American car companies are moving away from inexpensive SUVs. Ford and Chevy both discontinued their smallest, and cheapest, crossovers. We’ve lost the Chevy Trax and the Spark for 2023, as well as the tiny Ford EcoSport. Dodge and Chrysler don’t make a small SUV, But Jeep is keeping the tiny Renegade around. But, overall, it seems American manufacturers are ceding the economy SUV market to Hyundai, Nissan and Kia for 2023.
Chevy is making two of the cheapest American SUVs
Chevy discontinued the tiny Spark for 2023 and the subcompact Trax, too. That leaves the Trailblazer as the least expensive Chevy SUV you can buy in 2022 at $21,800. It was becoming increasingly hard to justify the Trax, which was a nice SUV but it was just $400 cheaper than the Trailblazer and much smaller. The Trailblazer looks like a mini-Blazer in many ways. The Trailblazer, though, is designed to be inexpensive, fashionable, and technically advanced. It has forward collision alert, pedestrian braking, a teen driver mode, and options include rear cross-traffic alerts, lane change alerts, and rear park assist.
The Trailblazer is more soft-roader than off-roader
But Chevy is pretty clear this is not an off-road SUV, despite appearances. You can order the ACTUV option, which gives the Trailblazer some trail ability thanks to 17-inch sport terrain tires and a front end designed to better clearance “when traveling on gravel roads,” Chevy said.
The Trailblazer comes with two engine options, there’s a fuel-efficient a 1.2-liter turbo or the 1.4-liter turbo with 155 horsepower from the Trax. We’d go with the 1.3 because it has nine-speed automatic transmission instead of the CVT.
The gasoline-powered Equinox is soldiering on for one more year
The Chevy Equinox is the best-selling SUV in Chevy’s lineup and it’s a great value starting at about $27,000 for 2023. The big news will be the 2024 Chevy Equinox, which will be a stylish EV. Until then, the Equinox will keep on with just a handful of changes for 2023. The new Equinox got a mild update in 2022 with a new face and some new trim levels. We like the RS trim, which gives the Equinox a bit more street cred with 19-inch rims and blackout trim. It can be ordered in LS, LT, RS, and mild-luxury Premier packages. All Equinox SUVs can carry about 30 cubic feet of stuff in the back.
The Ford Escape remains a good seller and value, especially as a hybrid
Ford is discontinuing the EcoSport, which was competent if uninspiring small crossover. That leaves the Escape as the least expensive SUV from Ford, which starts at $26,760. The Escape has seating for five, and gets impressive mpg numbers, at 28 in the city and 34 on the highway with its 2-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine. You can order a hybrid version, too, that gets up to 41 mpg combined. It starts at about the same price as the Equinox, but the Escape holds 15 cubic feet more of stuff in the back. It may not be the sales success it once was, but the Escape remains a value and one of the cheapest American SUVs.
The Renegade trades on Jeep’s off-road heritage.
The Renegade gets forgotten about as the smallest Jeep. It shouldn’t be. We love the idea of the TrailHawk package in the Renegade that gives it some competency off-road. But the base, two-wheel-drive Sport version has many of the same features at $24,195, making it one of the cheapest American SUVs. The base Renegade is a front-wheel-drive SUV, much like a car. But there are many options to make it more capable off-road. The Renegade Latitude 4×4 can come with Jeep’s Active Drive Low system. That system makes the Jeep Renegade all-wheel drive, but it certainly has an eye towards on-road ability. But the Jeep can also hold stuff, up to 50.8 cubic feet, and five passengers in comfort.