It’s no secret that SUVs are in high demand. A look at nearly every automaker’s vehicle lineup reveals at least one, if not several SUV models to choose from. Prices have grown as fast as the SUV’s popularity, and manufacturers have found more ways to tuck in new technologies and safety features to continue driving interest for their most in-demand vehicles. The wealth of choice, coupled with the sometimes-robust pricing, can make shopping for SUVs a real chore. Knowing that, we’ve done some of the leg work for you, and have compiled our list of the 10 best SUVs under $40,000 for the 2019 model year.
2019 Honda Pilot
The Honda Pilot again makes our list for 2019. The three-row SUV has been retooled for 2019 to include new infotainment tech, an updated transmission, standard advanced safety features, and a sharper look that further distances it from minivan territory. The Pilot remains a reliable family hauler, placing near the best in cost of ownership rankings. The Pilot’s Top Safety Pick designation carries over as well, with Honda Sensing advanced safety tech now standard on every model. Family-pleasing technology has been a strong point for the Pilot in recent years, and 2019 continues carrying that torch. Previous complaints about the confusing, clunky audio controls and infotainment unit have been addressed, oddly enough by adding a volume knob back to the mix. The Pilot also picks up a nifty in-cabin communication tool from the Honda Odyssey called CabinTalk. Starting prices for the Pilot are up slightly this year, landing at $31,450 before destination. The EX-L trim is where things start to get interesting, with Navigation, a power sunroof, and rear-seat entertainment system included for $37,760 before destination.
2019 Toyota Highlander
The Toyota Highlander is an old-timer at this point in its current generation, but that’s no reason to look away. Aside from a few new paint colors, Toyota is leaving well enough alone with the 2019 model, and we’d agree that not much was broken with the Highlander we saw last year. All models come equipped with Toyota Safety Sense technology, which brings forward collision warnings and lane departure alerts along with other advanced safety features. The Highlander’s first two rows offer plenty of comfort and convenience features, but the optional third-row seats should be reserved for children or overflow seating only. Unlike its long-time rival, the Honda Pilot, the Toyota Highlander is available as a hybrid, achieving some of the best fuel economy numbers in the segment at 28/29 mpg combined for AWD/FWD configurations. Pricing is very similar to the Pilot, though, starting at just over $31,000 for the base LE trim. The Highlander’s price tag increases sharply from there, with a jump to the $39,220 XLE trim required to unlock the ability to have smartphone-connected navigation and leather seating surfaces.
2019 Subaru Ascent
Subaru’s vehicle lineup has been lacking a seven-seater crossover since the company put the brakes on production of its Tribeca model in 2014. This year’s all-new Ascent fills the hole left behind, and then some. With standard seating for seven, all-wheel drive, and a bevy of safety and convenience features, the Ascent hits a sweet spot of functionality and price. Even as Subaru’s largest vehicle to date, the Ascent is still able to achieve 27 mpg on the highway and 21 mpg around town. Even at the base trim level, the Ascent comes packed with useful tech like Apple CarPlay/Android Auto capabilities. Families will find plenty of room and convenience features, most notably the Ascent’s 19 cupholders and more cargo space than the Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, or Ford Explorer. Pricing lands similarly to others in the segment, starting around $32,000 before destination, but the Ascent’s most compelling features aren’t available until the nearly $39,000 Limited trim is selected.
2019 Acura RDX
The 2019 Acura RDX is all new and is well worth the wait. The latest RDX is slightly bigger than the last, and is graced with more torque, a standard panoramic sunroof, AcuraWatch active safety tech, and infotainment updates that include Apple CarPlay and other usability refinements. This new RDX is considerably sleeker and sportier than the last, but front seat passengers won’t notice any shortage of interior space as a result. The new standard panoramic sunroof intrudes on rear seat headroom, but families will still find plenty of room for two car seats and gear. With a starting price of just over $38,000, the RDX barely slides onto our list, but the roster of included features and Acura’s reputation for reliability and quality make even the cheapest model worth a long look.
