 
Toyota Fortuner 2.4 TRD AT 
Toyota Fortuner 2.4 V 2WD AT
Toyota Fortuner 2.8 V 4WD AT

>>> Check out Toyota Fortuner Philippines Review by car experts

#2. Mitsubishi Montero Sport - 10.6 km/l (city) 

Mitsubishi fancies itself as a force to reckon with in trucks and SUVs, and rightfully so. Their Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution led them to dominate the Dakar Rally throughout the 1990s and 2000s, with the resulting innovations trickling down to their road-going SUVs.

The research and field testing that Mitsubishi did in the sand dunes of Dakar culminate in the Montero Sport, proving itself as one of the most fuel-efficient 2020 SUVs in the Philippines.


Mitsubishi uses its WRC in Dakkar expertise in their trucks and SUVs

The Mitsubishi Montero Sport packs 179 hp @ 3,500 RPM and 430 Nm of torque @ 2,500 RPM from its 2.4L 4N15 MIVEC Clean Diesel engine. As one of the best fuel-efficient SUVs in the Philippines, its sales figures rival that of the Toyota Fortuner.

The current-generation Montero Sport recently underwent a mid-cycle refresh, giving it an even more robust and masculine look. Fuel efficiency is tested at 10.6 km/l driving in moderate to heavy traffic, proving that you can have your cake and eat it, too.

Mitsubishi Montero Sport 2.4 GLS 2WD AT
Mitsubishi Montero Sport 2.4 GT 2WD AT

#3. Nissan Terra - 9.3 km/l (city)

What do I have to say about Nissan’s offering in the SUV segment? It’s definitely tight, I’d give you that, figuratively and literally. The build quality on the dashboard and door panels as well as the upholstery is superb. Meanwhile, legroom is quite limited as a seven-seater, particularly on the rearmost seats that can barely fit average-sized adults; they are best folded down or taken out altogether, as space for five is already quite generous.  

The Terra is powered by a 2.5L YD25DDTi engine, capable of class-leading 187 hp @ 3600 RPM and 450 Nm of torque @ 2000 RPM. The sheer volume of torque prompted Nissan to skip the CVT and instead put in a seven-speed automatic transmission to take care of shifting duties.


Nissan's aggressive marketing of the Terra is paying off

Aggressive marketing efforts aside, the Nissan Terra still has a lot of catching up to do with its Japanese rivals. One thing it has going in its favor however is that it's one of Nissan’s most popular models, especially in China, with a silhouette that reminds one of a shrunken-down Nissan Patrol.

The Terra returns 9.3 kms on a single liter of fuel; a bit on the average side compared to the first two entries, but that may be due to the engine's immense power on tap, combined with a lead foot.

Nissan Terra 2.5 EL 4x2 MT
Nissan Terra 2.5 EL 4x2 AT
Nissan Terra 2.5 VL 4x2 AT
Nissan Terra 2.5 VL 4x2 AT
Nissan Terra 2.5 VL 4x4 AT

#4. Ford Everest - 9.2 km/l (city)

Ford doubles down on its alternative mid-sized SUV, taking the fight straight to the Japanese and showing them how the Americans do it: with sheer size and aplomb. The current Ford Everest shares the same engine as the Ford Ranger Raptor, a 2.0L DOHC 16-valve inline-4 CRDi with turbo intercooler. Despite being a smaller engine than the rest of the pack, it still makes a respectable 178 hp @ 3500 RPM and 420 Nm of torque between 1750 and 2500 RPM.

From the outside, it has a rugged demeanor not found on the rest of the current crop of mid-sized SUVs, and it likewise sports a no-nonsense interior similar to that of the Ford Explorer. The seats are well-padded, and feature a proper third row to accommodate the entire family.


With the Everest, Ford shows everyone else how it's done

Even with the smaller engine, power and pull are plentiful, with the added advantage of being less top-heavy. The Everest springs to life even with a light tap of the accelerator, and the advanced 10-speed automatic transmission makes use of the available power efficiently and more economically. The Ford Everest nets around 9.2 km/l in tests, respectable for a big, hulking SUV.

Ford Everest Titanium 4x2 AT
Ford Everest Titanium 4x4 AT

#5. Isuzu MU-X - 12 km/l (city)

Who can forget the crowd-favorite Isuzu MU-X, from one of the auto industry's diesel engine specialists? Isuzu markets its diesel engines to the point that they're almost always top of mind when the word "diesel" is mentioned. 

