The auto industry has changed more in the past few years that it has in several decades. The biggest catalyst being, of course, the countless advancements in infotainment, connectivity and safety features. Unfortunately, all these advancements don’t exactly come cheap.
The average price of a new car is now $33,560, up from $24,796 a decade ago. And while that’s the new normal, it’s still a lot of money for most people. Luckily, there are plenty of competitive vehicles to be had for far less – including most of the crossover segment. Along with the rise of all this tech, we’ve seen the crossover become one of the most vital segments in the entire industry.
What was little more than a niche segment a few years ago has given way to an explosion in popularity that’s so strong it threatens to kill off the venerable midsize sedan. So with car prices surging, and gas prices staying low, buyers are flocking to affordable CUVs like never before.
And as the segment becomes increasingly popular, and manufacturers face mounting competition, the segment just keeps getting better and better (see the 2017 Volkswagen Tiguan). From this ever-growing segment, we’ve picked nine of the most formidable crossovers you can buy for under $25,000 today.
1. Honda CR-V
For nearly two decades, Honda’s crossover hit CR-V has boasted a strong record of superb reliability, admirable fuel economy, and a voluminous cabin that can be optimized for both people and cargo. Refreshed for 2015, the CR-V is even more focused, and it’s been enough for buyers to take notice – it’s currently the best-selling SUV in America. But with prices starting at $23,445, the CR-V crosses that $25k mark quickly.
2. Mazda CX-5
Despite the CR-V’s dominance in the segment, Mazda’s CX-5 is the star of the show. Benefitting from a mild facelift for 2016, Mazda’s entry-level SUV isn’t just a joy to drive, its the best-looking in its segment. The base 2.0 liter SkyActiv engine allows the CX-5 to manage 35 mpg on the highway and 26 mpg in the city. On top of all that, the CR-V makes the CX-5 seem like a bargain – prices start at $21,795.
3. Jeep Wrangler
…and now for something completely different. With about seven decades of service behind it, the Jeep Wrangler is a solid pick for those who want an SUV that handles better off road than it does on it. With an array of trims and sizes, the Wrangler has become as versatile as it is rugged. We can’t wait for the next-generation Wrangler lineup – which includes a pickup – due in 2017.
4. Ford Escape
Ford’s redesigned Escape represents a much-need departure from the bland fleet-filler vehicle that it replaces and comes with a healthy list of tech-heavy standard features. For 2016, it benefits from Ford’s Sync3 infotainment system, the one the best systems on the market, according to Consumer Reports. Like the CR-V, however, the popular Escape sits close to that magic $25k mark – prices start at $23,100. Add a few options, and you’re well over that magic number.
5. Jeep Renegade
For car buyers who want the ruggedness of a Jeep, but aren’t quite willing to make the compromises it takes to daily drive a Wrangler, the Renegade is the Jeep to get. Released in 2015, the Renegade has become a big reason why Jeep this year is experiencing its best sales numbers in company history. The Renegade offers a lot of bang for the buck, too. Prices start at just $17,995 but in range-topping Trailhawk trim (just over budget at $25,995), it becomes far and away the most capable soft-roader in its class. We drove the Renegade in July, and our Micah Wright found that the Renegade ” tends to follow its own path while having a bit of cheeky fun along the way.” What more could you ask for in a crossover?
6. Hyundai Tucson
Once badged with the reputation as being “the cheap option” and almost fully embodying the “you get what you pay for” school of thought, Hyundai has come a long way since first arriving on American shores. All-new for 2016, our Collin Woodard drove the Tucson, and concluded: “When you look at it as an entire package, the new Hyundai Tucson offers a modern design with plenty of space, a fuel efficient engine with enough power for daily driving, available premium options, lots of safety features, and a sophisticated ride.” Starting at $22,700, Hyundai’s crossover could quickly become a serious player in the segment.
7. Chevrolet Trax
New in the U.S. for 2015, the Trax is a fun, capable little crossover that instantly put Chevy in the thick of the crossover segment. Starting at $20,300, the Trax delivers a lot of bang for the buck, like a turbocharged 1.4 liter Ecotec inline four, electronic stability control, 10 standard airbags, and a combined 34 miles per gallon. Our Micah Wright drove the Trax, and concluded: “Put it all together and you have a car that’s perfect for for first-time buyers or teens.”
8. Toyota Rav4
Toyota’s venerable Rav4 has been around even longer than the CR-V, making it the old guard of the crossover segment. Benefitting from a refresh for 2016, the Rav4 is hoping to knock the reigning Honda off its best-selling position. But while the 2.5-liter inline four is a respectable engine with good fuel economy, there is no upgrade option, potentially putting the Rav4 at a slight disadvantage to its competition.
9. Subaru Forester
For those car buyers that need an SUV, but hate the idea of owning one, the Subaru Forester offers the best compromise in the entire segment. Boasting one of the best all-wheel drive systems in the industry, the Forester is a good option for all kinds of weather or terrain. Add to it a handsome, simple wagon-like profile, top safety scores, and good fuel economy (32 highway, 24 city), the Subaru is a strong pick on just about all fronts.
Additional reporting by James Derek Sapienza