2019 Volkswagen Tiguan
After the Tiguan’s redesign in 2018, Volkswagen has more subtle changes in store for this year’s model. Buyers will find the same cavernous cargo area, standard three-row seating (in front-wheel drive models), a 6.5-inch infotainment unit with Apple CarPlay and Android auto, and a comfortable interior with great ergonomics. Advanced safety features like blind spot monitors and rear cross-traffic alerts don’t find their way into the Tiguan until the SE trim is selected, which is a $2,400 premium over the base model. Tiguan SEL models start around $32,000 and offer navigation, adaptive cruise control, and VW’s digital cockpit, which turns the gauge cluster into a second screen with room for maps and other information. It’s a significant jump from the starting price, but the mix of features and the inherent utility offered by the larger design make the Tiguan a contender on our list. A six-year, 72,000-mile warranty doesn’t hurt, either.
2019 Subaru Forester
Subaru says that every part of the 2019 Forester is new and updated from the version before it. The new Forester is stiffer, safer, and bigger inside than the 2018 model, making an already winning formula better. The new Forester comes standard with Subaru’s EyeSight safety technologies, and an updated engine that the company says is much quieter than the one powering the 2018 model. The 2019 Forester is also blessed with an extra inch of overall length, which translates into more legroom inside. Subaru made good use of the extra space, as the Forester has a a leg up on the segment’s best sellers, the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V, in cargo room. The fully-loaded Touring trim clocks in at just over $34,000 and includes leather upholstery, a new driver alertness sensor, and navigation.
2019 Mazda CX-9
Even the base model of Mazda’s flagship CX-9 crossover is well equipped, sporting robust entertainment and comfort features, and third-row seats make it a family-hauling winner. The 2019 model receives modest changes over its predecessor which Mazda says was an intentional move. The 2018 CX-9 was a driver-focused, comfortable-but-capable family-hauling machine and the latest model only improves on that solid resume. New technology features are now included in higher trims, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but all CX-9 models receive new suspension tuning and improved sound deadening that noticeably improve comfort and everyday drivability. Pricing for the CX-9 remains in line with what we saw last year, with the base “Sport” trim starting at just over $32,000. Touring trim is $3,000 more but brings with it several convenience features like a power tailgate and includes radar cruise control, lane-keep assist, and lane departure warnings.
2019 Hyundai Santa Fe
This year’s Santa Fe is the SUV formerly known as the Santa Fe Sport. Last year’s “regular” model will now be called the Santa Fe XL. It’s a confusing change, but one that moves more legroom and technology into the smaller model. The 2019 Santa Fe out does its predecessor (the Sport, remember) in cargo space and overall interior room, but falls short of the Honda Pilot and Chevrolet Traverse in those areas. Not confusing is the carrying over of both engines from last year’s Santa Fe Sport: A standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder and an optional 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Things are similarly uncomplicated with standard equipment. All models get rear cross-traffic alerts and blind spot monitors, forward collision warnings, automatic emergency braking, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. With a fully-loaded price that comes in under $36,000, the new Hyundai Santa Fe is a compelling choice for anyone in need of a five-passenger crossover.
2019 Kia Sorento
The Kia Sorento has one of the lowest costs of ownership and highest consumer ratings on our list. With the ability to seat up to seven people in an SUV not much larger than a standard five-seater, the Sorento is one of the most well-packaged vehicles in its class. Its size improves handling and maneuverability but does not increase fuel economy: Most configurations of the Sorento are barely able to eke out a 20 to 22 mpg combined rating. A strong positive is the Sorento’s interior, which has an upscale look and features an easy-to-use infotainment system. Kia’s exceptional 10-year/100,000-mile warranty helps keep overall costs of ownership very low, and the Sorento’s starting price is in the high-$20,000 range. In most cases, this would be a winning combination, even though the packages that add advanced safety tech and other goodies add $10K to that price. When you add it all up the Sorento still comes out a bargain.
2019 Chevrolet Traverse
The Traverse was completely redesigned for the 2018 model year with a modern, handsome new look and a host of technology and comfort improvements. This year’s model is a refinement of that evolution, with minor changes across the line. The Traverse’s appeal comes in the level of customization that the SUV offers and generous standard features included in every model. Buyers will find six trims, two drivetrain choices, and several options packages to get just the right mix of features and value. Starting prices for the 2019 Traverse begin around $30,000 and run all the way to nearly $60,000 for a fully-loaded High Country model with all-wheel drive. Even at the entry level, the Traverse includes a 7-inch infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, eight-passenger seating, tri-zone climate controls, Bluetooth connectivity, and keyless open/start.