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Just because an SUV is popular doesn’t mean it’s fun to drive. A driver’s car should provide agile handling, quick acceleration, a smooth ride, and intuitive controls. If you want an affordable, driver-friendly vehicle, consider these two-row SUVs.

1. 2024 Mazda CX-5

2024 Mazda CX-5 Carbon Turbo: driver-friendly SUV, compact 2-row SUV
2024 Mazda CX-5 Carbon Turbo | Mazda North American Operations

With snappy handling and energetic engines, the 2024 Mazda CX-5 specializes in driver enjoyment. This compact crossover’s Turbo trims pack a 256-hp turbo-four engine that’s quick and relatively fuel-efficient. Even models with the standard 187-hp four-cylinder have all-wheel drive. 

The Mazda CX-5 provides numerous features that make driving more pleasant. Auto Hold allows the driver to leave the vehicle idling without pressing the brake pedal. Also, standard G-Vectoring Control Plus delivers excellent cornering abilities with precise braking and engine adjustments. Furthermore, the center controls have an intuitive layout, making them easy to use alongside the main display’s dial next to the gear shifter. This enjoyable two-row SUV starts at $29,300.

2. 2024 Dodge Hornet

Subcompact two-row SUV: 2024 Dodge Hornet GT
2024 Dodge Hornet GT | Stellantis

If you’ve ever wanted a two-row SUV with sports car styling, check out the 2024 Dodge Hornet. Starting at $30,735, this subcompact crossover boasts an aggressive 268-hp turbo-four engine and AWD. Dodge claims the Hornet GT can reach 60 mph in 6.5 seconds. But opting for the hybrid setup in the R/T trim will add 20 hp and shave nearly a second off that time. 

Additionally, the Hornet has an athletic aesthetic that most rivals can’t replicate. Get the Track Pack to unlock Alcantara seats, an active suspension setup, and flashy Brembo brakes. Starting on the GT Plus trim, drivers can listen to their favorite playlists in high definition with a premium Harman Kardon audio system.

3. 2024 Hyundai Kona

The 2024 Hyundai Kona on a dirt road
2024 Hyundai Kona | Hyundai

Another driver-friendly SUV is the subcompact 2024 Hyundai Kona. It appeals to budge-conscious buyers with a starting price of $24,100. The 147-hp base engine is best suited for fuel efficiency, allowing the Kona to earn up to 30/35 mpg city/highway. But drivers who value speed should consider either of the turbocharged powerplants.

The Kona’s interior is also a standout in this segment, giving backseat riders over 38 inches of legroom. Meanwhile, drivers will enjoy a 12.3-inch infotainment screen with rich graphics and automatic over-the-air updates. Also, every original owner of a new 2024 Kona will get a free lifetime subscription to Hyundai’s connected services. 

4. 2024 Kia Sportage

A rear shot of the trunk and taillights on a 2024 Kia Sportage X-Pro compact SUV model as the sun sets in the wild
2024 Kia Sportage X-Pro | Kia

One of the 2024 Kia Sportage’s best attributes is its spacious cabin, giving all occupants over 41 inches of legroom. The rear seats also slide back for extra passenger space. Additionally, the Sportage boasts plenty of cargo space. Indeed, with 39.6 cubic feet behind the back row and 74.1 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks folded flat, this compact two-row SUV leads the segment in cargo capacity.

Adding to its drivability, the 2024 Sportage packs a peppy 187-hp four-cylinder engine, an impressive safety suite, and off-roading trims for more adventuresome drivers.

5. 2024 Honda CR-V


10 Midsize 2-Row SUVs With the Most Cargo Space

Honda’s compact two-row SUV is famous for its smooth, reserved ride. However, thanks to its latest redesign, the 2024 CR-V boasts satisfying handling, too. Per Honda, upgrading to the Sport Hybrid, Sport-L Hybrid, or Sport Touring Hybrid trims brings a responsive, fuel-efficient 204-hp setup achieving 40/34 mpg city/highway.

Plus, all riders can expect a roomy cabin and incredibly comfortable seating. The driver’s seat has additional pelvic and lumbar support to make longer commutes a joy instead of a chore. Like the Sportage, the CR-V provides plenty of cargo space. And like all of the driver-friendly SUVs on this list, well-equipped CR-V trims cost well under $40,000.