SUVs of all shapes and sizes continue to skyrocket in popularity and replace the traditional sedans on our highways. As a result, there’s no shortage of SUVs that flood the market, which is a good thing for consumers looking to buy affordable vehicles. Typically, SUVs aren’t the go-to option if you want a cheaper car, but they’re so mainstream nowadays that you can easily find quality ones for cheap.
You will be limited to primarily compact crossovers at this budget unless you’re willing to purchase models from five or so years ago. So for today’s post, we’ll help you find the best SUV under $20,000. For this list, we’ll focus on SUVs under $20,000 that are relatively new or just a few years old. Let’s take a look!
2023 Kia Soul ($19,790)
Starting at just below $20k MSRP, the 2023 Kia Soul is the best SUV under $20,000, which happens to be the latest and greatest model. The distinctive squared-off look may be a little polarizing, but it’s hard to deny this SUV’s value proposition. The Kia Soul features a roomy interior and cargo area for a crossover. Tech-wise, you get a standard 8-inch touch screen display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, Bluetooth, and six-speaker audio.
Our main problem with the 2023 Kia Soul is its one and only standard drivetrain, which means the all-wheel drive is off the table – a big deal breaker for many people. Plus, the engine at 147 horsepower is far from impressive.
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2022 Hyundai Venue ($19,000)
If you want the cheapest new SUV on the market, the 2022 Hyundai Venue is the answer. Despite the glaringly affordable price tag, the 2022 Venue doesn’t feel like a penalty box. Sure, it’s not the quickest subcompact out there. However, it still delivers many standard features like loads of tech and driver assistance features, including pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, and automatic emergency braking. Fuel economy is also strong at 29 mpg city and 33 mpg highway.
As for the drawbacks, the main one is undoubtedly the Venue’s 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with a meager output of 121 hp. Like the Kia Soul, all-wheel drive is not an option.
2022 Nissan Kicks ($19,990)
Talk about pushing your budget to the limits. The 2022 Nissan Kicks is the best SUV under $20,000 if you love safety tech features because the SUV is loaded to the brim with standard driver-assistance features. For example, the 2022 Nissan Kicks is one of the few affordable SUVs that come standard with rear cross-traffic alert and blind spot monitoring – features generally come with higher trims or safety packages.
For the Nissan Kicks’ sore spots, the most glaring one is the 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with a yawn-inducing 122 hp output. In addition, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support aren’t standard on the base S trim.
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2020 Ford EcoSport ($17,427)
The 2020 Ford EcoSport is the best SUV under $20,000 if you’re not looking to buy a brand-new model. It’s the smallest SUV in Ford’s lineup, but it does have an available all-wheel drive and a decent towing capacity – making it a unique entry for the compact SUV segment. Perhaps its most significant advantage is the available all-wheel drive. Even the base model has a towing capacity of 1,400 pounds.
Unfortunately, the 2020 EcoSport falls short in many other areas. For instance, its list of standard features is relatively short, plus it has a cramped interior and a slow base engine.
2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer ($19,995)
Here’s another affordable SUV that will push your $20k budget. The 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer is another SUV with loads of tech and safety features. For starters, it supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, which is handy if you want to stream your favorite music and podcasts wirelessly. Plus, it has an available all-wheel drive if you plan to take on some light off-road duties and harsher weather conditions.
As for the drawbacks, the 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer features an interior that looks and feels cut-rate. In addition, the seats are pretty small and may not be able to accommodate taller passengers comfortably.
2019 Hyundai Kona ($18,846)
If you don’t mind going a few years back for a used SUV, the 2019 Hyundai Kona might just be one of your best options. The 2019 Kona was awarded by the U.S. News as the top-ranked subcompact SUV, thanks to its upscale cabin, easy-to-use infotainment system, agile handling, and high safety ratings. Furthermore, it comes with a wealth of standard features, even with the base model.
One of its downsides is the bumpier ride quality and the smaller cargo space than competing SUVs. Besides that, you’re looking at the best SUV under $20,000 in terms of overall value.
8 QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN BUYING A USED CAR
So you’re in the market for a used vehicle? We’ve gone ahead and prepped some essential questions to ask when buying a used car.
2020 Buick Encore ($17,228)
The 2020 Buick Encore is another solid SUV if you’re willing to buy a used model. While the Encore doesn’t quite reach the levels of luxury of its bigger siblings, Buick certainly tried with its upmarket interior and high-tech features. One of the most exciting qualities of the 2020 Encore is its eye-catching style, which looks stylishly unique even in this saturated segment.
Like many SUVs on this list, the 2020 Encore disappoints with its four-cylinder engine with 138 horsepower.
2019 Jeep Renegade ($19,805)
The 2019 Jeep Renegade is a good option for a used subcompact SUV. Obviously, one of the best things about the 2019 Renegade is that it looks like a Jeep. It boasts a rugged exterior styling that seems ready for the great outdoors. In addition, the whimsical SUV offers a comfortable ride, a reasonably spacious cabin (for its size), and a user-friendly infotainment system. Plus, it’s hard to say no to that class-leading off-road capabilities.
On the other hand, the 2019 Jeep Renegade’s standard features are seriously lacking. For example, the included AM/FM radio with USB input simply won’t cut it in this day and age. Moreover, the transmission system is a bit of a hit or miss.
2019 Hyundai Tucson ($14,000-$19,500)
The 2019 Tucson had a stylish and modern exterior design, featuring Hyundai’s signature cascading grille, sleek lines, and available LED headlights and taillights. The cabin of the 2019 Tucson was well-designed and offered a comfortable and spacious seating with premium materials and feel.
Safety-wise, the 2019 Tucson came equipped with various safety features, including advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) like forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring, etc. So if you don’t mind an older (but still excellent) SUV with plenty of bells and whistles, the 2019 Tucson is an excellent choice.
2020 Ford Escape ($18,500)
In terms of value proposition, the 2020 Escape can provide good value for the money. This compact SUV offers a range of engine options, including a 1.5-liter three-cylinder, a 2.0-liter four-cylinder, and a hybrid powertrain. Also, the interior is well-designed, providing ample space for both passengers and cargo.
The infotainment system in the 2020 Escape is user-friendly and supports features like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a Wi-Fi hotspot. It’s a relatively newer model, so reliability data is quite scarce, but Ford has a good reputation for making reliable vehicles.
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