In the last few years, sedan sales have been dropping while SUVs and crossovers are flying off dealer lots. However, getting a quality SUV for under $20,000 can be tricky.
Most of your options are going to be in the subcompact category. But in recent years, auto manufacturers have started making more affordable midsize options, too. The following list from several auto experts in the field offers everything from SUVs that are more family-oriented to vehicles that are built for dirt and mud.
Chances are you'll see something you like.
The Ford EcoSport is one of the most affordable options in its class. Though some believe that the car is underpowered, even with the 166-hp upgrade, it's an affordable, compact SUV that should be an option when you want to stick to your budget.
One of the EcoSport's most redeeming qualities is that it can tow up to 2,000 pounds when properly equipped. Few, if any, other subcompact SUVs can do the same. The fuel economy is average - 27 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway. The seats are supportive, and there's plenty of leg room if you're up front. But, as is the case with most subcompacts, it's a tighter squeeze in the back.
Overall, if you're looking for an affordable, compact SUV, the EcoSport is a great option.
The Fiat 500X is a subcompact crossover that is sporty and stylish compared to others in the class. Though you do lose some cargo space in exchange for the design, you'll get an upscale feel on the inside without an unreasonable price tag.
The SUV comes standard with front-wheel drive, but you can upgrade to all-wheel drive for increased traction control. The 500X handles well for its size and price point, too. While this subcompact was not necessarily built for off-roading, it's a great option when you want a bit more size without compromising on internal comfort.
The Fiat outdoes the Ford EcoSport in gas mileage with 25 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway.
Unlike some of the other SUVs on this list, the Jeep Renegade is built for off-roading. This makes it no surprise that it rides smoothly in the city, but you can still take it off-roading. If you're planning on off-roading with your Jeep regularly, it's a good idea to upgrade to a higher trim - you'll get four-wheel drive and more for your money that way.
Speaking of handling, the Jeep Renegade comes with Jeep's Selec-Terrain driving mode controller. This means you can change different features depending on how you want to use your car. You'll also have to upgrade if you want certain tech features, like Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. Luckily, the touchscreen and infotainment system come standard.
The Jeep also comes with average cargo space, more than options like the Fiat 500X. The front passenger seat folds down if you're carrying awkwardly shaped items and need more space. Jeeps are always built to haul and, luckily, they're built for comfort, too.
The HR-V undeniably has the best of everything buyers look for in a subcompact SUV: features, affordability, efficiency and reliability, to name just a few. It's a dependable option that handles more like a sedan than a crossover. And, with the Honda name, it's easy to maintain for years to come.
With a 4-cylinder 141-hp engine, the HR-V is great in the city but can feel slightly underpowered on the highway. While manual transmission is standard, it's best to upgrade to automatic. You'll save on gas mileage by doing so, with 28 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway.
The HR-V has more room than a lot of other subcompacts in the class. The seats fold in unique ways so you can carry both cargo and passengers. With most standard wants included, you won't have to upgrade much of anything to have an HR-V you'll love to drive.
The Hyundai Kona gets the highest overall score on this list, and for good reason. It handles well, comes standard with a powerful engine, is reliable, and has an excellent powertrain warranty. If you're looking to invest in a subcompact, and keep it for some time, the Kona is a great choice.
This subcompact comes standard with a 147-hp engine, but is available up to 175 hp. You can even upgrade to all-wheel drive for just $1,300. The car comes standard with an infotainment system that supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Like other subcompacts, space is more limited in the back of the vehicle. However, even when you have passengers in the rear, there is plenty of cargo space. When you fold down the seats, it's even better.
While it's true that a $20,000 budget might limit the SUVs available or the features you can get, it doesn't mean you can't get an SUV. The above 5 options are all good choices - regardless of whether you keep it more standard or upgrade to all-wheel drive.
Remember that you can always purchase an SUV used, too. This will increase the number of options that you have, and make it easier to fit the car you want into your price range.