With apologies to Disney, in the auto business it’s a tall world after all. These days crossover SUVs, vehicles much taller and more useful than the venerable sedan, are zooming up the popularity charts. With that in mind we at Driving Today have assembled a list of the 10 best SUVs available for a base price of less than $25,000. From top to bottom this list is filled with terrific vehicles, but as is our custom we list them for your convenience in descending order from number one to number 10. We’re certain that as you peruse this list you’ll see at least one vehicle that will be perfect for your needs.
1. 2018 Toyota RAV4
Superior quality and longevity are the hallmarks of the 2018 Toyota RAV4, a compact crossover SUV with ample room for five. Powered by a sturdy 176-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, the RAV4 boasts an impressive array of standard equipment, including roof rails, parking camera system, Bluetooth/USB integration and 6-inch touchscreen audio system. Even more comfort, convenience and safety features are available as you make your way up in trim level and price, but even under $25,000 the RAV4 is a value buy.
2. 2018 Honda CR-V
The CR-V has been one of the most popular vehicles in the country for years now, and that popularity justified a complete redesign for the 2017 model year. Without major changes for 2018, the five-passenger compact SUV boasts a premium-quality interior, an available turbocharged engine, and a laundry list of safety features. The Honda Sensing suite of advanced driver-assist technologies includes sophisticated systems like Road Departure Mitigation and Adaptive Cruise Control. EX and higher trims are powered by a 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine while LX models are powered by a 2.4-liter direct-injected i-VTEC 4-cylinder engine.
3. 2018 Kia Sportage
Kia has long had one of the best warranties in the industry, but in recent years its product quality has also zoomed to the top of the pack. An example is the Sportage, a compact five-passenger crossover that features a laundry list of standards — alloy wheels, automatic headlamps, power-operated side mirrors, and heated front seats among them. Because of its size, the 181-horsepower 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine provides plenty of accelerative oomph. And you can add some options and still stay under $25K.
4. 2018 Chevrolet Equinox
The new-for 2018 Chevrolet Equinox SUV can be equipped just about any way you’d like from frugal to over-the-top. For example, three different engine choices are available, but to stay on budget you might opt for the 170-horsepower 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder. Standards include alloy wheels, LED running lights, automatic xenon headlamps, stop-start system, heated/power-operated side mirrors, parking camera system, remote entry/start, and a six-speaker audio system controlled by touchscreen. Options include leather upholstery, all-wheel-drive, heated rear seats and rear parking sensors.
5. 2018 Nissan Rogue
The five-passenger Rogue has been a big hit for Nissan, and the company has added some nice goodies for the 2018 model year. Among the big adds are NissanConnect featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and the addition of yet another USB port, this one inside the center console storage area. The Rogue offers exceptional passenger and cargo flexibility with its innovative and now much-copied EZ Flex Seating System and Divide-N-Hide Cargo System box on all trim levels. A wide variety of electronic driver and safety aids are available, but the packages could push the price well beyond the $25,000 range.
6. 2018 Ford Escape
Budget shoppers will like the compact Ford Escape, because it offers a wealth of standards at a value price, and Ford often sweetens the deal with promotions. The base model has steel wheels instead of alloys, but it does offer tilt/telescoping steering wheel, automatic headlamps, LED tail lamps, split/folding/reclining rear seats, and Bluetooth/smartphone integration. Base engine is a 168-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder. Upgrades like optional engines, leather upholstery and automated parking-assist make the Escape even plusher. We think the collision mitigation system is certainly worthy of consideration.
7. 2018 Hyundai Tucson
The Hyundai Tucson small crossover has been a nice success story for Hyundai. Its stellar warranty coverage is accompanied by a substantial amount of standard equipment. For 2018 the Tucson adds heated seats and a seven-inch audio display system with expanded availability of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. For well under $25K you can opt for a Tucson SEL version that offers the seven-inch touchscreen display audio system, LED daytime running lights and accent lights, eight-way power driver seat with two-way power lumbar support, heated front seats and power-operated windows with driver’s auto-up/down feature. Nice.
8. 2018 Jeep Cherokee
It makes perfect sense that a Jeep model would land on the list of 10 Best SUVs under $25,000, and the Cherokee gets the nod. We think you’ll be perfectly happy with the base 184-horsepower 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine. Ascending trim levels and options can significantly up the price of the Cherokee, but even in base trim it offers LED tail lamps and running lights, remote entry, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, split/folding rear seats, and Bluetooth/USB integration with the audio system. As you would expect, four-wheel-drive and other off-roading gear is available should you want to hit the Rubicon Trail.
9. 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport
The Outlander Sport’s low price allows you to option it up a bit and still stay under $25,000. Happily, you start with a base model that is already well-equipped — 18-inch alloy wheels, remote entry, heated/power-operated side mirrors, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth, and split/folding rear seats. The 168-horsepower 2.4-liter 4-cylinder is a willing engine, and you might have money left to spend on remote start, leather upholstery, panoramic sunroof or a number of other desirable options.
10. 2018 Subaru Crosstrek
The versatile Crosstrek might not have the size to suit everyone’s needs, but as a compact crossover that can seat four comfortably and also serve capably as a commuter car, we think you’ll like it. Of course, all-wheel drive is on the menu, as are remote entry, 6.5-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth/USB/smartphone integration, split/folding rear seating, and parking camera system. The 152-horsepower 2.0-liter horizontally opposed 4-cylinder might sound a tad anemic, but it is more than enough to give the Crosstrek the zip it needs. With careful choice of options you can still stay below $25,000.