The current generation MU-X might be getting awfully long in the tooth, but it can still go head-to-head with the best of them. It offers great seating for seven, and the suspension system is set for maximum comfort without compromising performance at all.


No frills, no flash, just reliable motoring; that is the hallmark of an Isuzu

The Isuzu MU-X also has one of the most advanced diesel engines in the market, the 1.9L RZ4E engine that churns out 148 hp @ 3600 RPM and 350 Nm of torque at 1800-2600 RPM. It's not quite the 177 hp and 380 Nm of torque supplied by its bigger 3.0L counterpart, but what the RZ4E lacks in horses, it more than makes up for in terms of balance and fuel economy.

What you get from the 1.9L mill is proper off-the-line acceleration while boasting reduced weight, which translates into impressive fuel economy at 12 km/l in heavy traffic. I think people have yet to realize what a winner Isuzu has in the 1.9-liter MU-X; coupled with a six-speed automatic and a PhP 1.3 million sticker price for the entry-level variant, this is a no-brainer.

Isuzu mu-X RZ4E LS 4x2 AT
Isuzu mu-X RZ4E LS-A 4x2 MT
Isuzu mu-X RZ4E LS-A 4x2 AT
Isuzu mu-X 3.0 Blue Power LS-A 4x2 AT
Isuzu mu-X 3.0 Blue Power Luxe 4x2 AT
Isuzu mu-X 3.0 Blue Power Boondock 4x2 AT
Isuzu mu-X 3.0 Blue Power LS-A 4x4 AT

>>> Read our Isuzu MU-X Philippines Full Review to learn more about this SUV.

#6. Hyundai Santa Fe - 9 km/l (city)

The Hyundai Santa Fe ushered in the era of large compact crossovers, Unlike most diesel SUVs that tend to have body-on-frame construction, the Santa Fe uses a car-based platform, the better for comfort and performance. First introduced in the 2000s at a time when car manufacturers were still wary of taking the SUV plunge, this Hyundai was part of the bold revolution proving that Filipinos loved large cars.


The Hyundai Sante Fe is one of the largest crossovers in the market that don't use a body-on-frame build

The Hyundai Santa Fe just ups the ante on so many levels, it brings its Japanese and American rivals to shame. Hyundai’s Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 design language gives the car a certain Teutonic appeal, while the interior amenities and build quality make you forget you are driving a Korean car. There's soft leather everywhere, complemented by creature comforts and safety levels that were previously found only on European cars.

The Santa Fe runs on a 2.2L diesel engine that makes the most horsepower at 197 hp @ 3800 rpm and 423 Nm of torque @ 1800-2500 RPM. Fuel economy is pretty average at 9 km/l, but that's the last thing on your mind when you're driving one of the smoothest and most refined SUVs out there.

Hyundai Santa Fe 2.2 GLS CRDi 2WD Mid AT
Hyundai Santa Fe 2.2 GLS CRDi 2WD High AT

>>> Find the in-depth review of all Hyundai Santa Fe models here

#7. Hyundai Tucson - 9.6 km/l (city)

The Hyundai Tucson is a harbinger of sorts. Hyundai might have been looking at a crystal ball back in the early 2000s when they launched their dynamic duo of the Tucson and the Santa Fe. While the bigger Santa Fe took on compact SUV duties, the smaller Tucson became the young professional’s weapon of choice.

Today, the Hyundai Tucson has become the default choice for anyone in search of a good diesel-powered compact SUV. With its car-like dynamics and heightened ride height, it hits the SUV sweet spot perfectly.


The Tucson is the default choice for those looking for compact diesel SUVs

Power goes to the front wheels courtesy of a 2.0L DOHC 16-valve intercooled inline-4 CRDI with variable geometry turbo, good for 184 hp @ 4000 RPM and 402 Nm of torque. Along with the vehicle's compact dimensions and light weight, this makes the Tucson a veritable pocket rocket of SUVs.

You may want to take it easy on the pedal though, as having too much fun brings a penalty to the Tucson's 9.6 km/l fuel economy, but we’re sure can do better.

Hyundai Tucson 2.0 GL CRDi 2WD AT
Hyundai Tucson 2.0 GLS CRDi 2WD AT

#8. Honda CRV - 11.4 km/l (city)

The Honda CR-V is the grand-daddy of compact SUVs in the local market. This and the Toyota RAV4 are credited with starting off the SUV and crossover fever, showing car buyers that a high-riding vehicle can still deliver the driving dynamics and benefits and dynamics of a car. The one thing missing for the past two decades was a diesel option.

