The wide range of SUVs on the market means that no matter what you need in a utility vehicle, there's probably one available to fill your niche, whether it's people carrying, cargo hauling, trailer towing, or off-roading. sport utility vehicles run the gamut from inexpensive and compact to costly and lumbering, but somewhere in the middle are the SUVs that offer the best value for the money. While sport utility vehicles aren’t for everyone, let’s take a look at some of our favorite buys in the SUV segment and see if there’s one for you.
10 Best SUVs for the Money
10 Best SUVs for the Money
Photo Credit: General Motors
2016 Buick Encore
The Buick Encore is a subcompact crossover suv that is available in either front-wheel or all-wheel drive. All Encores are powered by a turbocharged 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine, which makes 138 horsepower in Ecotec guise, or optionally 153 horsepower in SIDI guise. Interestingly, the more powerful engine is also the more economical and a more likely contender for best SUV for the money. The extra weight of the all-wheel drive system (and the extra work the engine has to do to overcome it) can be felt when driving the two back-to-back, with even more downshifting required from the transmission to keep up with traffic than in the front-wheel drive version. The Buick Encore is top-rated in all crash-test categories, except the NHTSA’s rollover test, where it scored four stars.
Photo Credit: General Motors
2016 Chevrolet Trax
The Chevrolet Trax, another one of the best value SUVs on the market, is a small 5-seat crossover that is powered by a turbocharged 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine. Front-wheel drive versions of the Trax come in at a featherweight 2,805 lbs, but somehow all-wheel drive versions weigh over 400 lbs more than that, which seems excessive and hurts fuel economy, which lags well behind front-wheel drive models. Ride and handling is respectable for the class, but not up to the standards set by the class leaders, and acceleration is leisurely. While the Trax is quite narrow, there's plenty of room in most dimensions, and it does a good job of insulating the interior from road, wind and engine noise.
Photo Credit: Ford
2017 Ford Escape
The Ford Escape is a compact crossover SUV that has been redesigned for the 2017 model year with a new front and rear, and some updates to the engine lineup that increase its qualifications as one of the best SUVs for the money. The base model's naturally aspirated 4-cylinder remains, but a new 1.5-liter EcoBoost engine makes 179 horsepower, while the 2.0-liter EcoBoost now makes 245 horsepower. Both EcoBoost engines now also come with an auto stop/start system, but fuel economy is actually down about 1 mile per gallon across the board compared to last year’s model. The Escape is a nice handling vehicle with Torque Vectoring Control that can transfer torque to the wheels with the most grip, and all-wheel drive models feature an Intelligent 4WD System that can transfer torque from the front wheels to the rear wheels.
Photo Credit: Honda
2016 Honda HR-V
Another of the highest value SUVs, the Honda HR-V is a small crossover SUV that is based on the same platform as the subcompact Fit. The only available engine in the HR-V is a 1.8-liter inline-4 that isn’t especially powerful, but is economical and will keep up with traffic both at the lights and on the highway. A continuously variable transmission is the only option on 4-wheel drive models, while front-wheel drive models are also available with a 6-speed manual. Inside, Honda has paid attention to the details, and the HR-V is roomy enough for four adults with adequate storage and cargo space. The interior is quiet, and the ride is smooth, without any of the harshness associated with some of the more sporty compact SUVs.
Photo Credit: Hyundai
2016 Hyundai Tucson
The Hyundai Tucson is a good value compact sport utility vehicle, but like the rest of the crossover breed, the chances of seeing one off-road is quite slim; as such, front-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is optional on all models. The base engine is a normally-aspirated 2.0-liter engine backed by a 6-speed automatic, while higher end trims get a slightly more powerful turbocharged 1.6-liter powerplant and a 7-speed automatic. The interior is spacious enough for four normal-sized adults and has plenty of storage compartments, but cargo space can’t match the best in the class. Higher end models get a nice interior, but entry-level versions are less impressive. The Tucson isn’t a sporty SUV, but it is fairly quick, competent through the corners and rides well. It’s also safe, receiving the IIHS’ Top Safety Pick+ designation for 2016.
