Love them or hate them, crossovers and SUVs are on top of the automotive world right now. The industry’s once-niche segment has become the segment, and its growth is accelerating as time goes on. Just a few years ago, carmakers seemed reluctant to have even one crossover in their lineup. Now, some of the biggest names in the business are going all-in, completely removing passenger cars from their catalogs in favor of more utility vehicles.
All of that growth and competition in the market is a great thing for consumers, but the overwhelming number of choices makes it hard to pick a winner. The good news is that there are several great options that won’t break the bank. We’ve driven and researched some of the best SUVs and crossovers on the market to bring you the best options under $25,000.
Here’s our Top 10 list for 2020:
The CR-V was redesigned for the 2017 model year and while not much has changed since then, it still holds its ground against a slew of this year’s newest competitors. That’s a testament to the staying power of Honda’s newest designs, their vehicles’ long list of standard features, and the strong value that every CR-V packs. The base LX trim comes with automatic climate controls, USB inputs, Bluetooth, and a continuously variable transmission that actually works. One slight mark against it is the price, which lands at $25,545 after destination, but you can probably negotiate the price to under $25K with a bit of effort.
As a brand, Mazda has a strong dual focus on engaging driving dynamics and upscale interiors. Nowhere is that philosophy more apparent than in the compact CX-5 crossover. Mazda’s ability to seat passengers and accommodate cargo is among the best in the segment as well, and even their entry-level vehicles include a compelling list of standard features. At $24,350, the base Sport trim comes with a 187-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, a six-speed automatic transmission, 17-inch alloy wheels, a 7.0-inch infotainment display, and an infotainment system that mimics the European heavyweights.
The 2019 redesign of Toyota’s RAV4 brought a more muscular stance and stronger lines but didn’t do much to increase space inside. Even so, there’s a reason the compact crossover has been around longer than almost anything else on the market: It’s a comfortable cruiser with excellent reliability ratings and a solid mix of standard features. Like the CR-V, the Toyota gets a pass for being slightly over our target price point if you negotiate well. That said, at $25,650 before destination, there’s plenty to like about even the most basic RAV4 trim. The LE model comes with dual-zone automatic climate controls and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. Every RAV4 also comes standard with Toyota’s Safety Sense package, which brings a pre-collision system, lane departure alerts, radar cruise control, and other valuable systems.
Nissan Rogue Sport
The Nissan crossover lineup has grown considerably in the past few years, with the addition of the tiny Kicks and the slightly larger Rogue Sport. Slotting into Nissan’s catalog below (and smaller than) the extremely popular Rogue compact crossover, the Rogue Sport starts at $23,385 after destination, and it comes with standard Apple CarPlay/Android Auto capability, blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, automatic emergency braking, and a 7.0-inch touchscreen.
The 2020 Sportage has an updated exterior and refreshed technology. Though Kia now sells the much larger (and excellent) Telluride and smaller (also very good) Niro, the Sportage has been a staple in the lineup longer than most of the others. This year, there’s standard Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, heated front seats, lane keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert, and blind-spot monitor as standard equipment and the whole package lands at $23,990 before destination, in this segment a significant bargain.
Like Kia, Hyundai’s spread of crossovers has expanded greatly in recent years. Though it’s related to the Sportage – Hyundai also owns the Kia brand — the Tucson is less expensive and has a broader selection of trims and options. At $24,800, the Value trim is a step up from the base SE model, and it has heated power seats, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, a driver attention warning system, and lane-keeping assist to maintain its place in the safety-oriented segment. All-in, even the most expensive Tucson is under $35,000, making it one of the best values on our list.
The Equinox isn’t necessarily “cool,” but it’s an easy choice for this list. Great handling and a family-friendly design make it a must-shop for anyone looking at crossovers and SUVs under $25,000. The base L trim slides in just under our mark at $24,995 including destination and comes with a 7.0-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, OnStar, and a 4G LTE hotspot. The big downside is that base models miss out on advanced safety tech completely. Features like blind-spot monitor and forward-collision warnings are either optional or standard on higher trims, but the entry-level trim doesn’t offer the availability of the highest-tech safety gear.
The Forester’s SUV-but-not-an-SUV attitude has been a winner for Subaru for quite a while, and the company’s updates to the vehicle have made it an even more appealing choice. Most notably, there’s standard all-wheel drive, as there is with all of Subaru’s other vehicles (save for the BRZ sports coupe). Every Forester also now comes standard with the excellent EyeSight advanced safety tech package. This brings automatic pre-collision braking, lane keep assist, and some added safety stuff. The 2020 Forester’s interior is a big step up in quality and comfort over older models, too, and for $24,295 before destination, it’s a lot of Subaru for the money.
The Tiguan got a big upgrade in 2018. Literally. The newest generation of VW’s smallest crossover is bigger than it has ever been – large enough now to shoehorn in a third row of seats. It’s the only vehicle on our list that even offers the option of an extra row, but it’s one of the smallest third rows you’ll find in any vehicle. Of course, if it’s a question of squeezing in or being left behind, most people will squeeze right in. The Tiguan also has one of the most intuitive infotainment systems on our list and comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Shoppers can spend over $40,000 on a fully loaded Tiguan, but the base model is well-equipped at just $24,295.
The 2020 Escape is all-new with a much-expanded list of features. At the same time, Ford is still selling the 2019 model and that might be the high-value play. At its starting price of $24,105 before destination, the Escape comes out of the box with voice control, 17-inch wheels, and a solid 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine paired to a six-speed automatic transmission. The Escape’s cargo hold is large enough to place it in the top half of the segment, and the driving experience is comfortable and confidence-inspiring. (The 2019 Ford Escape is pictured above.)