The best crossovers and SUVs under $35,000 in 2020

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The CR-V is one of the most well-rounded crossovers on sale today.


Honda

America has spoken, and it wants crossovers. Sport-utility vehicles of all shapes and sizes have taken the automotive industry by storm, and it’s not hard to see why. Whether you’re aiming big or small, these boxy vehicles pack cargo capacity in spades, and they’re often quite well-equipped, to boot.

Even better, some of the best SUVs you can buy aren’t gated behind window stickers that require a firstborn’s blood. Peek around for some crossovers under the new-car average transaction price of about $35,000, and you’ll be met with surprising quantities of quality. And if you’re the techy sort, you’re in luck, because many of these vehicles pack some of the latest and greatest tech offered across the entire automotive industry. Here are some of our favorites in that price rage.

Do note, though, that while many of these vehicles may start under $35,000, they don’t stay that way once you pile on options such as flashy paint colors and big expanses of glass overhead. But, just like most other parts of life, there’s still a little wiggle room to get what you want.

Honda CR-V

The Honda CR-V is a good-looking crossover with plenty of in-cabin tech, including the Honda Sensing suite of advanced driver-assistance systems and Apple CarPlay integration.

The available turbocharged 1.5-liter engine offers more than adequate power, though the continuously variable transmission occasionally makes power delivery sluggish. If that’s not enough thrift, there’s a new hybrid variant on offer, too.

The interior is a huge upgrade from the CR-Vs of yore, with comfy leather seating and satin-finish wood-like accents. The digital instrument panel packs plenty of information into a small space while remaining legible.

— Chris Paukert

Kia Niro Hybrid

The Kia Niro may not be the sexiest thing on four wheels, or even the sexiest thing in Kia’s lineup, but the Niro Hybrid is an exceedingly competent little car that returns amazing mileage. It’s super easy to see real-world fuel economy of 50 mpg in the base Niro Hybrid.

The Niro offers frugal transportation without feeling like a penalty box. You can load it up with a full smattering of luxury and tech features (for an added cost, of course). And, for the 2020 model year, the Niro received some nips and tucks to both its aesthetics and tech.

— Antuan Goodwin

Mazda CX-5

Like all Mazdas, the CX-5 is the best-handling crossover in its class. Great design and a plush interior make it wonderful to live with. The CX-5 will definitely out-handle rivals including the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 or Ford Escape.

The CX-5 has a nicely appointed interior, but its in-car tech falls short. The Mazda Connect system is sometimes hard to use, but 2020 models now have standard safety tech across the whole lineup, which is a nice touch.

— Emme Hall

Subaru Forester

Boxy and inherently rugged, the Forester has always been the kind of car to ride its own wave. The brand-new 2019 model packed promising tech into a familiar package, but for the 2020 model year, Subaru bumped up the standard features to pile on the value even further.

The latest Forester loses its turbocharged engine option, and a CVT is the only transmission available, but standard all-wheel drive is absolutely a strong selling point in this class.

The Forester is be just like any other Subaru: comfy, capable and, most importantly, good value for the money.

— Tim Stevens

Toyota 4Runner

The 4Runner is by far the most serious off-roader on our list, with its biggish engine and body-on-frame construction. But while it’s super capable off-road, it gives up surprisingly little civility on-road.

The 4Runner is awesome but getting a little long in the tooth. You’ll notice a lack of advanced safety options, teensy touchscreens and borderline-embarrassing fuel economy for a modern SUV.

The 4Runner is an old-school Toyota in the proudest traditions of ruggedness, good build quality and excellent value for money. Outdated it may be, but we still love it. And the updates keep coming, too. For the 2020 model year, the 4Runner picked up new trims and new tech.

— Jon Wong

Volkswagen Atlas

Why live in 2020 when you could live in 2021? The 2021 VW Atlas, which lands at dealers in the spring, picks up a whole host of updates, most of which are borrowed from its slinkier sibling, the two-row Atlas Cross Sport. It’s definitely better in the looks department and the Atlas continues to provide a good value by offering above-average tech and solid build quality.

Of course, there are still downsides. While VW has democratized its tech across the lineup to some degree, all the cool stuff like Digital Cockpit is still locked behind higher, more expensive trims. Don’t forget to spring for all-wheel drive if you think it’s necessary, too.

— Andrew Krok

Volvo XC40

With a handsome exterior and interior trimmings that feel nicer than its price would suggest, this little guy from Gothenburg is one of our favorite SUVs no matter how much it costs. And yes, its base price just squeezes in below our $35,000 cap, but even the least-expensive XC40 is very nicely equipped.

The cabin is truly comfortable and pretty spacious considering its size. The Sensus infotainment system sure looks pretty, but we find its myriad menus and laggy response times frustrating.

