Skip to main content

The Hyundai Tucson checks a lot of boxes in the sub-$30,000 SUV world. And, for the 2022 model year, it was totally redesigned and became bolder and smoother in the process. That stylish redesign echoes much more expensive five-seat SUVs, like Toyota’s Venza, and put others on notice that Hyundai was coming to take their lunch money. But Ford, Toyota, Mazda, VW, and Honda are all trying to show that they, too, can build a premium SUV for less than $30,000.

Is the 2023 Tucson worth it?

2023 Hyundai Tucson on a dirt road
2023 Hyundai Tucson | Hyundai

Since the Tucson got a complete redesign for 2022, Hyundai made minimal changes for 2023. The SEL package does get new H-Tex seating, which is Hyundai’s leatherette material. Wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are also both standard now. Other than that, the new model hasn’t changed and still comes with its 187-horsepose 2.5-liter four-cylinder, funky push-button shifter, and touch controls for the AC.

It may look sort of like a Toyota Venza, but it competes with SUVs that are about $5,000 less than Toyota’s luxury RAV4.  The Tucson does come in hybrid and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) versions, but they cost more than $30,000. As a bonus, this near-luxury SUV starts at $26,450, but you can step up to the gas-powered SEL for $28,050 and still have some dough left over for options. The Tucson also holds up to 80.3 cubic feet of gear with the seats folded.

Ford’s all-new 2023 Escape aims to be the American alternative for the Hyundai Tucson

2023 Ford Escape PHEV whats new
2023 Ford Escape PHEV | Ford

Ford has launched a new Escape that, finally, may challenge the best. The new Escape starts at $28,995 and has new styling that looks right in light with the Mustang Mach E, and with 18-inch or 19-inch wheels, it has an aggressive stance. Ford’s new Escape also has power that puts it nearly on par with the Tucson from a 1.5-liter three-cylinder that now makes 180 horsepower.

The new Escape has 65.4 cubic feet of space for your gear. With the new styling, though, it should look new for several years while others (RAV4, we’re looking at you) haven’t seen a major update in a few years. The fun version is expected to be the ST, but according to CNET we will have to wait on that trim level.

Toyota RAV4 is the best-selling Hyundai Tucson Alternative

Toyota hit a home run with the current RAV4, and it’s setting sales records as we speak. It’s hard to fault the RAV4 with its spacious cabin, good looks, and the Toyota name to back up its reliability. Also, with a base price of $27,575 (or just $30,225 for the Hybrid), and the upgraded XLE coming in at just under $30,000, it packs in a lot of value. It also makes more power than a Tucson, 203 horsepower, from its 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder.

But, the RAV4 doesn’t ride nearly as smoothly as the Tucson. Also, the Tucson’s interior leans more towards the luxury end of the spectrum than the mainstream-feeling RAV4. It’s also a good bit smaller than the Tucson, with just 69.8 cubic feet of room for your gear.

The Honda HR-V is a bit smaller, but it’s all new for 2023

The 2023 HR-V is Honda’s newest effort to dominate the sub-$30,000 SUV landscape. Sure, it’s all new, and it has styling that makes it look like a more expensive CR-V that was left in the dryer for too long. The new HR-V has a more car-like interior, which means it feels like a car, just taller. But, in what may go down as one of Honda’s missteps of 2023, it comes with an engine that makes just 141 horsepower, which means it’s down on power by about 40% from the Tucson.

The HRV starts at $23,650 and a fully optioned EX-L runs just $27,450. That EX-L version adds a 9-inch touchscreen, am 8-way power driver’s seat, parking sensors and a lot more that could make it easier to live with daily. While you can get more options for the money, you can’t get more space. The HR-V holds just 55.1 cubic feet of stuff with the seats folded.

The Mazda CX-5 is a great, sporty, alternative

A red 2022 Mazda CX-5 compact crossover SUV driving under a bridge at night

The Mazda CX-5, and its related CX-50, pack in a lot of value for less than $30,000, and that’s probably why the CX-5 it’s the brand’s best-selling vehicle in the U.S. While the base model starts at $26,700, the mid-level 2.5 S Preferred comes in at $29,590. For that, you get power, heated, leather-trimmed seats in your choice of seven colors, a moonroof, and the Homelink garage door opener. The CX-5 is also an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Top Safety Pick Plus-rated SUV.

All-wheel drive is standard on this sporty-handling SUV. Unfortunately, the hot 2.5-liter turbocharged engine with 256 horsepower starts well beyond our $30,000 price point at $36,850.

VW Tiguan is a three-row Tucson Alternative for less than $30,000

A blue 2022 Volkswagen Tiguan driving down a snowy road. It's the cheapest three-row SUV.
2022 Volkswagen Tiguan | Volkswagen

The VW Tiguan S brings the styling and much of the interior capability of the Atlas to a lower price point. It starts at $27,885 and comes standard with seven seats, and as a bonus the second-row slides and reclines. The third row even splits 50/50. Sure, inside it’s a bit basic, but the cloth seats have a high-quality feel and the front seats are heated. It also earns high marks for safety.

The S has manual air conditioning, while the more expensive trims of the Tiguan offer more goodies, like heated steering wheels and leather trim. However, even the base Tiguan has a 6.5-inch touchscreen with smartphone integration, several drivers aids like forward collision alert and even VW’s 8-inch Digital Cockpit. The Tiguan comes with VW’s ubiquitous 184-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine.


What is the Best 3-Row SUV Under $30,000?