No, you don't have to spend $40,000 on a new car, but if you have the budget, it can get you quite the vehicle. With this budget, you're open to entry-level luxury cars, SUVs, sedans and more. And that can be a lot to shop, so we wanted to make sure to highlight the best cars under $40,000 on sale today.
We've already highlighted cars under the $30K mark. With this price cap, the extra dough opens buyers up to several makes and models, including entry-level luxury cars, midsize SUVs, and even long-range electric cars. Here are our editors' favorites.
(Note: Though all the vehicles listed here have a base manufacturer's suggested retail price that's under $40,000, some of them offer fully loaded trim levels that can exceed this price cap.)
2021 Kia Telluride
I'm going with a somewhat unusual choice for this roundup, because I've recently spent a fair bit of time in Kia's Telluride and I've been really, really impressed. It's remarkably good. I think it looks remarkably good, too, though it has definitely split opinion.
The ride is on the leisurely side of comfortable, but it really is refined, lulling my passengers to sleep on multiple occasions. Meanwhile, the 3.8-liter V6 provides better-than-adequate power and the eight-speed transmission is responsive and unobtrusive, which is really all you can ask for in an automatic in a rig like this.
You can get in a front-wheel-drive Kia Telluride for $33,060 including destination, which is affordable given all it offers. Working within our $40,000 cap, I'd step up to the feature-packed EX trim, which starts at $38,460 and includes Kia's comprehensive Highway Driving Assist system. Another $2,000 gets you AWD, then you're just slightly over the $40,000 mark for a big, comfortable SUV that's as sophisticated to drive as it is to look at.
-- Tim Stevens
Read our most recent Kia Telluride review.
2021 Toyota Avalon
I tend to like small, sporty cars. The 2020 Toyota Avalon is neither of those things, so why am I recommending it? Because it's a fabulously well-done large sedan that's an epic long-distance cruiser. Its looks may not be for everyone, but there's no denying its buttery-smooth powertrain and class-above cabin that are among its many strong points.
A 3.5-liter gas V6 comes standard with 301 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque, offering plenty of power. An optional hybrid model with an electrically augmented 2.5-liter four-cylinder is available for about $1,000 more, but unless gas prices spike enough to make its mid-40s fuel efficiency act as a salve for its power deficit (176 horsepower, 163 pound-feet), I'd recommend sticking with the standard engine.
Pricing starts at $36,830 (including destination) for a well-equipped base XLE, with top-shelf Limited models ringing up at just over $42K before options. At that end of the spectrum, you're looking at an Avalon sufficiently luxurious enough to make you forget all about this car's costlier Lexus ES twin. Oh, and if that's not enough to keep you in the Toyota showroom, know this: The Avalon has an infinitely less annoying infotainment interface, plus you can fold the rear seats down.
-- Chris Paukert
Read our most recent Toyota Avalon review.
2021 Volvo XC40
Subcompact luxury crossovers are oftentimes hit-or-miss affairs. Some skimp on luxury and style, while others are duds behind the wheel. Neither is true about Volvo'sXC40. If I were shopping for a small, premium SUV, it's absolutely the one I'd buy.
The XC40 starts at $34,695 including destination, and I actually like its lowest Momentum trim the best (the same spec as Roadshow's long-term XC40 test car). Opt for the more powerful T5 engine with all-wheel drive, choose a few option packages, and you've got a really nicely equipped crossover for right about $40,000. LED headlights, leather seats, a 9-inch touchscreen infotainment system and a ton of active safety equipment all come standard.
The XC40 impresses with its easygoing, comfortable driving dynamics, spacious interior and high-quality materials. It's everything I love about Volvo's larger, more expensive vehicles, all in a pint-sized package.
-- Steven Ewing
Read our most recent Volvo XC40 review.
2021 Hyundai Kona Electric
Earmarking $40K opens buyers to a new generation of entry-level EVs, and one of our favorites is Hyundai's Kona Electric. The subcompact SUV combines generous safety and cabin tech with reasonable spaciousness, all wrapped into a city-friendly footprint and wallet-friendly budget. If you want to keep it under $40,000, you'll have to go with the SEL trim.