Volvo’s new car subscription service launched with the XC40, meaning you can get nicely equipped Momentum or R-Design models for $700 a month or $800 a month, respectively. That cost includes car insurance and maintenance. It’s an all-in-one service.

— Steven Ewing

Chevy Blazer

The Chevy Blazer seemed to come out of nowhere, largely because its design doesn’t really speak to the heritage of its fabled nameplate. That may upset some self-appointed purists who think anything with the name “Blazer” on the side needs to be a body-on-frame truck, but they’ll be missing out on a pretty cool crossover SUV.

The Blazer wears its Camaro-derived looks particularly well. Plus, this two-row crossover should appeal to a lot of shoppers with its variety of engines on offer, including a 2.5-liter I4, a new-for-2020 2.0-liter turbo I4 and an available 3.6-liter V6 that features 308 horsepower. The Blazer offers solid infotainment, connectivity and advanced safety gear, all in a wieldy package that starts at $28,800 before destination charges and options.

— Chris Paukert

Kia Telluride

Here’s the thing about the Kia Telluride: It’s low-key great. The Telluride doesn’t go out of its way to blow your mind with wild character lines and body creases. It doesn’t have huge horsepower or crazy off-road prowess. It’s just handsome without being shouty. it’s well-built, well-equipped, comfortable as all hell and affordable.

The Telluride looks a lot smaller than you’d expect, given that it has three rows of seats. It’s a proud midsize SUV, but it’s easy to park, agile enough to get around even a notoriously congested city like Los Angeles and has vast amounts of cargo space for you to fill with whatever weird ephemera your lifestyle generates.

— Kyle Hyatt

Hyundai Kona

Sure, it’s a weird-lookin’ little thing, but Hyundai’s new Kona SUV is one of our favorites in the subcompact class. With its vibrant color palette and love-it-or-hate-it styling, it’s sure to make a bolder statement than other, more conventionally styled crossovers.

But the Kona isn’t just a book to be judged by its cover. Inside, there’s a wealth of convenience and tech features. And with its optional turbocharged engine, it’s pretty darn good to drive, too. Hyundai even makes a fully electric version of the plucky little Kona, if EV life is more your speed.

— Steven Ewing

Mazda CX-30

The CX-30 is Mazda’s latest small crossover SUV entry that has a lot going for it. It’s stylish, with clean, flowing body lines for a sporty look on the outside, while the interior is truly impressive for the class with luxury-level materials, an intuitive layout and serviceable space for passengers and cargo. On the technology front, the Mazda Connect infotainment interface is clunkier to use but is feature rich, and safety equipment like adaptive cruise, forward collision warning with auto braking, lane-departure warning and blind-spot monitoring are all standard.

Being a Mazda, the CX-30’s biggest selling point is how it drives. Make sure the car is in Sport mode for peppier performance from the 2.5-liter I4 making 186 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. Combine that with a wonderfully tuned chassis that offers quick turn-in, composed cornering and strong brakes and you have a crossover that’s a fair bit of fun to toss around. And it still manages to provide a comfortable and quiet ride for normal driving. 

— Jon Wong

Hyundai Palisade

The Hyundai Palisade is a mighty impressive machine for under $35,000. It’s big, comfortable and buyers can snag a well-equipped SEL model for just under our price ceiling.

No matter the trim, the Palisade coddles drivers and does its best to make sure as little disturbance as possible enters the cabin. Road noise disappears, while potholes and crummy roads rarely upset the Palisade. Cabin materials punch above their weight, technology is easy to use and passengers in the first and second rows will, at a minimum, find a place to plug their phones in with USB ports scattered about.  

— Sean Szymkowski

Audi Q3

The first-gen Audi Q3 hung around for what felt like a decade, but now, there’s a brand-new version available, and it makes a great little crossover even better.

The 2020 Audi Q3’s style is sharper than before, and the interior gets gussied up in certain specs with a rockin’ orange trim. It’s bigger than before, so it can accommodate more cargo with ease, and its 228-horsepower I4 engine provides more than enough grunt for scootin’ around the city. It’s a great way to sneak into a luxury car at a decent price.

— Andrew Krok

Hyundai Venue

While the tiny Hyundai Venue may not be available with all-wheel drive, it has more character than many crossovers in larger size classes and price brackets. The Venue’s funky styling sets it apart from its competitors, and the Denim edition is especially cool with its two-tone exterior and all-blue interior. It’s packaged well too, offering more interior space than you’d expect.

Even at $17,350 to start the base Venue SE has features like an 8-inch touchscreen, lane-keeping assist and automatic headlights. Moving up in the trim level brings more advanced stuff like automatic climate control, LED exterior lighting, navigation and blind-spot monitoring. Despite only having a 121-hp four-cylinder and a CVT, it’s pretty peppy and handles well, too. The Hyundai Venue is what more small cars should be like.  

— Daniel Golson


First published June 12, 2019.



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