2020 Honda CR V front three quarter driving hybrid ・ Photo by Honda
What’s the very best SUV for the money? To answer that question, we need to know two things: How much money? And what do you need from your SUV?
Whatever you plan to spend, and whatever you want, there are potentially excellent SUV choices in today’s highly competitive marketplace. But everyone is looking for something different. In selecting the 10 best SUVs for the money, we brought together a range of sizes, prices, and strengths to help ensure there’s the best one for you. Keep reading to learn about our choices and see which one meets your needs and budget. We’ve ordered them by price.
All-new for 2021, the Kia Seltos is an affordable subcompact crossover that avoids feeling either tiny or cheap. Even though it starts at just $21,990, the Seltos has the styling of a pricier SUV — a sharp contrast to most subcompacts, which often look like slightly raised hatchbacks or try to be funky rather than classy.
The Seltos isn’t just a handsome face. It also has an adult-friendly rear seat, cargo volume is above average, all-wheel-drive comes standard on most trim levels (including the base version), and the infotainment is both modern and user-friendly. On the road, it has agile handling and a choice of two decently peppy and fuel-efficient four-cylinder engines; the engines make 146 horsepower and 175 horsepower, respectively, and manage 27 mpg to 31 mpg in mixed driving depending on the version. And Kia’s long warranty eliminates mechanical-repair costs for years and years. Some SUV buyers will pay extra for extra space, a quieter ride, more power, and fancier interiors, but the 2021 Kia Seltos already delivers all the roominess, feature content, and driving experience that many folks need.
Photo by Kia
The 2020 Mazda CX-30 is another newly introduced subcompact crossover that looks and feels more expensive than its $21,900 base price. The difference is that while the Kia Seltos is spacious and functional, the CX-30 is sleek and sporty.
The CX-30 is a slightly taller version of the Mazda3 hatchback, and the difference between the two Mazdas isn’t dramatic, either for better or for worse. They share excellent handling composure, a peppy 186-horsepower engine, and a luxuriously finished interior. However, the CX-30 sits lower than the more SUV-like Seltos, and it has less rear-seat and cargo space. Its gas mileage is slightly worse, too: a maximum of 28 mpg in mixed driving. Overall, it’s the least like an SUV of the vehicles on our list — but if you prioritize on-road comfort, performance, and luxury over maximum utility, it’s still one of the best for the money.
Photo by Mazda
The 2020 Honda CR-V is one of America’s best-selling vehicles, and it’s easy to see why. This compact crossover gets better gas mileage than many subcompacts — up to 30 mpg in mixed driving with its base engine and 38 mpg with the newly available gas-electric hybrid powertrain — along with more passenger and cargo space than many mid-size models.
The CR-V doesn’t just impress on paper. Its newly freshened styling is cleaner and more handsome than before, and it offers an agreeable blend of a smooth ride with decently agile handling. That’s all for a base price of $25,030, which this year includes more standard safety features. You could spend more to get fancier interior materials, a more powerful engine, and a slicker infotainment system. But as long as you don’t need to seat more than five passengers, the CR-V delivers everything most buyers could need.
Photo by Honda
The 2020 Subaru Outback is a crossover version of the Legacy mid-size sedan, and it’s newly redesigned for the 2020 model year. Though its base price of $26,645 is similar to all-wheel-drive compact crossovers like the Honda CR-V (most of which come standard with front-wheel-drive), the Outback is a mid-size model that feels like a higher class of vehicle.
Compared to most compact crossovers, the Outback is smoother-riding, quieter, and more powerful. That’s especially true if you get its newly available 260-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine (rather than the base 182-horsepower unit). And both engines are impressively fuel-efficient, managing an EPA-estimated 26 mpg and 29 mpg, respectively. The Outback’s station-wagon-like styling will turn off some SUV buyers, but Subaru’s renowned all-wheel-drive system and its generous ground clearance are ready for action.
Photo by Subaru
When you need to seat more than five passengers, our favorite SUV for the money is the all-new 2020 Kia Telluride. You can get seven-seat SUVs for less than the Telluride’s base price of $31,890 — including Kia’s own Sorento — but you’d have to spend much more to match this vehicle’s combination of spaciousness, luxury, and safety.
