There must be something in the water at auto manufacturers’ headquarters because all of a sudden the under-$25,000 SUV is hot. Whether that’s a premium version of a basic SUV, like Nissan Kicks, or the base version of a more premium SUV like the VW Taos, $25,000 is a magic number for 2023. We can’t tell you what’s in the water, but we can say, these six fit the bill.
The Corolla Cross brings space and all-wheel drive
The Toyota Corolla Cross in LE trim, which is in the middle of the lineup, comes in at $24,795. For a small SUV that trades on value, the Corolla Cross packs in a lot, including a leather trimmed tilt/telescoping wheel, Bluetooth voice control, radar cruise control and more. It also comes standard with Toyota Safety Sense 2.0, which means it gets a blind spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert. But, critically, the Corolla Cross LE comes standard with all-wheel drive and wireless charging.
The Corolla Cross rides on the same platform as the C-HR, but it’s larger inside and out. It is an all-new model for 2022 from Toyota that aims to bring a Corolla-like feeling, and top safety marks, to the SUV world. The Corolla Cross is also larger than it seems, with 65.5 cubic feet of storage when the seats are folded. At J.D. Power, it gets a higher-than-average score.
Nissan doubles down for SUVs under $25,000 with two for 2023
Nissan has two offerings under $25,000 that each make a case. The base Rogue Sport starts at $24,960, while the top-of-the-line Kicks SR starts at $22,850. The Rogue Sport seats five, has a healthy 141 horsepower engine, and comes with Nissan Safety Shield 360, which means it has several safety aids like automatic emergency braking. But it you want to spend less than $25,000, you have to stay away from any options, and there are plenty that are tempting like all-wheel drive, and Nissan’s semi-autonomous ProPilot system.
The Kicks, however, can be fully optioned for less than $25,000, and that could include roof racks and the $1,300 Premium Package that adds heated seats, headrest speakers, a heated steering wheel, and nicer seat materials. Sure, it only comes with a small 122-horsepower four-cylinder, but that engine keeps this SUV cheap to buy and cheap to own, with up to 36 mpg on the highway.
VW Taos is smaller than a Tiguan, and that makes it a hit
The 2023 VW Taos looks like a mini Atlas and brings that premium SUV’s European styling to the forefront for $24,155. Like the Rogue Sport, the options are plentiful, but they can get expensive quickly. While all-wheel drive is an option, the stout 148-horsepower turbocharged engine is standard and makes this one of the quickest in its class. It’s also slightly larger than other SUVs on this list, and it comes standard with nice two-tone seats, a multifunction steering wheel, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a digital cockpit.
Though it’s a newer model for VW, it’s already the second-best-selling VW in America, beating everything but the seven-passenger, more expensive, Tiguan LWB.
The cheapest Chevy SUV can be well-optioned for $25,000
With the Trax getting the ax for 2023, that leaves the Trailblazer as Chevy’s least-expensive SUV for 2023. The Chevy Trailblazer has a cute off-road look to it with lots of interior space, and starts at $22,995 and all-wheel drive is a $2,000 option, which should keep it below $25,000 barely. Or, you can get the driver confidence package, which includes cruise control and rear cross-traffic alert, for $495, while Chevy Safety Assist is free. Like the others on this list, it comes with a small efficient engine, but in the Trailblazer’s case, Chevy went with a turbocharged three-cylinder engine that has 137 horsepower in the base models. The Chevy Trailblazer has 54.4 cubic feet of rear cargo space.
Kia Seltos has reclining rear (!) seats
For 2023, the Kia Seltos is a carryover model, but it does add some new advanced driver aids, such as blindspot collision avoidance and rear cross-traffic collision avoidance. For less than $25,000, you can move beyond the base S and LX versions and step up to the S all-wheel drive trim for $24,390. It has an efficient (29 mpg combined) 2.0-liter four-cylinder, and manages a good reliability score. The Seltos was all-new in 2021 and offers one clever trick that other SUVs in this class don’t: reclining rear seats are standard on all trims.