Choosing an Affordable SUV Means 2WD, Maybe a Stick
Though they typically get worse gas mileage and cost more than a similarly sized car, SUVs remain a popular choice with consumers. They ride higher and provide a better view of the road ahead, they impart an active lifestyle in the rugged outdoors, and they provide flexible space combined with the ability to carry plenty of cargo. Additionally, there are several affordable SUVs for 2012, though choosing one of them requires compromise.
The most affordable SUVs for 2012 cost less than $20,000, and the least expensive model runs $15,995 before applying the destination charge. Paying a low price for an affordable sport utility vehicle, however, means settling for two-wheel drive and, potentially, a manual gearbox. Adding all-wheel drive and an automatic will push the price higher, and that’s before installing options.
From a pricing standpoint, these five sport-utes are the best affordable SUVs of 2012, listed in declining order of price from most to least expensive.
You can buy a 2012 Hyundai Tucson GL with a six-speed manual transmission and front-wheel drive for $19,145, plus the destination charge. If you want an automatic transmission, plan to pay an extra $1,000. All-wheel drive requires the Tucson GLS and an outlay of nearly $25,000.
You can get a good set of snow tires for less than that.
The good news is that the Santa Fe GL is equipped with a 165-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, rated to get 23 mpg in combined driving. Air conditioning, power windows, power door locks with remote keyless entry, a tilt steering wheel, a height-adjustable driver’s seat, dark tinted rear privacy glass, and a trip computer are standard. The 160-watt stereo includes satellite radio, a USB/iPod connection, an auxiliary audio input jack, and six speakers. The Tucson also comes with four-wheel-disc antilock brakes, Hillstart Assist Control, and Downhill Brake Control.
Add Hyundai’s standard 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty and comprehensive basic warranty with 24-hour roadside assistance for five years or 60,000 miles, and the Tucson is clearly one of the best affordable SUVs for 2012.
The Dodge Journey AVP (American Value Package) is the largest model on this list of affordable SUVs for 2012, offering up to 67.4 cu-ft. of cargo space and seating for up to seven passengers in three rows of seats. For some people, that alone makes it the best affordable SUV of 2012. There are, however, other reasons to consider the Journey AVP.
For example, it comes standard with an automatic transmission. Additional features include air conditioning with dual-zone temperature control, heated power side mirrors, power windows, Keyless Go entry and push-button starting, a tilt/telescopic steering wheel, cruise control, and a height-adjustable driver’s seat. The Journey AVP also has a 4.3-inch touchscreen radio with a USB port, an auxiliary audio input jack, and six speakers. The Journey’s second-row seat also provides fore/aft adjustment to help make more room for passengers or cargo, and this SUV offers in-floor storage bins in the second-row seating area.
The standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine makes 173 horsepower, and is rated to get 22 mpg in combined driving. Dodge also provides a standard five-year/100,000-mile warranty on the Journey’s powertrain. The Journey can be equipped with all-wheel drive, but that requires SXT trim and a V6 engine, bringing the price tag to well over $26,000.
Obviously, value seekers want to stick with the AVP model. With more interior room and seating capacity than any other vehicle on this list, the Journey AVP definitely ranks as one of the best affordable SUVs of 2012.
The least expensive path to Mitsubishi Outlander Sport ownership is to choose the ES model with front-wheel drive and a five-speed manual gearbox, which costs $18,795 plus destination. If you don’t want to shift your own gears, a continuously variable transmission (CVT) is available for an extra $1,500, and adds a set of alloy wheels to this, one of the most affordable SUVs of 2012. All-wheel drive is only offered on the SE model, and the price starts at $23,295.
A 148-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is standard on all Outlander Sports, and is rated to get 26 mpg in combined driving with the manual transmission. Hill Start Assist technology is included in the base price, and Mitsubishi covers the engine and transmission with a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, while the rest of the vehicle is protected by a five-year/60,000-mile warranty with free roadside assistance for five years and no mileage limit.
Standard features for the Outlander Sport ES include air conditioning, power windows, power door locks, power heated side mirrors, a tilt/telescopic steering wheel, cruise control, a height-adjustable driver’s seat, and floor mats. Mitsubishi’s FUSE audio system with a USB port and Bluetooth hands-free connectivity is also standard, along with a trip computer, dark tinted rear privacy glass, and LED taillights.
Though less powerful than other affordable SUVs of 2012, the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport nonetheless represents good value.
If you seek style and sophistication in an affordable sport-utility vehicle, it’s impossible to beat the 2012 Kia Sportage.
Granted, the one selling for $18,500 is equipped with a six-speed manual transmission, but it has a 2.4-liter four-cylinder making 176 horsepower, more than any other model on this list of the most affordable SUVs for 2012. In combined driving, this powertrain combination is rated to get 24 mpg, and Kia covers the engine and transmission for 10 years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first. Additionally, the Sportage is protected by a five-year/60,000-mile warranty, and features free 24-hour roadside assistance for that period of time.
The Sportage isn’t a stripped-down SUV, either. It comes standard with aluminum wheels, air conditioning, power side mirrors, power windows, power door locks, a tilt steering wheel, and a trip computer. The stereo includes Bluetooth hands-free calling and audio streaming, along with satellite radio, an auxiliary audio input jack, and a USB/iPod connection. The Sportage is also equipped with four-wheel-disc brakes, Hill-start Assist Control, and Downhill Brake Control.
If you want an automatic transmission, the LX trim level is a requirement, and the Sportage’s price jumps to $20,800. All-wheel drive adds another $1,500 on top of that. Still, there’s no denying that the Sportage is one of the most affordable SUVs for 2012, and one of the most appealing.
You can buy a 2012 Jeep Patriot for $15,995, plus destination charges. Not only does this make the Patriot the most affordable SUV of 2012, it also makes the Patriot one of the most affordable vehicles, period.
Where you’re saving money over other models on this list is in the Patriot Sport’s manually-adjustable side mirrors, manual door locks, and roll-‘em-down-yourself windows, which double as the only form of air conditioning. But hey, you get fog lights. The Patriot Sport also includes a tilt steering wheel, cruise control, floor mats, an outside temperature indicator, and dark tinted rear privacy glass.
The standard 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is good for 158 horsepower, and drives the front wheels through a five-speed manual gearbox. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) is available for $1,100, and all-wheel drive can be added for $1,750, which includes a stronger 172-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine.
Where the Jeep Patriot offers value is in its “Trail Rated” off-roading ability, when properly equipped. To achieve true four-wheeling capability, add the Freedom Drive II Off-Road Group to a Patriot Sport with all-wheel drive, for a total of $20,820. You still won’t have air conditioning or any power conveniences, but you’ll be able to go places none of these other affordable 2012 SUVs can.