10 Coolest SUVs under $35,000

Today's SUVs are cooler than ever, and these are the best under $35K

It seems as if the tectonic shift to crossover SUVs will never end. It is a safe bet that manufacturers are carving out yet another SUV sub-segment as we write this, only adding to the glut of SUVs that have entered the market in the past few years. Of course, there are logical reasons for the wholesale move from sedans and coupes to SUVs. Both conventional and crossover SUVs are roomy, versatile, and offer a great driver’s vantage point. If you live with an SUV for a while, you’ll soon come to regard most sedans as stodgy and antiquated with their tiny trunks and difficult-to-get-into back seats. But while most sport utilities have obvious benefits, some have been commoditized. They look alike, act alike and drive alike. Fine and functional, but not cool. On the other hand, there are some SUVs under $35,000 that check all the boxes for utility and functionality but also have a tangible cool factor. We have identified them for you here in our 10 Coolest SUVs under $35,000 for 2022.

Photo: Jack R. Nerad

2022 Ford Bronco

Certainly one of the coolest – arguably the absolute coolest SUV launched this year is the 2022 Ford Bronco. The first Ford Bronco came to market in the Sixties, and the vehicle quickly established a name for itself as an off-road force. But Ford Motor Company let the brand lapse for well more than a decade before reviving it in a laudable fashion this year. Available in two-door and four-door configurations, the Ford Bronco can be as basic or as elaborate as you want it to be. At under $35K, the base four-door is equipped with a 275-horsepower 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine teamed with a 10-speed automatic transmission. And four-wheel-drive is standard. Inside the Bronco offers plenty of amenities and a spacious cabin that can accommodate five adults. Meanwhile, the two-door Bronco captures the aura of the original.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder
Photo: Jack R. Nerad

2022 Nissan Pathfinder

One of the longest-running import SUV nameplates, the Nissan Pathfinder has been completely redesigned for the 2022 model year with a renewed emphasis on off-road capabilities. The venerable V-6 engine is paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission. While base models are front-drive, all-wheel drive is readily available for adventurous types. The new cabin is large enough to comfortably fit seven or even eight passengers, and it gives buyers the option to replace the second-row bench with two captain’s chairs. Other available upgrades include heated and ventilated seats, leather upholstery, a panoramic moonroof, and a Bose 13-speaker audio system. The 8.0-inch infotainment display comes standard, as does driver safety features like blind-spot monitoring, automated emergency braking, and automatic high beam headlamps. Higher trim levels come with Pro Pilot Assist, Nissan’s semi-autonomous driving technology. With a starting MSRP of $33,410, the 2022 Pathfinder offers great value in the segment.

2022 Kia Telluride

The secret is out on Kia’s impressive advances in styling and dependability, and the 2022 Kia Telluride epitomizes that. Accumulating lots of accolades and awards these past few years, the Telluride builds on its success in the 2022 model year with a list of advancements and improvements. Among those are updated fascia and front grille with the distinct Kia logo, which is also updated. The exterior remains eye-catching, with unique headlamps and taillights. Inside the cabin, drivers are treated to a lush interior with premium finishes and materials. Under the hood, the 2022 Telluride offers a 291-horsepower 3.8-liter V6 engine that offers plenty of acceleration. Standard features include adaptive cruise control, a 10.3-inch touchscreen, automatic climate control, and semi-autonomous highway assist. An all-wheel-drive system is widely available. Starting MSRP is $32,790 and the Tellurides all come with Kia’s famous 10-year/100,000-mile warranty.

2022 Volkswagen Atlas

The 2022 Volkswagen Atlas is another three-row family-hauler that is noticeably larger than many of its competitors. At the same time, its exterior has a Euro vibe that ups the cool factor considerably. Starting MSRP for the Atlas is $34,790, with lots of options. For instance, you can choose between a 235-horsepower four-cylinder engine or a 276-horsepower V-6, and both engines pair with an 8-speed automatic transmission. Both front- and all-wheel drive are available. The ride is surprisingly quiet and smooth, and the interior is roomy with plenty of space for people and cargo. The second-row bench can be replaced with the ever-popular captain’s chairs. Standard features include a 6.5-inch infotainment screen, a six-speaker sound system, and basic driver-assist safety technology. Feature upgrades include an 8.0-inch touchscreen and more advanced driver-assist safety tech.

