3 SUVs That Can Get You Four-Wheel Drive for Under $30,000

Has the recent winter weather made you think of buying a four-wheel-drive SUV? If so, you’re not alone. However, if you’re wondering how much it costs to buy a 4WD SUV, it’s probably less than you think. One new Ford and two Jeep models are under $30,000 each. 

2022 Jeep Compass

Four-wheel-drive SUVs: 2022 Jeep Compas
2022 Jeep Compass | Jeep

Standing atop U.S. News’ “10 Cheapest Four-Wheel-Drive SUVs” list and one of only three in the sub-$30,000 range is the 2022 Jeep Compass. It has comfortable seats, an easy-to-use infotainment system with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and Jeep’s Active Drive 4X4 system. That last feature senses rear-wheel slippage and automatically engages based on the selected mode — Auto, Snow, Sport, or Sand/Mud — providing what U.S. News reviewers call “superb off-road ability.” 

Though the 2022 Jeep Compass ranks well among the affordable 4WD SUVs, it falls near the bottom compared to other small SUVs. The Compass received updated styling and suspension upgrades for 2022, but the 177-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine “feels sluggish in most driving situations” and returns below-average fuel economy for the class. Other drawbacks are sub-par cargo capacity and “mundane driving dynamics,” especially on rough roads. 

2023 Ford Bronco Sport

The compact 2023 Ford Bronco Sport earned the highest U.S. News score of the three cheapest 4WD SUVs on the list and ranked near the top of all other small SUVs. However, the Bronco Sport lost to the Compass for the cheapest 4WD SUV title because it costs $430 more. But it’s worth the increase. 

The standard 181-hp turbocharged three-cylinder engine is OK for mall-crawling, but the 250-hp turbocharged four-cylinder available on higher trims levels won’t leave you hanging when conditions demand more power. Of course, fuel economy is better with the base engine, but neither option offers numbers worthy of bragging rights. In addition, the Bronco Sport’s off-road prowess leads to a rougher ride than other small SUVs, and its basic interior design isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. However, this 4WD SUV is good at what it does well. 

2023 Jeep Renegade

The 2023 Jeep Renegade ranks in the bottom half of the subcompact SUV class thanks to a plain cabin, noisy engine, and poor fuel economy. However, as an inexpensive 4WD SUV, it comes in third for its “admirable off-road chops.” The base-model Renegade boasts the same Active Drive 4WD system as the Compass, but an affordable upgrade adds Active Drive Low with a “4-Low mode” capable of tackling challenging off-road obstacles. 

U.S. News calls the 2023 Renegade “genuinely off-road capable” and praises its standard features and user-friendly tech. However, its 177-hp 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine lacks the power required to accelerate when passing and gets below-average fuel economy for the class. But the Renegade provides agile handling with a quick steering ratio that makes maneuvering into tight parking spaces or between off-road obstacles a breeze. 

Which inexpensive 4WD SUV is the best?

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All three inexpensive 4WD SUVs on this list are fine choices for a daily driver that sees the occasional logging road. But bumping the budget up to $32,000 brings two more attractive options. 

The first, starting at $31,995, is the 2023 Jeep Wrangler. It features legendary off-road prowess and a 285-hp 3.6-liter V6. And the second option is the 2022 Ford Bronco, from $31,300. Its 300-hp turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder delivers exciting off-road performance.