The SUV and crossover market in the USA is extremely saturated, which means competition is stiff, with cheap options like the Chevrolet Trax and Mazda CX-3 going up against premium models such as Mercedes-Benz GLA and Volvo XC40. This means that finding the perfect fit for your lifestyle may seem daunting. However, taking a quick gander at some of the top options in each category with regard to performance, passenger and cargo capacity, comfort, and value for money should help you narrow down a shortlist.
1. Kia Seltos
One of the most affordable vehicles on the market is the Kia Seltos, the slightly larger, more stylish sibling of the Soul. Though it may be brand new for 2021, it has an affordable starting MSRP of just over $20k. In many ways, it is a miniaturized version of the every-popular Telluride. Inside, it is just as cozy with loads of space for its size. And, though the engine on the base model may be lackluster, the light weight of the crossover means that it is more than powerful enough. But, if you want to have a bit more fun with it, there is a turbocharged option, which comes paired with a seven-speed automatic transmission instead of a CVT.
Multiple trim levels and configurations grant access to more advanced features, especially safety systems like blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and forward collision avoidance.
2. Toyota RAV4
Another low-cost option, the RAV4 is offered in gas-fed, mild hybrid, and plug-in variants. This means that the overall cost can vary quite a bit, but you always get great value. The best fuel economy is achieved by the Hybrid, which gets 40 miles per gallon in front-wheel-drive guise, though the Prime doesn’t fall far behind.
Though it may be compact, it has a cavernous cabin and the trunk is competitive against leading rivals like the Honda CR-V. To top it all off, the seats are comfortable, though they may not be dressed in the most lavish materials. But, upgrade a few trim levels, and you can enjoy leatherette-appointed seats with power adjustability and heating functions.
Available features include a seven-inch touchscreen, Wi-Fi, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and an 11-speaker premium sound system. The fact that it’s super easier to interact with is just icing on the cake.
3. Volvo XC40
Bridging the gap between affordable and top-tier premium models, the XC40 is slightly more affordable than its German cousins. However, it is no less luxurious, despite being a latecomer to the subcompact segment. The interior is immaculately styled and superbly built, and the number of standard features is quite incredible.
For optimal power and efficiency, the Recharge is a great option, but it adds a whopping $20k to the bill. The standard model gets a turbocharged four-cylinder, delivering 296 horsepower to all four wheels, though the AWD is more for slippery road conditions than genuine off-roading capabilities.
Unlike many of its other premium rivals, the Volvo is superbly practical, too. This includes a spacious back seat and more than enough trunk space to take care of all your daily needs. Combined with loads of comfort features, it makes for an excellent family hauler around town.
4. Ford Mustang Mach-E
An excellent example from a local manufacturer, the electric Mach-E debunks the myth that all American vehicles deliver terrible mileage. Depending on the model you opt for, you can have up to 480 hp and 634 lb-ft of torque. It definitely lives up to its muscle car heritage in this regard, sprinting from 0 to 60 mph in as little as 3.5 seconds.
It’s a standout contender when it comes to the interior, too. All too often, brands like Chevrolet and Cadillac make compromises to their interiors to cut costs. However, Ford delivers a high-quality cabin, making a great impression as the first full EV from the Blue Oval brand. This includes plenty of head- and legroom and a spacious trunk – something that is often rare in electric vehicles.
Standard tech on this $40k car includes Ford Co-Pilot360 with Active Drive Assist, blind-spot monitoring, and collision avoidance. A large touchscreen takes up most of the dash while another screen makes up the instrument cluster.
5. Mercedes-AMG GLA
A fine offering from the high-performance division, the AMG-powered subcompact from Mercedes uses a turbocharged inline-four to race from 0-60 mph in five seconds. Combined with refined handling, McPherson suspension struts and systems like Ride Control, it is one of the more thrilling drives in the segment.
The interior is quite racy, with stainless steel pedals and red accents. This matches its glitzy exterior, which comprises 19-inch wheels, an AMG grille, and loads of chrome. It’s one of the more expensive subcompacts, but you get a lot for how much you spend in comparison to many of its rivals.