2022 Ford Bronco Sport

Ford Motor Company’s attack on the dedicated off-road SUV market is multi-pronged. There is, of course, the revival of the Ford Bronco as both a two-door and a four-door. But the other effort, the 2022 Ford Bronco Sport, has resulted in another of the coolest SUVs under $35,000. And in the case of the Bronco Sport, the price tag could be well under $35K. The base Bronco Sport with a 1.5-liter 181-horsepower turbocharged three-cylinder engine, automatic transmission, and all-wheel-drive has a base price of about $29,000. From there, buyers can option up through various trim levels to the completely off-road-ready Badlands trim with a stout 250-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, four-wheel-drive, and locking rear differential for right about $35,000 on the nose.

2022 Jeep Wrangler

Of all the cool vehicles on this list the one that has the most presence – the most sheer gravitas – is the Jeep Wrangler. With a history that dates back to stalwart service in World War II, the Wrangler is one of the most iconic vehicles on the planet. When you are at the wheel of a Jeep Wrangler you are piloting a vehicle that is like nothing else. The good news is that these days, in its newest iteration, the Jeep Wrangler is more comfortable and convenient than it has ever been. In base form, it is equipped with a time-tested 3.6-liter V-6 engine that delivers 285 horsepower. A six-speed manual transmission is standard but most choose an automatic transmission these days. And, of course, four-wheel-drive is the standard configuration. The two-door Wrangler has the classic profile, but the four-door Wrangler Unlimited is the more utilitarian choice. And it retains the Wrangler’s cool factor for less than $35K.

2022 Hyundai Palisade

The 2022 Hyundai Palisade looks feels and drives like a high-priced luxury SUV, yet it can be purchased for less than $35,000. Its 291-horsepower 3.8-liter V-6 linked to an eight-speed automatic transmission gives you power when you need it, and comfort and quiet when you are cruising on the highway. Front-drive is the standard configuration for the Palisade while all-wheel-drive is an option. The Palisade is mechanically very similar to the Kia Telluride that is also on this list. Inside the Palisade’s driver and passengers will enjoy comfortable seats, premium materials, intuitive controls, and a quiet ride. There is ample space for people and gear, and even more when the second and third-row seats are folded down. Base trims have an 8.0-inch display infotainment screen as standard. A larger screen and a 12-speaker Harmon Kardon sound system are on the options list.

2022 Ford Explorer

The 2022 Ford Explorer brings reliability, value, lots of standard features and plenty of add-on options to the SUV hoedown. The base trim boasts a 300-horsepower turbocharged 2.3-liter V6 engine, but for those who want to venture past the $35K bogie, a 400-horsepower twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 is available for those that can’t get enough mustard. Another over$35K choice is the hybrid 3.3-liter V-6 that yields 318-horsepower. All come with 10-speed automatic transmissions and rear-wheel drive, while all-wheel drive is an option. Lower levels of the 2022 Explorer don’t have the fancy interior creature comforts of many of its close competitors, but they do offer useful features such as the one-click third-row access button, an 8.0-inch infotainment screen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and wifi hotspot. The Explorer also has plenty of storage for cargo. This is a family SUV at its core though it also has among the coolest styling in the class. With an MPG rating of 27 mpg city/29 mpg highway and a base MSRP of $34,540, you just might end up in one.

2022 Chevrolet Traverse

One of the most popular of the domestic-brand crossovers, the 2022 Chevy Traverse is cooler for what it can do than how it looks. Certainly, it is an attractive vehicle, but it isn’t as striking as some others on the list. But when it comes to family-hauling the Traverse is in its element. Starting with the 310-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 engine, the Chevy Traverse offers a bit more power than its peers in the class. The nine-speed automatic transmission is seamless and changes gears without drama. Front-wheel drive is standard with an option to upgrade to AWD. Chevy offers six trims, so it is easy to pick out a Traverse that suits your family’s needs and checkbook. The Traverse also offers lots of room for people and cargo, so whether you’re ferrying kids around town for their various activities or taking the whole gang on a road trip, you’ll plenty of room for bodies and gear. Basic safety features come standard, as does a high-mounted infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and wifi hotspot. Starting MSRP is right under $35,000.

2022 Toyota RAV4

The 2022 Toyota RAV4 is a hot-selling compact SUV with enough interesting variants that make it cool enough to capture a place on this list. Because of its low base price, you can load it up with options and still come in under $35,000. For example, the off-road Adventure trim level with standard all-wheel-drive and other off-pavement equipment lists for well less than $35K. Front-wheel drive with a 203-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine is the standard powertrain. Hybrid-powered versions of the RAV4 start at well under $35,000, too. The RAV4 is heavily changed for 2022 but it has some new exterior lighting and the availability of faux leather interior accents. A 7.0-inch infotainment screen is standard, with an 8.0-inch screen for higher levels trims. Safety features include a comprehensive list of standard driver-assist features.

UPDATED FOR 2022 Model Year, January 7, 2022