The Kona's electric motor sends 201 hp and 291 lb-ft of torque to its front wheels. That's more get-up-and-go than the turbocharged gasoline Kona, but the heavier EV is a bit slower overall. Without gear changes or revs to build, however, the nearly silent electric SUV should feel more responsive off the line and around town.
Of course, the most important number is the Kona Electric's 258-mile EPA-estimated range -- that should quell most range anxiety concerns. At a DC Fast Charger, the EV can boost its battery to an 80% charge in about an hour. More common, 240-volt, Level 2 home and public stations can juice the battery with a 9.5-hour charge.
-- Antuan Goodwin
Read our most recent Hyundai Kona Electric review.
2021 Acura RDX
The third-generation Acura RDX offered a number of improvements over its already solid predecessor. More appealing styling, a new turbocharged engine and Acura's excellent SH-AWD system work together to make the RDX really interesting. Things are nicer inside, too, with a great layout of controls, some of the most comfortable seats in the business and a healthy list of tech offerings. With a base price of $38,825, including $1,025 for destination, it's not a bad value for a sporty, entry-luxury crossover.
A 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder powers the RDX, producing a respectable 272 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque. The latter is available from just 1,600 rpm on up to 4,500 rpm for peppy acceleration from stops and out of corners, and works with a well-calibrated 10-speed automatic. Spring for the optional adaptive dampers and you'll have a small crossover that can be entertaining to toss around, or comfortable for normal driving at the push of a button.
Acura's True Touchpad Interface with a 10.2-inch center screen is in charge of infotainment, and it's intuitive to use after a short get-to-know period. It's offered with navigation, a 16-speaker ELS audio system, Wi-Fi hotspot, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capabilities. For safety, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise, lane keep assist and a multiangle rearview camera come standard.
-- Jon Wong
Read our most recent Acura RDX review.
2021 Mercedes-Benz A-Class
The A-Class is a great entry point into the Mercedes-Benz brand. This little sedan punches way above its weight with premium materials, a peppy turbocharged engine and plenty of technology.
Mercedes' MBUX infotainment system comes on an optional 10.25-inch touchscreen, and brings natural voice recognition to the table. Plus, I love the augmented reality overlay that's available on the navigation. It displays navigation directions directly on top of the real-time video display from the front camera, ensuring you'll never miss a turn.
The four-cylinder turbocharged engine puts out 188 hp and 221 lb-ft of torque, which is more than adequate in the A220 sedan. A Sport mode can dial up the transmission and throttle response, while Comfort is great for daily driving. Power goes down to the front wheels through a seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission, although all-wheel drive is available for those in colder climates.
Overall, the A-Class is a truly premium car -- far more so than the last-generation CLA250 ever was.
-- Emme Hall
Read our most recent Mercedes-Benz A-Class review.
2021 Toyota RAV4
Toyota's RAV4 has been one of the world's best-selling small SUVs for a reason. It's simple, stout, well-built and priced appropriately. And it looks good, too.
The drivetrain options on the 2020 RAV4 may not be the most exciting in the world, but they are efficient and shouldn't give you many problems going forward. Optional hybrid power in a compact SUV is a great selling point, too.
The RAV4, particularly in Adventure trim, is a handsome SUV that begins to look a little like its more off-road capable siblings without forcing those vehicles' compromises on its owner. It's a great crossover, and is more appealing than ever before.
-- Kyle Hyatt
Read our most recent Toyota RAV4 review .
2021 Audi Q3
The 2021 Audi Q3 is on sale, packing some major improvements, and I believe that'll give this diminutive German the edge over its competitors, many of which are very compelling.
Having sampled the Q3 last year, I can attest to its prowess in the handling department. Wielding the same 228-hp turbo I4 as the Volkswagen Golf GTI, it should also provide enough hustle to back up an on-road demeanor that begs you to have a little fun behind the wheel.
