The market for SUVs under $30k, and for crossovers alike, is an exceptionally popular one in the USA. The selection, which comprises anything from sporty, small urbanite cruisers to powerful, midsize 4x4’s, is markedly expansive and diverse. These machines usually cost about as much as the typical American is willing to pay for a new car. From the fastest, best looking, and most comfortable SUVs under $30,000, we rank every option, new and used, available to buy in the US.
Best New SUVs and Crossovers Under $30,000
Kia Seltos - The 2021 version of the Seltos takes the top spot as the best new SUV under $30,000. Five models make up the lineup, the three lower-tier trims of which are equipped with a 2.0-liter inline-four engine and CVT with a front-wheel-drive system stock. The other two feature a 1.6-liter turbo-four paired to an all-wheel drivetrain.
Kia Soul - Despite its very polarising aesthetic, the subcompact crossover has, over the years, become a very popular pick. Even the top-of-the-line GT-Line Turbo falls below the maximum price mark. Though not particularly fast, it is equipped with a 1.6L four-cylinder, which ups the ante on its already enjoyable drive dynamics. That mill replaces the standard 2.0L four-pot in all other trims, though the power is directed to the front wheels on every model.
Mazda CX-30 - This midsize ute debuted in 2020 and is a great family-centric cruiser packaged with a modern overall design, well-balanced driving dynamics, and a decent consignment of inclusive features. It also boasts near-perfect safety and reliability ratings. Either the front or all-four wheels are powered by a 2.5L inline-four motor.
Honda CR-V Hybrid - With the cost of battery technology reducing every year, hybridized vehicles have rapidly become more affordable as a result. Only the base LX and EX slot in below the max price cap, though a 1.5-liter turbocharged four-pot, CVT, and either an FWD or AWD system are featured across the board.
Toyota RAV4 Hybrid - A powerful 2.5-liter semi-electrified four-cylinder engine and CVT do duty for the entire RAV4 lineup. It is a contemporary ute that comes comprehensively outfitted with infotainment and user-friendly technologies plus a confidence-inspiring selection of driver aids and passenger safety measures.
Common Specifications for Top-Rated SUVs Under $30k
Most of the top SUVs under $30k offer impressively well-balanced performance and driving dynamics, and are usually comprehensively outfitted with creature comforts and protective measures, too:
Performance: Cars in this segment are not the quickest and are typically purposed to deliver balanced drivability overall, ideal for casual, everyday use. They mostly prioritize fuel-efficiency but are often still quite peppy in town. In some cases, they can also be quite robust off-the-line. There are almost always FWD or AWD variations to pick from.
Powertrain: A low-displacement, naturally-aspirated engine, front-wheel-drivetrain, and auto ‘box are the more common constituents for highly-rated utes under $30k. There are, however, many options closer to the closing bracket that are hybridized and many others that also get AWD as standard.
Features: With quite a few makes offering their entire trim line-ups below the price point in question, shoppers will have fully equipped top-tier models to choose from. Creature comforts and conveniences typically include seat heating and ventilation, multi-zone automatic climate control, and even a premium surround sound system, too. Many also get leather/leatherette seating upholstery. Driver-assist tech and active safety measures are bountiful, too.
What to consider before buying
Prior to taking the plunge and splurging, here are a few key points to ponder:
High ride height gives the driver commanding outward visibility
Relatively versatile and practical for everyday livability and use
Packages are generally well-outfitted features-wise
Not as safe or reliable as regular cars such as sedans or hatchbacks
Less fuel-efficient than smaller, more traditional automobiles
Can’t tow as much as full-size utes
What is the best SUV under $30,000 in terms of fuel economy?
The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is the most fuel-efficient sport-utility vehicle for sale under $30k. The most frugal guise returns EPA-derived figures of 41/38/40 mpg city/highway/combined.
What’s the most popular sport-ute in the US?
With just under 450,000 units sold in total for 2019, the Toyota RAV4 is the best-selling automobile from the class.