10 Cool SUVs for Less Than $40,000

We get it, you don’t want just an SUV, you want a cool SUV. Sure, you can get (surprisingly) well-equipped a Hyundai Tucson or a Nissan Murano for $40,000. But for $40,000 you should be able to find something cooler. Right? Why not set your sights higher and pick something that has some more personality than your run-of-the-mill two-box SUV that looks like every other two-box SUV in the pickup line.

We’ve found 10 cool SUVs that are less than $40,00 that will make a statement.

Dodge Durango is an old-school cool SUV for less than $40,000

A 2023 Dodge Durango midsize SUV with a hood vent and racing stripe on a racetrack
2023 Dodge Durango | FCA

The Dodge Durango has been around for a decade now, and Dodge has had to spice it up with special editions. What’s cooler than a special edition, right? Even with the Pentastar V6 that you can get a Durango for less than $40,000 and it still moves along nicely. A 2022 Durango starts around $38,500 for the SXT, but even in base trim you get 20-inch rims, and a cool interior with a driver’s cockpit ripped from a Challenger, and it includes the T-handle shifter that makes you feel like you’re coming right out of “Vanishing Point.”

We’d spring for the Blacktop Package, which blacks out all of the trim and gives the Durango a Darth Vader look.

The Lexus UX brings cool to a small SUV

These small luxury SUVs under $40,000 include the Lexus UX
2019 Lexus UX SUV | Lexus

The UX 250h Premium just slips in under the $40,000 barrier, at $39,785 for an all-wheel drive SUV. And let’s face it, the UX is a lot cooler than a Toyota RAV4, or a Kia Sorento, even if it’s a bit smaller. The base UX is around $35,000, but the premium adds a lot of features that you want, including a large touchscreen. Also, how can you not love the UX’s striking two-tone leather interior?

Every UX for 2023 is a hybrid, so you can also expect stellar gas mileage, but not super quick acceleration. Behind the wheel, you should be able to notice that Lexus has re-balanced the suspension for 2023 and added some stiffness and road feel for a cooler driving experience.

Audi Q3 will impress the neighbors

A red Audi Q3 luxury subcompact SUV is parked.
The 2023 Audi Q3 subcompact SUV | Audi

For $38,700, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more stylish SUV than a Q3. The Audi looks good, it has ample interior room and high-quality materials, and though the numbers don’t say “big power,” when your right foot goes down, the Q3 scoots. Even at the base Premium trim, you get 18-inch wheels, and all-wheel drive, and for 2023 Audi added the cooler S-line styling kit, which was an option last year.

Also, since this is Audi, the Q3 is available in some really cool colors, like Turbo Blue and Tango Red Metallic that really show off the pearlized paint.

A cool Mercedes SUV for less than $40,000? The GLB could fit the bill

Sure, the GLA is cheaper. But the GLB looks like a proper SUV, like a small G-Wagon you can actually park. The GLB starts at $38,600 and it comes with a 221-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Compared to others on this list, it’s a bit larger, it has more presence, and who’s to say that giant three-pointed star on the grille doesn’t add a bit of panache?

Really, where the GLB shines is on the inside, where you’re greeted by a steering wheel with so many buttons it wouldn’t look out of place in a Formula 1 race car. It also uses Mercedes’s latest interior design philosophy, which means turbine ducts and a pair of large screens on the dash, that give it a sleek and sophisticated look others can’t match. But, it will get a facelift in 2024, according to Motor1.

Yes, the Mini Countryman is small, but proper, SUV

A black 2022 Mini Countryman on a racetrakc.
2022 Mini Cooper Countryman | Mini

SUV purists will scoff at the idea of a Mini SUV. Laugh all you want, because the Mini Cooper Countryman may be small, but it packs a punch and even has some off-road chops. These subcompact SUVs are as fun to drive as their car counterparts, and with a starting price of $34,950, a well-optioned Countryman isn’t out of reach. In fact, the if you add everything Mini can toss at the Countryman in the John Cooper Works All4 package, you’ll spend no more than $40,125.

There’s actually plenty of room for taller folks in the back, just don’t expect to carry a ton of luggage in the Mini because it’s, well, mini. But, even in the $46,000 mid-level All4 version you get a large touchscreen with navigation, 18-inch wheels, a booming stereo, and your choice of some stunning color combinations.

VW Atlas Cross Sport is cooler than an Atlas for less than $40,000

A gray 2022 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport premium two-row midsize SUV model driving on a forest highway road
2022 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport | Volkswagen of America, Inc. Newspress Limited

The VW Atlas Cross Sport isn’t the fastest midsize SUV. Ok, with that out of the way, we can talk about how cool it looks with VW’s modern smooth styling taken to the max. The Atlas has three rows, the Atlas Cross Sport, though, trades the giant rear cargo area and third row for a sloping rear cargo area that ditches the way back, for a much cooler SUV look. It starts at $33,910, which means you can add a lot of options to the Cross Sport and still stay under $40,000.

The SE with Technology package adds LED lights, power mirrors, heated seats, and wireless charging for about $39,000

The Highlander can be a cool SUV for less than $40,000

The 2023 Toyota Highlander SUV in Cypress Green seen here
A 2023 Toyota Highlander | Toyota

Is the Highlander cool? Well, in this SUVs case, it may be cool because of what it’s compared to. Let’s face it, if you’re looking at a Highlander you’re probably cross-shopping it with minivans like the Toyota Sienna, because it’s large, sedate, and holds a ton of stuff and up to eight people. But, this SUV looks like an SUV. Step-up to the LE trim for $38,820, and you may be surprised at how nicely appointed it can be.

The X1 is a great entry into a BMW SUV for less than $40,000

An orange 2023 BMW X1 driving down a windy road.
2023 BMW X1 | BMW

The same folks who say the Mini Countryman isn’t an SUV will look at the all-new BMW X1 and say the same thing. The two share the same platform. The $38,600  BMW X1 has some advantages over the Mini, but they’re mainly cosmetic. It, too, comes in many colors, and the interior color options like the black on red cloth seats are striking. Also, since it’s all new for 2023, it will stay looking cool for years to come.

However, when it comes to coolness, BMWs are marmite. They strike some as insanely cool and others not so much. But, if you like the BMW look, feel, and the grunt of a nice turbo four-cylinder, it’s hard to beat the X1, BMW’s least expensive SUV.

Jeep Wrangler because, of course, the Wrangler is cool

A red 2023 Jeep Wrangler off-road SUV driving through a muddy creek as it rains
2023 Jeep Wrangler | FCA

The Jeep Wrangler is cool because it’s a Wrangler. What else has a solid front axle and can tackle the wildlands better? And, while we think of these as premium SUVs, they start at around $30,000 and you can get an Unlimited Sport S four-door version for $38,560. For that, you get a Jeep’s two-speed four-wheel drive, a 7-inch Uconnect display, and all the fun that comes with top-down Jeep driving. We do, however, love the $80 grab handle package, which can keep passengers inside the Jeep when you’re bounding through the rough stuff.

The new Ford Bronco SUV can be less than $40,000

A yellow Ford Bronco midsize SUV is driving off-road.
The Ford Bronco | Ford

Like the Wrangler, the Ford Bronco seems like it should cost more. The Bronco is, out of the box, a go-anywhere retro-themed SUV that can go anywhere and embarrass lesser SUVs on the trails. While $38,950 isn’t cheap, the Black Diamond two-door Bronco adds a ton of great stuff, like heated seats and remote start, as well as SYNC4 and even a 110-volt AC outlet. It comes with the 2.3-liter EcoBoost four and, for those that want to have even more fun, you can get a seven-speed manual box.

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