The Q3's starting price of $35,695 including destination nets you some solid standard equipment, including a 10.25-inch gauge cluster display, a panoramic sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, two rows of USB ports and automatic emergency braking.
-- Andrew Krok
Read our most recent Audi Q3 review.
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12 Luxury SUVs Under $40,000
How to get the coveted badge without losing luster
They say that 40 is the new 30. But what if it's really the other way around? Below are 12 luxury SUVs starting in the mid-30s, all fiercely competing in one of the hottest segments today. While they can all be optioned far into the stratosphere, we wanted to see just how much luxury SUV you could get without crossing the $40,000 barrier. But as you inch ever closer to that price ceiling, either-or decisions abound: Should you spring for the all-wheel drive or the upgraded sound system? Navigation or leather seats? What do you mean Apple CarPlay costs extra? It's these compromises that keep the field competitive and interesting.
It all comes down to space, features, and, of course, what matters most to you. We've listed some of the most popular options (and packages) below for easy comparison.
How will you configure your SUV to reach that magic number—without going over?
2019 Acura RDX
Ringing in at $38,295, Acura's RDX is all-new for 2019. A full safety suite is standard, as are heated seats, a panoramic moonroof, and Apple CarPlay integration. A new 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 272 horsepower drives the front wheels. Want all-wheel drive or navigation? Both options will take you over the threshold of $40,000.
You'll Like: Highest horsepower in this lineup, top-notch safety ratings, mobile hotspot capability standard
You Won't Like: All-wheel drive pushes the price over $40,000, and so does satellite navigation
Motor Trend's Take: With many customers taking the leap from sports sedans to SUVs, Acura redesigned the RDX to take advantage of this migration. In our First Drive, we said, "RDX buyers will appreciate the moderately sharper response of Sport mode" as it "moves down the road with technical sophistication and reassuring confidence." The Android-powered infotainment system has a "screen as customizable as a smartphone."
2019 Audi Q3
With the lowest base price here at $33,875, there's plenty of room to add features and still keep the Audi Q3 under $40,000. Satellite navigation will run you $2,100, and a Bose system is $850, but Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not available at any price. Quattro all-wheel drive can be had for $2,100.
You'll Like: All-wheel drive and navigation are standalone options
You Won't Like: Dated tech and powertrain, cramped interior
Motor Trend's Take: The Q3 was introduced in 2015 and hasn't changed a whole lot since then. Our First Drive noted that while the "instruments and ergonomics are as near faultlessly clear as you can find, underneath it's a little old hat." The Audi Q3 is really showing its age when it comes to power, efficiency, and driving dynamics.
2019 BMW X1
If it's bare-bones luxury you're after, the BMW X1 at $34,895 fits the bill with eight-way power leatherette seats, seven-speaker audio system, 18-inch wheels, and automatic climate control. Class up the cabin with the Luxury Package ($1,550), which adds leather and uplevel trim accents. Notable standalone options include a Harmon Kardon 12-speaker sound system ($875), Apple CarPlay compatibility ($300), and satellite navigation ($950). All-wheel drive is available for $2,000.
You'll Like: Optional comprehensive safety suite, individual options keep a lid on price
You Won't Like: Sparse-looking interior in base model, upcharge for Apple CarPlay
Motor Trend's Take: The front-wheel-drive X1 marks a dramatic departure from BMW's rear-wheel-drive philosophy. Detractors might dismiss it as a Mini in BMW's clothing, thanks to a shared platform, but in our First Test, we said the BMW-specific powertrain received high marks for its "smoothness and linearity." Indeed, the best thing about the X1 is its powertrain. The rest of the package falls somewhere in the middle. "For an entry-level luxury crossover," we concluded, "the X1 is perfectly adequate."
