If you’re in the market for a new crossover, you are hilariously spoiled for choice, as you can find a fairly solid option from every manufacturer. Susan reached out to us recently asking what the best bang for her $25,000 would be if she were to buy a crossover that doesn’t need to go off-road, but will need to tackle New England throughout the year.
She reached out to us as a self-proclaimed ‘Jeep gal’ (always excited to hear from you guys!), and specifically mentioned the Jeep Cherokee and Mazda CX-5 for that sort of money. Here’s her question in full:
“Any advice as to which would be the best crossover for a Jeep gal who for a used car? Doesn’t need to go off-road but does travel to New England during the year? I have about $25,000 so don’t think I can find an entry level luxury car.
I would like front collision and a comfortable, quiet ride but DO like to drive and love that torque! What do you think of the new fuel injected engines? I notice that Jeep is not selling many of them. Many thanks!”
Fleshing out your options
That’s a great question, and it covers the one car segment where most of us buy in: compact to midsize crossovers. Among all the options out there, it’s fairly straightforward to find a decently-equipped new or nearly-new used options for $25,000. Just so you know how many options you have, here are all of them in order:
- Chevrolet Equinox
- Ford Escape
- GMC Terrain
- Honda CR-V
- Hyundai Tucson
- Jeep Compass
- Jeep Cherokee
- Kia Sportage
- Mazda CX-5
- Mazda CX-30
- Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross
- Mitsubishi Outlander
- Nissan Rogue
- Subaru Forester
- Subaru Outback
- Toyota RAV4
- Volkswagen Tiguan
These are all mainstream models available with all-wheel drive for between $25,000 and $30,000. You’ll be able to fall well within that price for a loaded one if you buy used, or you could even get some new base models. Of course, few people cross-shop that many cars, so we’re going to make recommendations based on the cars you specifically mentioned, as well as those that may best fit your needs. It’s always a good thing to step outside your comfort zone and try something new, though, so I’d go beyond just taking my word for it and try these cars out yourself (as much as you can, given the circumstances) before you buy!
Again, per Susan’s request, my recommendations below are going to center around that $25,000 budget. For that price, I’d consider a mid-range used model that’s less than three years old, or you can get a fully-loaded crossover with some more miles in a previous generation if you want to stretch your money even farther.
Comfortable, quiet recommendation: Toyota RAV4 or Honda CR-V
Most crossovers in this class will offer a fairly well-rounded experience in terms of comfort, technology and capability. Depending on what qualities you most value in a car, though, some models will stand out more than others. If you’re looking for something that will still offer good all-wheel drive capability as well as comfort and quietness, I’d recommend either the Honda CR-V or the Toyota RAV4. There is a reason these two are often the best selling crossovers around: They both do a great job at bringing what most buyers want to the table.
Both the Honda Sensing and Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 systems come standard across the entire range if you buy new, even on the base models. Even if you go back a couple years, you’ll be able to get frontal collision avoidance without breaking the bank, and both cars offer around 200 horsepower.
The “fun to drive” option: Mazda CX-5 (used) or Mazda CX-30 (new)
Since Susan’s looking for a fun to drive crossover, I would recommend the Mazda CX-5, one of her original choices. Like Honda and Toyota, Mazda does offer its Smart Brake Support even on the CX-5 Sport model. If you actually want to buy new, spending about $27,000 (before any dealer incentives) will get you into a CX-5. Honestly, the Sport model offers all the capability you need, and with 187 horsepower mated to a snappy six-speed automatic, it’s one of the best crossovers to drive in its class.
As of this year, Mazda offers a new wild card if you’re willing to downsize a bit. Instead of going for a slightly used CX-5, you can look into a well-equipped CX-30 crossover instead. $25,000 will easily get you into a base model with the exact same engine, transmission and all-wheel drive system that’s in the CX-5. What’s better is that you actually get a more modern infotainment system in Mazda’s newest model, since the CX-5 still runs the old version of MazdaConnect. You still get Smart Brake Support, lane departure warning, lane keep assist and radar cruise control even on the base model, making it a much better value than its big brother has been in the past.
The CX-30 is a new model, so there aren’t too many used examples on the market just yet. If you are looking to stick with the used market, you can get a 2017 or newer CX-5 Touring or Grand Touring for less than $25,000, with all the luxury that entails. The Mazda is a bit tighter on interior space and it’s not the quietest crossover you can buy, but the second generation is still a massive improvement over the first when it comes to comfort.
Best winter all-rounder: Subaru Forester
If you’re looking for the best all-wheel drive capability, the Subaru Forester or the Outback are difficult to beat. Both cars have 8.7 inches of ground clearance, so tackling the odd Nor’easter shouldn’t be an issue. Personally, I prefer the Forester because it carries more of a crossover look than a wagon, and it is a bit cheaper (as well as a bit smaller, mind you). Subaru’s EyeSight system ensures you’ll have all the safety equipment you need, while both cars are also enormously comfortable among their competition.
That said, neither car is particularly electric to drive. They aren’t bad by any means, but their lack of turbocharged engine (new Outbacks do have that option, but not at this price point) and continuously variable transmission, these cars are geared more toward efficiency and ease-of-use than driving pleasure.
What do you think?
To bring the Jeep Cherokee back into the mix, it does offer the best off-road-focused capability among its rivals. The brand’s crossovers are also comfortable options, and FCA’s Uconnect system is one of the better, more intuitive infotainment systems around.
However, the Jeep Cherokee does have a few drawbacks that would keep me from recommending it in this specific situation. Some safety features that come standard on its competition cost extra here, especially if you’re going for the lower-trimmed models. I’d also avoid the 2.4-liter MultiAir engine here, as it’s an underwhelming powertrain for a crossover this size. While they are comfortable and off-road capable options, Cherokees aren’t the most agile or dynamic on the road, either.
If you do ultimately buy a Cherokee, I’d recommend at least going for the 3.2-liter Pentastar V6 engine or the 2.0-liter turbo in newer models, if not also the rear locking differential that’s available in the Trailhawk. If you’re not going off-road much you won’t need it, but it’s something that’s always nice to have in a tricky scenario.
Let us know your suggestions in the comments below!