If you’ve been shopping for a new car recently, then you know that the market is absurd right now. With prices climbing steadily month after month, it can be tough to know where to start. Well, we hope that you can start here. With a huge market of SUVs out there right now, you don’t need to spend $40,000 or more to get a great SUV. There are some great and more budget-friendly options out there as well, so you should have no trouble finding something that suits you perfectly for a little less.
If you’re shopping for a new car right now, you know prices are high. Really high. We’re here to show you aisn’t required. Below are our top picks for the best SUVs and crossovers under $35,000.
Peek around for some crossovers under the new-car average transaction price of about $42,000 and you’ll be met with surprising quantities of quality. And if you’re the techie sort, you’re in luck, because many of these vehicles pack some of the coolest tech offered across the entire automotive industry. Here are some of our favorites in that price rage.
Do note, though, that while many of these vehicles may start under $35,000, they don’t stay that way once you pile on options such as flashy paint colors and big expanses of glass overhead. But, just like most other parts of life, there’s still a little wiggle room to get what you want.
Andrew Krok/CNET Cars
The Honda CR-V is a good-looking crossover with plenty of in-cabin tech, including the Honda Sensing suite of advanced driver-assistance systems and Apple CarPlay integration.
The available turbocharged 1.5-liter engine offers more than adequate power, though the continuously variable transmission occasionally makes power delivery sluggish. If that’s not enough thrift, there’s a new hybrid variant on offer, too.
The interior is a huge upgrade from the CR-Vs of yore, with comfy leather seating and satin-finish wood-like accents. The digital instrument panel packs plenty of information into a small space while remaining legible.
— Chris Paukert
Read our most recent Honda CR-V review.
Honor roll: The 2020 Honda CR-V is one intelligent crossover
The Kia Niro may not be the sexiest thing on four wheels, or even the sexiest thing in Kia’s lineup, but the Niro Hybrid is an exceedingly competent little car that returns amazing mileage. It’s super easy to see real-world fuel economy of 50 mpg in the base Niro Hybrid.
The Niro offers frugal transportation without feeling like a penalty box. You can load it up with a full smattering of luxury and tech features (for an added cost, of course). And, for the 2020 model year, the Niro received some nips and tucks to both its aesthetics and tech.
— Antuan Goodwin
Andrew Krok/CNET Cars
Like all Mazdas, the CX-5 is arguably the best-handling crossover in its class. Great design and a plush interior make it wonderful to live with. The CX-5 will definitely out-handle rivals including the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 or Ford Escape.
The CX-5 has a nicely appointed interior, but its in-car tech falls short. The Mazda Connect system is sometimes hard to use, but standard safety tech across the whole lineup that came online in 2020 is a nice touch.
— Emme Hall
Read our most recent Mazda CX-5 review.
Boxy and inherently rugged, the Forester has always been the kind of car to ride its own wave. The current generation model debuted for 2019 packing promising tech into a familiar package. And then for the 2020 model year, Subaru bumped up the standard features to pile on the value even further.
The latest Forester loses its turbocharged engine option, and a CVT is the only transmission available, but standard all-wheel drive is absolutely a strong selling point in this class.
The Forester is be just like any other Subaru: comfy, capable and, most importantly, good value for the money.
— Tim Stevens
Read our most recent Subaru Forester review.
The VW Atlas picked up a whole host of updates last year, most of which are borrowed from its slinkier sibling, the two-row Atlas Cross Sport. It’s definitely better in the looks department and the Atlas continues to provide a good value by offering above-average tech and solid build quality.
Of course, there are still downsides. The price has recently crept to just above $35,000, and while VW has democratized its tech across the lineup to some degree, all the cool stuff like Digital Cockpit is still locked behind higher, more expensive trims. Don’t forget to spring for all-wheel drive if you think it’s necessary, too.
— Andrew Krok
Read our most recent Volkswagen Atlas review.
Andrew Krok/CNET Cars
The Chevy Blazer seemed to come out of nowhere, largely because its design doesn’t really speak to the heritage of its fabled nameplate. That may upset some self-appointed purists who think anything with the name “Blazer” on the side needs to be a body-on-frame truck, but they’ll be missing out on a pretty cool crossover SUV.
