A $40,000 budget for a new car doesn’t go nearly as far as it did 10 years ago, but you can still get a solid SUV for less than that. In fact, there are quite a few to choose from. But how do you know which ones are worth actually test-driving and which ones won’t let you down after the purchase?
Consumer Reports recently released a list of what it considers the best SUVs under $40,000. The list takes into account how they performed in CR’s testing, as well as the results of reader surveys and availability of relevant safety features. So if you’re in the market for a sub-$40,000 SUV, these models are a great place to start your search.
Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid
According to Consumer Reports, the hybrid is the one you want if you’re buying a Santa Fe. It has plenty of power but still gets great gas mileage and arguably rides better than the non-hybrid Santa Fe.
Hyundai Tucson Hybrid
Like with the larger Santa Fe, Consumer Reports liked the hybrid version of the Tucson better than other versions. It makes about the same amount of power as the Santa Fe, but in the smaller Tucson, expect to get better gas mileage.
Honda recently redesigned the CR-V, and to no one’s surprise, the new one is still fantastic. It could maybe use a little bit more power, but Consumer Reports like pretty much everything else about the new CR-V.
You could argue that the Outback is actually a lifted station wagon, but these days, that feels more like a distinction without a difference. The Limited XT is ever so slightly over budget but could be tempting if you think less expensive versions could use more power.
Kia Sportage Hybrid
Consumer Reports found the hybrid Sportage to be both quicker and quieter than the non-hybrid version. Across all trims, though, the Sportage also offers some of the most room in the segment.
The Venza probably won’t let you down, has a nice interior and gets fantastic gas mileage. The only downside is that it doesn’t really stand out in any other area. If you like the styling, though, at least give it a look.
You can’t get the Edge ST for less than $40,000, but the regular Edge is aging better than you might expect. Consumer Reports praised the Edge’s quiet cabin, ride quality and handling, as well as the large 12-inch touchscreen infotainment system.
Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
The Toyota RAV4 Prime gets most of the attention these days, but with that attention comes a lot of demand. Instead of paying a premium for the plug-in hybrid RAV4, Consumer Reports suggests going with the regular hybrid. It’ll still get great gas mileage but won’t cost an arm and a leg.
Speaking of high demand and lots of attention, the Kia Telluride also made CR’s list. Don’t expect sporty handling, but if you go in knowing that’s the case, you’ll probably be impressed by just about everything else the Telluride offers.
If you go crazy with the options, you can easily spend more than $50,000 on a Toyota Highlander. But the base model is still safely under the $40,000 mark even with destination included, and it’s still a great all-around family hauler.
Pretty much all the things Consumer Reports likes about the Kia Telluride are there in the Hyundai Palisade, too. But so is the lack of nimble handling. Basically, pick the one you think looks the best or can get the better deal on.
You might not have expected to see the Chevrolet Traverse on this list, but Consumer Reports found it to be a more competitive three-row crossover than many would think. It’s quiet, comfortable and responsive, and even the third row has a good bit of room.
Does the Subaru Ascent look like a slightly larger Forester? Absolutely. Is that a bad thing? Not at all. It basically takes everything people love about the Forester and adds a third row. Also, if you need a lot of cupholders, the Ascent has 19 of them.
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