2019 Buick Envision
While the Buick Envision may have the lowest base price here at $32,990, it still comes standard with heated power front seats and mirrors, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, remote start, and a hands-free power liftgate. You can spec an Essence model with all-wheel drive and leather seats for $38,940 and still add satellite navigation for $495.
You'll Like: Lots of features for the money, terrific rear-seat legroom
You Won't Like: All-wheel drive not available on base model, advanced safety features only available on top trim levels over $40,000, questionable interior material quality
Motor Trend's Take:Buick reaches for the stars but settles for atmosphere, scoring on value while stumbling on driving dynamics. Driven aggressively in our latest First Drive, we observed, "The Envision mostly indulged us competently but without evidencing any joy in the process." And in an earlier First Drive, we noted that Buick's "Quiet Tuning" was anything but, as "noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH) control is severely lacking." And while the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine provided decent power, it was "coarse and loud on throttle and unrefined off throttle, vibrating the driver's seat." What price value?
2019 Cadillac XT4
New for 2019, the Cadillac XT4 slots in below the XT5 on both size and price, starting at $35,790. That's a decent starting price, but options can add up fast: All-wheel drive is a cool $2,500, and satellite navigation with Bose audio will cost you $1,500. A cold weather package with heated seats and steering wheel is $850, and a power sunroof will set you back $1,500. Thankfully, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard.
You'll Like: Punchy 2.0-liter turbocharged power, four USB ports a nice touch
You Won't Like: Advanced safety suite not available on base models, Silver/Black is the only included exterior/interior option—all other colors cost extra
Motor Trend's Take: We haven't yet driven the XT4 but look forward to seeing how Cadillac's CUV competes against fellow luxury bite-sized rivals.
2019 Infiniti QX50
If bigger means better, choose the $37,545 Infiniti QX50 over its smaller sibling, the QX30. But what you gain in size you'll sacrifice in features: The Pure trim level lives up to its name as no additional options are available beyond all-wheel drive for $1,800. Notable standard features include power liftgate, eight-way power seats, and automatic emergency braking.
You'll Like: Spacious cargo capacity, high-tech engine, impressive fuel economy
You Won't Like: No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto
Motor Trend's Take: The QX50 wowed us with its standout design and engine. We noted in our First Drive that "the most competitive segment in the luxury car world just got a whole lot more cutthroat," though the CVT transmission left a lot to be desired. Despite these quibbles, we concluded, "For the most part, Infiniti got the QX50 exactly right."
2019 Jaguar E-Pace
With a base price of $39,595, the Jaguar E-Pace limbos its way onto this list with mere dollars to spare. Skimming the bar results in 17-inch wheels, manually adjustable seats covered in cloth, and no navigation; but advanced safety features like emergency braking and lane keep assist make the cut, and all-wheel drive, automatic climate control, and heated mirrors make it capable in all climates.
You'll Like: Sleek styling, upscale interior materials, standard all-wheel drive, fun to drive
You Won't Like: Good luck finding a base model
Motor Trend's Take: The E-Pace may share a basic platform with the Land Rover Evoque and Discovery Sport, but in our First Drive, we said, "The E-Pace is more fun to drive than either of the Rovers." The Jag also impressed us with its calm demeanor: "What's more impressive is that this fun-to-drive character happens with smoothness and silence, too." If driving dynamics matter more to you than leather seats, the Jag is worth a look.
2019 Land Rover Discovery Sport
At $38,790, the Land Rover Discovery Sport might be the second most expensive model here, but it also holds the distinction of having far and away the most cargo space (thanks in part to its provision for an optional third row). It also comes standard with all-wheel drive, making it a great choice for family ski trips. There's room to sneak in an option or two, such as satellite navigation ($820) or an audio upgrade ($820)—or you could scrape the $40,000 ceiling by adding the Convenience Package ($1,125), which includes a hands-free power liftgate, proximity key entry, HomeLink, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
You'll Like: Serious off-road chops, colorful interior choices
You Won't Like: Proprietary phone-mirroring app instead of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto
Motor Trend's Take: Jack of all trades but master of none, the Discovery Sport attempts to split the difference between luxury and utility in a competitive segment. In our First Test, we concluded that the Discovery Sport "is a perfectly decent SUV. It needs a better transmission, an upgraded infotainment system, and should go on a diet, but most customers will like it just fine."