The CR-V had the space and capacity, but the resulting weight called for the pull of a diesel engine. In 2018, Honda finally rectified this oversight and introduced a 1.6L DTEC diesel engine, much to the delight of Honda fansin the country.


Honda finally gave in to local market demands for a diesel CR-V

The small size of the diesel mill is likely the reason that the CR-V power figures are a bit paltry, with just 118 hp @ 4000 RPM and 300 Nm of torque @ 2000 RPM. But at least its advanced 9-speed automatic transmission lets it utilize all available power effectively, propelling the vehicle forward at a consistent pace.

Fuel economy was stellar, however, netting 11.4 km/l in heavy traffic. Honda may be a little late to the diesel game in the Philippines, but the CR-V shows a lot of promise.

Honda CR-V V Diesel 7-Seater AT
Honda CR-V S Diesel 7-Seater AT
Honda CR-V SX Diesel AWD 7-Seater AT

#9. Chevrolet Trailblazer - 8 km/l (city)

Let’s get one thing straight: although the Chevrolet Trailblazer shares the same platform with the Isuzu MU-X (even down to the same dashboard and steering wheel), that's as far as their similarities go.

Chevrolet's contender for the local mid-size SUV segment takes its nameplate from the legendary Chevrolet Trailblazer of the 80s. The current model however has more amenities and is much more refined, able to welcome seven occupants in relative comfort. It is also much larger, featuring muscular wheel arches following a split-grille fascia. 


Despite rumors of a 2020 model refresh, I have to say this one looks just fine

Powering the Trailblazer is a version of the bow-tie brand's celebrated Duramax line of engines. This iteration has a 2.8L DOHC 16-valve inline-4 with variable geometry turbo, for a class-leading 197 hp @ 3800 RPM and 500 Nm of torque @ 2000 RPM. Thsi is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission that propels the SUV with aplomb, pushing you to the back of your seat with each hit of the accelerator pedal. All that weight creates a hefty penalty on fuel economy though, but 8 km/l isn't so much when you consider these levels of refinement, from a Chevy no less!

Colorado 2.5 4x2 LT MT
Colorado 2.8 4x2 LT AT
Colorado 2.8 4x2 Trail Boss AT
Colorado 2.8 4x2 LTX AT
Colorado 2.8 4x4 LTZ MT
Colorado 2.8 4x4 LTZ AT
Colorado 2.8 4x4 High Country Storm

>>> You might like to read: Top 5 best compact SUVs to buy in the Philippines in 2019

#10. Mazda CX-5 - 11.3 km/l (city)

Back in the mid-2000s, Mazda had a potential winner in the compact SUV race with the Mazda Tribute. It shared the same platform as the Ford Escape, which meant that it also had the same penchant for guzzling gas like nobody's business.

As the name implies, it was supposed to be a tribute of sorts to Mazda's heritage of fun and fast cars, even using "Zoom-Zoom" tagline ahead of the Mazda 3, but "zoom" the Tribute did not. On the contrary, it was sluggish and even less refined than its American cousin, with people clamoring for a diesel model to pull all that weight around.

>>> Learn more about this compact SUV in Mazda CX-5 Philippines Review for all models.


The Mazda CX-5 offers premium amenities and performance for less money than what its German rivals ask for

More than 15 years later, Mazda seems to have made up for that shortcoming by releasing one of their best vehicles to date, the Mazda CX-5. The crossover is graced by Mazda's modern "Kodo" design philosophy. The best part is, it comes with a diesel engine which Mazda calls the SkyActiv-D, a 2.2-liter turbocharged diesel engine that's the first of its kind in the industry for using low compression.

Diesel requires a high compression ratio for it to effectively burn every drop of fuel. Mazda used its engineering know-how to keep the diesel compression low, increasing performance and improving fuel economy. You can enjoy your 173 hp@ 4500 RPM and 420 Nm of torque at 2000 RPM while benefitting from a tested 11.3 km/l on gridlock traffic.

Mazda is one of the few companies that believe in pushing the potential of the internal combustion engine, and it shows in its product line.

CX-5 2.2 Sport Diesel AWD AT

The market has definitely seen a significant shift not only in consumer preference but in manufacturing technology as well. Whereas compact sedans were all the rage a decade ago, size has taken precedence these days, with bigger vehicles posting increasingly higher sales figures in the Philippine market. Do you still prefer the sportier, low-riding sedans and hatchbacks, or would you rather go for the size, capacity and performance of SUVs and crossovers? Drop us a comment below and follow Philkotse.com for more news, reviews, and insights on Philippine motoring!

Source: Roy Robles