The Telluride looks and feels like it should cost $5,000 to $10,000 more, with an upscale design, rich interior materials, lots of available features, and tons of passenger space across all three rows of seats. The base model is a highly functional family car with lots of standard safety tech. Add all the options, and you have a bargain-priced luxury car. Either way, it’s one of the best SUVs for the money. The main reasons to spend more than the Telluride are to get a higher-end badge or sportier performance.
Photo by Kia
Most SUV buyers are looking for a roomy interior and a high seating position. Others have actual work in mind, such as towing a large trailer. Most of those gravitate toward a full-size SUV like the Ford Expedition or Chevrolet Tahoe. But there’s an often-overlooked alternative: the 2020 Dodge Durango, one of the last relatively affordable SUVs to offer a burly V8 engine.
Priced from just $30,495, the Durango comes standard with a 3.6-liter 295-horsepower V6 engine that can tow 6,200 pounds. That already thumps the typical mid-size/large crossover, as most top out at 5,000 pounds. But you can also upgrade to the optional 5.7-liter “Hemi” V8 on some trim levels for a towing capacity of 7,400 pounds. A luxuriously equipped V8-powered Durango Citadel model still costs less than even the base price of a typical full-size SUV. The $62,995 SRT model switches to a ferociously quick 6.4-liter Hemi, provides remarkably agile handling, and tows even more: up to 8,700 pounds. The Durango also has a decently roomy interior with three rows of seats, but its crash-test scores and fuel economy aren’t stellar.
Photo by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
When you’re ready for a luxury vehicle but don’t need a huge one, the newly introduced 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 compact crossover is one of the best SUVs for the money. It’s less expensive than the brand’s GLC, but it has more room. That’s because the GLC shares its performance-focused rear-wheel-drive-based platform with Benz’s C-Class luxury sports sedan, while the GLB uses a more space-efficient but less fancy architecture from the cheaper A-Class and CLA sedans.
But nothing about the GLB looks like penny-pinching. It wears the same familiar Mercedes design as the prestigious company’s pricier luxury SUVs, and it shares their high-end interior materials and cutting-edge infotainment technology. Prices start at $36,600 — no tiny sum for a compact SUV, but still a lot of Benz for the money.
Photo by Mercedes-Benz
When you’re looking for blindingly fast acceleration and also want to save on gasoline, the best option is an all-electric luxury SUV. And when you want the best one for the money, the newly introduced 2020 Tesla Model Y is the way to go.
With a base price of $48,000, it’s much less expensive than Tesla’s larger Model X or the competing Jaguar I-Pace and Audi e-Tron. But while you give up some interior space, you don’t have to sacrifice world-beating performance (0-60 mph in as little as 3.5 seconds), range (315 miles per charge), or efficiency (the equivalent of 121 miles per gallon, the best of any current SUV). Once you know you want an electric luxury SUV, the bigger challenge won’t be deciding whether you want a Model Y, but finding one you can buy. There’s a waiting list.
Photo by Tesla
When you want the most room for the money in your luxury SUV, our first choice is the 2020 Acura MDX. Priced from $44,500 with lots of standard features, and fully loaded for just over $60,000, it has three rows of seats — including a usable third row — at the price of most European brands’ small SUVs. The MDX also sweetens the deal with a smooth, powerful V6 engine and agreeably agile handling.
The MDX doesn’t deliver the vault-like feel of the highest-end luxury SUVs, the richest possible interior materials, or the most cutting-edge infotainment system. But that’s why they can cost tens of thousands more. The MDX isn’t the most luxurious three-row SUV you can buy, but you get a lot for the money. What’s more, the MDX Sport Hybrid adds electric motors to achieve exceptional fuel economy in low-speed driving: 26 mpg in the city under EPA test conditions versus 19 mpg city for the gas-only MDX.
Photo by Acura
As we thought about the weaker points of the Acura MDX, 2020 Audi Q7 is one of the high-end vehicles we had in mind as a contrast. It’s more expensive — it starts at $54,800, and that’s with a four-cylinder engine standard versus the Acura’s V6 — and its third-row seat isn’t quite as roomy. But when you want a top-tier luxury experience, the Q7 can be worth the extra money.
The Q7 delivers responsive handling without feeling insubstantial, slicing through the air as it moves confidently and quietly down the road. Its world-class composure is complemented by first-rate interior materials and a newly redesigned infotainment system with beautiful displays, extra-quick responses to inputs, and integrated Google Earth satellite views.
Photo by Audi