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Not all of us want to admit that a premium nameplate on our SUV makes us feel good, but we know it can. Premium SUVs from BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz can get pricey, fast. Fortunately, they all make less-expensive luxury SUVs that have the quality, driving dynamics and badges that make the neighbors wonder if you hit the lottery, like the BMW X1 that’s the cheapest BMW you can buy. All of these brands make great SUVs for less than $40,000.

The BMW X1 is the cheapest BMW you can buy

A 2023 BMW X1 in orange by the shore.
2023 BMW X1 | BMW

2023 BMW X1: $38,600

We can think of several reasons why the five-seat BMW X1 stays super popular. The X1 is the cheapest BMW you can buy, but it doesn’t feel cheap. The BMW X1 is all-new for 2023 and will get a new 2.0-liter turbocharged 2.0-liter that makes 241 horsepower and has an available M Sport package. Inside, you can pick from several colors of leather and trim, and you get the latest iDrive system.

The X1 is small. It can hold 57.2 cubic feet of stuff behind the rear seats. That’s not going to beat a Yukon, but it does beat the 2023 Audi Q3 and the 2023 Porsche Macan. The new BMW X1 is also wider and longer than the previous generation, and it’s now closer in size to the X3, even though it’s now the cheapest BMW you can buy.

The Audi Q3 is the cheapest Audi SUV you can buy

A blue 2022 Audi Q3 parked in a mountainous outdoor environment.
2022 Audi Q3 | AUDI AG

2023 Audi Q3 MSRP: $36,400

The Q3 is Audi’s smallest and most affordable model in the company’s SUV portfolio. It comes standard with quattro all-wheel drive, it’s fun to drive, has five seats, and a punchy 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine. The new 2023 Q3 includes a lot of small options, like full LED headlights, a wireless charging pad, and new 18, 19 and 20-inch wheel options, but no major upgrades. The 2022 added standard interior upgrades, as well as optional eight-way power seats, and a Topview camera on the Premium Plus trim.

You can order two versions of Q3, the Premium and Premium Plus, with two different model names. The 40 has the 184-horsepower version of the four-cylinder, while the 45 has 228 horsepower.  The Premium is the base version and comes well equipped. But, the Premium Plus can be optioned with a large 10.1 inch touchscreen, LED interior lighting, and useful drivers aids like traffic jam assist, rear cross traffic assist, and keyless start/stop.

The Mercedes GLA is the cheapest Mercedes SUV you can buy

Mercedes GLA and A-Class sedan at an auto show.
Mercedes-Benz A-Class car and GLA SUV | Money Sharma AFP via Getty Images

2023 Mercedes GLA 250 MSRP: $36,400

The Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 is the cheapest Mercedes SUV you can buy. Like the others, it has a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, though it makes only 221 horsepower it’s tied to a quick-shifting eight-speed automatic. But, reviewers from Motor Trend say that the small engine packs a punch, yet stays frugal. Like the others, the Mercedes can be ordered with all-wheel drive, which the company calls 4MATIC.

The GLA was updated in 2020 and comes with the latest version of the MBUX infotainment system and the Driving Assistance Package that has several clever functions like adaptive cruise control, evasive steering assist, and active speed limit assist that uses its traffic sign recognition technology. Where the BMW and the Audi focus more on performance and sporty driving dynamics, the Benz focuses more on technology and luxury.  You can order a hot-rod AMG version with 306 horsepower, but that version is about $20,000 more.


5 of the Cheapest SUVs to Own Over 5 Years