2017 Honda CR V Hero Profile ・ Photo by Honda
When tasked with finding a list of the best vehicles based on price, the price is usually the best place to start. To come up with our list of the 10 best new SUVs under $30,000, we narrowed down our options, in all classes, to models with base prices within that budget. From there, we chose the SUVs with the best rankings according to various sources, the highest sales numbers, or the most features — just to make it interesting.
We arranged our list in descending order by MSRP, so keep in mind that the most expensive models to make the cut will likely cost more than $30,000 after adding options, destination charges, and taxes.
The Nissan Murano just barely makes our list of the best SUVs under $30,000 thanks to its entry-level MSRP, which leaves no margin for error. Yet, fans of the Murano would tell you it’s money well spent, since once you’re inside this mid-size SUV, it feels much more expensive than it the bottom line price indicates. The cabin is one of the nicest in the class, not just at this price point, but at several price points higher, with a sharp design, easy-to-use tech equipment, and absolutely fantastic seats. The Murano’s engine is more than adequate and returns impressive fuel economy. If you’re okay with possibly spending a little more than $30,000, the Murano should be on your list.
Photo by Nissan
The Ford Edge is a stalwart entry in the mid-size SUV class, and a solid contender in our list of the best SUVs for under $30,000. With a comfortable interior and car-like handling, it’s popular for a reason. The Edge has a more powerful base engine than its lower-priced competition, and offers good fuel economy, to boot. That said, some of the Edge’s cost-cutting measures are obvious, such as hard plastics throughout the cabin where many competitors have soft-touch materials instead. While the Edge fits neatly into our $30,000 budget, it’s not exactly cheap. Still, it’s not a bad choice for a midsize SUV as long as all the pros and cons are weighed.
Photo by Ford
We’ll be frank — the Sorento’s entry-level MSRP quoted above is reasonable for a mid-size SUV, but a fully-equipped Sorento can top out at nearly twice that price. What’s more, many of the Sorento’s desireable upscale features can’t be had at a price within the limits of our list. Yet, the 2017 Kia Sorento is still one of the best new suvs available for less than $30,000. How’s that? Well, just because the loaded-up model is too expensive, that doesn’t mean the base model isn’t good. The Sorento has fantastic safety scores, reassuring reliability ratings, and great all-around quality. The base engine is powerful enough, the infotainment system is easy to use, and a third row is available. Just beware feature creep to keep the bottom line within budget.
Photo by Kia
If you’re looking for an affordable SUV at the lowest possible price, the Hyundai Santa Fe Sport probably isn’t what you want. If you’re willing to spend a little more to get a really good mid-size SUV, though, the Santa Fe Sport is an excellent choice, especially if you’d like the option of a third row to increase seating capacity to seven. It’s been updated for this year, too, bringing it right in line with newer models in the class. Hyundai loads the Santa Fe Sport with desirable and user-friendly technology, which helps make its price even more reasonable. Buyers with a little more to spend have options to increase the Santa Fe Sport’s power, but if it’s important to stay under that 30-grand mark, you don’t really need to.
Photo by Hyundai
The Honda CR-V is, hands down, one of the best compact SUVs in the class. Make no mistake about that. It’s the CR-V’s starting price that lands it at the middle of the pack, and although it’s a little high for a compact SUV, it’s arguably worth it, since Honda includes features than many competitors bundle in options packages or make available only in higher-up trim levels. The CR-V is fully redesigned for this year, more spacious and more generally likable than ever, retaining its strong reliability and safety scores. A couple different engines are available, and if your budget allows for it, we recommend upgrading to the turbocharged 4-cylinder. It provides only a bit more power, but the fuel economy gains are worth it.
Photo by Honda
If you’re reading a best-on-a-budget list, you’ll probably find a Mazda vehicle. For the best SUVs under $30,000, we chose the CX-5, a sporty yet practical compact SUV that has been completely redesigned for this year. Its power is only average for the class, but this crossover is comfortable and fun to drive. The CX-5 is one of the few vehicles in the class that doesn’t make use of a turbocharger to boost the engine’s power, which is a deliberate choice from Mazda -- because there’s none of the unpleasant turbo lag that causes jumpy acceleration. The CX-5 accelerates smoothly and the suspension is a willing partner for curvy roads. The interior’s spacious and comfortable, too.
Photo by Mazda
The Ford Escape is one of the best-sellers in the compact SUV class, which makes a strong case for its inclusion on a list of the 10 best new suvs under $30,000. Even better, all but the top trim level of the Escape, with optional four-wheel drive tacked on, fall within that price range. That said, a fully-loaded Escape adds up to nearly 40 grand, so be careful with that options sheet. It’s tempting — the Escape offers some great features and a variety of turbocharged engines — but if budget is your priority, as it is ours for this little project, you can still get a nicely-equipped Escape for a reasonable amount of money.
Photo by Ford
The popular Hyundai Tucson is classified as a compact, but it’s one of those vehicles that feels a lot more spacious inside that the exterior makes it seem. That alone is one of the reasons why this is one of the best in its class — although there’s more to the Tucson’s success than a comfortable cabin. The Tucson has a very competitive starting price, great safety and reliability statistics, and an excellent warranty. There are lots of standard features included in the Tucson and more options on the menu, and its low starting price affords room to play with a $30,000 budget. Hyundai adds Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration to the lineup for 2017.
Photo by Hyundai
The entry-level Subaru Forester has a really attractive price, earning it a great spot on our list of the 10 best new suvs under $30,000. The Forester definitely isn’t one of the more upscale models on our list, but it’s one of the most functional. It comes with standard all-wheel drive, seats five passengers, and has best-in-class cargo capacity. For buyers who are on the more practical side, it’s easy to embrace those features and overlook the fact that the Forester doesn’t make any pretense at being glamorous. The Forester lineup has different engine options within our $30,000 budget, too. For 2017, Subaru adds new optional active safety features to the Forester lineup.
Photo by Subaru
All trim levels of Honda’s peppy subcompact SUV start well under our $30,000 mark, so if you’re looking to load up your new vehicle, the HR-V is an excellent choice. Sure, it’s on the small side, but Honda is expert at making smaller models feel like they’re just the right size. In fact, the HR-V has a larger and more spacious second row than many potential buyers might expect, and it’s also got good cargo space, particularly for the class. If the HR-V has a drawback, it’s the fact that there’s only one available engine with rather modest horsepower specs, but even then, it’s still not bad considering that you got a great new subcompact SUV on a used-car budget.
Photo by Honda