As one of the most popular vehicle types on the road today, compact crossovers are better than ever and we picked the best for under $20,000.
Now more than at any point in history, compact crossovers are wildly popular and it’s easy to see why after driving some of them. These smallish vehicles offer much of the capacious cargo space of an SUV. They also position the driver higher up to provide a clearer more comforting view. The driving experience itself is often more closely related to the behavior that one would expect from a car too, so owners get the best of both worlds. Tack on how easy it is to park one of these vehicles in tight spaces and their popularity is well earned. That popularity has driven manufacturers to advance the design and features of compact crossovers quickly. Here are some of the best compact crossovers you can find for under $20,000 today.
There’s no doubt that the Mazda CX-5 is the segment leader in many ways. In fact, aside from fuel economy where it’s still competitive, it’s got a pretty big lead on the rest of the class. As most compact crossover drivers value driving characteristics, the CX-5 is by far the most engaging in the class. The 2.4-liter engine is the go-to option here and owners will love the classy almost luxurious interior that makes this car feel much more expensive than it really is. We’d love more cargo space and a touchscreen interface, but it’s still an outstanding value.
From maybe the most athletic-looking vehicle to the least, the Ford Escape has a seriously subdued exterior. Thankfully, it’s clear that Ford spent that intellectual energy on the inside of the Escape. The fit and finish are great, the Sync infotainment system is better than ever, and the interior space is fantastic for all occupants. One thing that ties the Escape to the CX-5 above is how nice the interior feels down to the details in things like the door cards. All three engines are solid, but we’d suggest staying away from the hybrid powertrain with the dull CVT if you don’t need the additional fuel economy.
The Jeep Compass is sporty in the exact opposite way as the Mazda. It’s actually truthfully capable off-road when you select the Trailhawk trim level. Of course, that’s not the only reason it’s here. It’s exceedingly comfortable inside. The UConnect infotainment system is possibly the easiest to work with of this group and is very well laid out. It’s not going to inspire with its on-road performance, but it is quiet and comfortable. Those who need copious amounts of storage might look elsewhere. Overall, the Jeep Compass is highly impressive, especially after its first-generation issues.
Four-wheel-drive is a real asset to this group as most of these excellent crossovers simply don’t have it. Even for the few that do, they’re typically not all that capable. Still, where the Jeep Compass uses its four-wheel-drive system to dominate off-road, Audi has equipped the Q5 with the most advanced Quattro system ever and it’s obvious when you drive it. Not only does it put it on the same level as the CX-5 when it comes to lateral handling, but when things get wet or snowy outside, the Audi is so good that you likely won’t be able to tell. It’s also by far the nicest interior of any vehicle here. Audi has always built ergonomic masterpieces and this is just another from the bunch.
A decade ago Kia wouldn’t have any place on this list. Today, they’ve crafted one of the most engaging compact crossovers available. Not only can you get the Kia Sportage with a turbocharged engine that makes 260 horsepower, but Kia offers factory warranty coverage to the second owner of its vehicles so long as the car is less than 5 years old and has less than 60,000 miles. The Sportage is also well available with advanced safety features like adaptive cruise control, forward collision mitigation, and lane departure assist.
We love the Toyota Rav4, but the one to have is the hybrid model and getting a decent one with good mileage will take all of our budget and then some. The smaller Toyota C-HR offers much of the same capability, space, and fuel economy below our $20,000 price. One of the few vehicles here that can only be had with front-wheel-drive, the C-HR makes up for it with multiple advanced safety features, excellent nimble handling, and great tech like Apple CarPlay. It’s also easy to find one under budget in the top-of-the-line XSE trim that will have leather, automatic headlights, and real-time traffic alerts.
Much like the Sportage, the Hyundai Kona is a newly minted member of the top crossover family. It’s also identical to the Kia in its second owner warranty coverage. No matter what Kona you get you’ll at the very least get some excellent features like a 7-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto connectivity, as well as safety features like automated emergency braking. While we don’t love some of the cheaper-looking plastics in the Kona, the ride is comfortable and gets even more capable if you go for the all-wheel-drive model. The Hyundai Kona Electric is out of our price range, but as soon as it falls below $20,000 it would find itself recommended here.
The Subaru Forester is one of the most capable compact crossovers here. It’s a sort of jack of all trades. It’s not dominant off-road, but it’s nearly as capable as the Compass. It’s not going to beat the Audi in terms of interior control, but it’s close. It’s also not going to handle on-road like the Mazda, but it’s still athletic. The Forester does everything well. If it’s got a weak spot or two it’s that it won’t tow much and it won’t lead the way in terms of fuel economy. Nevertheless, it’s completely worth checking out as it’s impressive in practically every other facet of its design.
Unlike the majority of vehicles here, the Chevrolet Equinox has a special feature that maximizes economy with an available diesel engine. Even when combined with a usually fuel-thirsty all-wheel-drive system, it manages 38 mpg on the highway and 28 mpg in the city for a combined rating of 32 mpg. It’s not going to impress with interior material quality, but it’s excellent in terms of ride quality and legroom. It also has a bevy of standard features like Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, navigation, and the safety alert seat.
No list about quality compact crossovers could be complete without discussing the Honda CR-V. While most of the aforementioned rivals are fairly new to the segment, the CR-V practically started this trend and it has maintained a position as one of the best ever since. Look no further than the innovative features like the second-row “Magic Seat” for an indication of why. While others have rested on laurels, Honda has continued to push forward even when it comes to small steps that produce big gains. We don’t love the base trim or the low towing capacity, but beyond that, the CR-V is still an All-Star. It’s also perhaps the best vehicle here when it comes to storage spaces both in terms of total cargo space and small hideaways.