Photo Credit: FCA Media
2016 Jeep Renegade
The Jeep Renegade is available in either front-wheel or all-wheel drive, and in the latter form is one of the few small subcompact crossover SUVs that can perform off-road, especially in the "Trail Rated" Trailhawk trim. Engine choices include a pair of 4-cylinders, the first a turbocharged 1.4-liter unit with 160 horsepower that is paired with a 6-speed manual transmission, the second a normally aspirated 2.4-liter powerplant that makes 180 horsepower and is mated to a 9-speed automatic. While the Renegade’s front seats are roomy and storage space is good, the rear seats can be a bit crowded. Unlike previous small Jeeps, the Renegade is fairly quiet and comfortable, and we love the Jeep touches hidden around this best value SUV.
Photo Credit: Ford
2016 Jeep Wrangler
The value-laden Jeep Wrangler is a descendant of the first SUVs, and it still uses the tried and tested body-on-frame construction and solid axles that has made it so good off-road for so long. There have been some upgrades over the years; power now comes from a powerful modern V6, the interior has been improved and is no longer a giant slab of hard plastic, and electronic sway-bar disconnects allow maximum axle articulation off-road while maintaining stability on road. The downsides to the Wrangler are a rough ride and poor handling (though better than in years past), high fuel consumption, and less-than-stellar crash test ratings. You have a better chance of arriving at your destination in a Wrangler than in most anything else, but don’t expect to arrive in comfort.
Photo Credit: Kia Media
2016 Kia Sorento
The Kia Sorento is a midsize crossover SUV that is available with three rows of seating, which accommodates up to seven passengers and helps make this SUV one of the best values on the market. The Sorento’s handling and steering have been improved over previous models, but it still isn’t particularly exciting to drive, even with the top of the line 290-horsepower V6. Other engine options include the base 2.4-liter 4-cylinder, and a zippy turbocharged 2.0-liter powerplant. All of the engines are backed by a 6-speed automatic transmission that sends power to the front wheels, or optionally all four wheels. The interior has also been updated with better materials and redesigned controls, the third row of seating is remarkably usable, and there is even room for a reasonable amount of cargo behind it. Towing capacity ranges from 2,000 lbs for the entry level option all the way up to 5,000 lbs with the V6.
Photo Credit: Mazda
2016 Mazda CX-3
The CX-3 compact SUV is a typical Mazda vehicle, with sporty good looks, great handling, and an excellent value. The only powertrain available is a normally-aspirated 2.0-liter inline-4 backed by a 6-speed automatic transmission that sends 146 horsepower to the front wheels, or optionally to all four wheels. Whether measured based on comfort or on style, the CX-3 features one of the best interiors in the class, with comfortable seats, nice materials and a good amount of sound deadening. The front seats are roomy enough, but the rear seats are a bit tight, and probably best suited for a maximum of two children. Thanks to its light weight, the CX-3 is reasonably quick and features excellent fuel economy. Overall, the CX-3 is one of the best small SUVs on the market.
Photo Credit: Toyota
2016 Toyota RAV4
The Toyota RAV4 is a compact crossover SUV, and one of the few SUVs that is available as a hybrid model. The RAV4 was updated for the 2016 model year, with a slight exterior facelift and an improved interior with better materials, new trim and an updated instrument cluster. The cabin is roomy, with more than adequate cargo room, and the ride is comfortable. The standard powertrain is a normally aspirated 2.5-liter 4-cylinder that makes 176 horsepower and sends power to either the front or all four wheels. Hybrid versions use a modified version of the same powerplant combined with electric motors (one of which is mounted in the rear to provide all-wheel drive) that combine to generate 194 horsepower, making it both quicker and more economical than the standard version. The Toyota RAV4 is an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ selection, meaning it's one of the safest vehicles on the road, further making it one of the best SUV values on the market.