The Blazer wears its Camaro-derived looks particularly well. Plus, this two-row crossover should appeal to a lot of shoppers with its variety of engines on offer, including a 2.5-liter I4, a 2.0-liter turbo I4 and an available 3.6-liter V6 that features 308 horsepower. The Blazer offers solid infotainment, connectivity and advanced safety gear, all in a wieldy package that starts at $34,795 before destination charges and options.
— Chris Paukert
Read our most recent Chevrolet Blazer review.
Here’s the thing about the Kia Telluride: It’s low-key great. The Telluride doesn’t go out of its way to blow your mind with wild character lines and body creases. It doesn’t have huge horsepower or crazy off-road prowess. It’s just handsome without being shouty. it’s well-built, well-equipped, comfortable as all hell and affordable.
The Telluride looks a lot smaller than you’d expect, given that it has three rows of seats. It’s a proud midsize SUV, but it’s easy to park, agile enough to get around even a notoriously congested city like Los Angeles and has vast amounts of cargo space for you to fill with whatever weird ephemera your lifestyle generates.
— Kyle Hyatt
Read our most recent Kia Telluride review.
Sure, it’s a weird-lookin’ little thing, but Hyundai’s Kona SUV is one of our favorites in the subcompact class. With its vibrant color palette and love-it-or-hate-it styling, it’s sure to make a bolder statement than other, more conventionally styled crossovers.
But the Kona isn’t just a book to be judged by its cover. Inside, there’s a wealth of convenience and tech features. And with its optional turbocharged engine, it’s pretty darn good to drive, too. Hyundai even makes a fully electric version of the plucky little Kona, if EV life is more your speed.
— Steven Ewing
Read our most recent Hyundai Kona review.
Craig Cole/CNET Cars
The CX-30 is Mazda’s latest small crossover SUV entry that has a lot going for it. It’s stylish, with clean, flowing body lines for a sporty look on the outside, while the interior is truly impressive for the class with luxury-level materials, an intuitive layout and serviceable space for passengers and cargo. On the technology front, the Mazda Connect infotainment interface is clunkier to use but is feature rich, and safety equipment like adaptive cruise, forward collision warning with auto braking, lane-departure warning and blind-spot monitoring are all standard.
Being a Mazda, the CX-30’s biggest selling point is how it drives. Make sure the car is in Sport mode for peppier performance from the 2.5-liter I4 making 186 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. Combine that with a wonderfully tuned chassis that offers quick turn-in, composed cornering and strong brakes and you have a crossover that’s a fair bit of fun to toss around. And it still manages to provide a comfortable and quiet ride for normal driving.
— Jon Wong
Read our most recent Mazda CX-30 review.
The Hyundai Palisade is a mighty impressive machine for just under $35,000. It’s big, comfortable and buyers can snag a well-equipped SEL model for just under our price ceiling.
No matter the trim, the Palisade coddles drivers and does its best to make sure as little disturbance as possible enters the cabin. Road noise disappears, while potholes and crummy roads rarely upset the Palisade. Cabin materials punch above their weight, technology is easy to use and passengers in the first and second rows will, at a minimum, find a place to plug their phones in with USB ports scattered about.
— Sean Szymkowski
Read our most recent Hyundai Palisade review.
Jon Wong/CNET Cars
The first-gen Audi Q3 hung around for what felt like a decade, but now, there’s a fresher generation available, and it makes a great little crossover even better.
The Audi Q3’s style is sharper than before, and the interior gets gussied up in certain specs with a rockin’ orange trim. It’s bigger than before, so it can accommodate more cargo with ease, and its 228-horsepower I4 engine provides more than enough grunt for scootin’ around the city. It’s a great way to sneak into a luxury crossover at a decent price, though it does start at slightly above $35,000.
— Andrew Krok
Read our most recent Audi Q3 review.
While the tiny Hyundai Venue may not be available with all-wheel drive, it has more character than many crossovers in larger size classes and price brackets. The Venue’s funky styling sets it apart from its competitors. It’s packaged well too, offering more interior space than you’d expect.
Even at $20,295 to start the base Venue SE has features like an 8-inch touchscreen, lane-keeping assist and automatic headlights. Moving up in the trim level brings more advanced stuff like automatic climate control, LED exterior lighting, navigation and blind-spot monitoring. Despite only having a 121-hp four-cylinder and a CVT, it’s pretty peppy and handles well, too. The Hyundai Venue is what more small cars should be like.
— Daniel Golson
Read our most recent Hyundai Venue review.