2019 Lexus NX 300
With the NX, Lexus is betting big on its smallest SUV, providing $37,180 worth of luxury in a diminutive package. That price snags you a full suite of active safety features. Take your choice of satellite navigation ($1,860) or all-wheel drive ($1400), but not both for under $40,000. Or console yourself with heated and ventilated seats ($980) instead.
You'll Like: Distinctive if polarizing styling, luxury-car ride
You Won't Like: Frustrating infotainment system, small fuel tank, tiny cargo space
Motor Trend's Take: Lexus sticks to what it knows best with the NX, and we pointed out those familiar attributes in our First Test: "The cabin is impressively quiet, and there's a general feel of isolation from the craziness outside the windows. As far as luxury vehicles go, it's the real deal. As a sporty crossover? Not so much." And in a comparison test with the Mazda CX-5, we bemoaned the fact that Lexus stubbornly insists on using a "detestable touchpad-operated infotainment system." Try before you buy.
2019 Lincoln MKC
The Lincoln MKC enters the fray with a base price of $34,930. Step up to the Select Trim for $2,755 more, which adds niceties like leather seats, power tilt/telescoping steering column, and wood trim. Here's the thing: Adding all-wheel drive ($2,410) to Select vaults it $85 over our price threshold. Yes, that's less than a month's worth of lattes, but rules are rules.
You'll Like: Handsome styling, well-appointed interior
You Won't Like: Snug back seat accommodations, old-school transmission
Motor Trend's Take:Lincoln fields a strong contender with the MKC, and we noted as much in our First Look, saying, "The panel gaps are tight throughout, and the fit and finish is excellent." In a five-way Comparison Test, the Lincoln came in fourth; we concluded, "Lincoln has been making decent strides lately, but we're still looking for a magic spark."
2019 Mercedes-Benz GLA
The character of the Mercedes-Benz GLA is as youthful as its base price of $34,395 suggests. Stand out from the crowd with a Kryptonite Green Metallic paint job ($720), or, if that's not enough, opt for the light-up star on the grille for $450. We're kidding. Don't get that. Show a little maturity with the Interior Package ($1,700), which adds leather sport seats and ambient cabin lighting, or the Premium Package ($1,800), which gives you wood trim, heated front seats, and SiriusXM radio. There's even enough room to add all-wheel drive ($2,000) and still stay below the price threshold.
You'll Like: Entry-level luxury with few compromises
You Won't Like: Minuscule cargo area, low-grade interior plastics
Motor Trend's Take: While the GLA might be inexpensive (for a Mercedes), it's still worthy of earning the badge. In our First Test, we called the GLA a "true driver's CUV" and said, "Even in base GLA 250 trim, the GLA is quite the performer." And in another First Test, we opined, "Its responsive handling, attractive exterior and interior, and quick reflexes might be enough to overlook its harsher-than-normal ride."
2019 Volvo XC40
Volvo's XC40 packs a smart combination of features into the $34,195 Momentum trim, which includes popular items such as Apple CarPlay/Android Auto integration, leather seats, and a power tailgate. Volvo bundles its most desired options into packages: Multimedia ($1,375) includes upgraded sound and satellite navigation, and Premium ($1,400) offers keyless proximity entry, hands-free tailgate, and semi-autonomous driving. All-wheel drive is on board for $2,000.
You'll Like: State-of-the-art tech features, cool two-tone paint options
You Won't Like: Rearward visibility can be tricky
Motor Trend's Take: We said in our First Look that the design of the XC40 "bucks the conventional wisdom about how a modern Volvo should look," though "on cars painted a single color, the C-pillar can look bulky." Styling aside, we surmised in our First Test, "The XC40 keeps with Volvo tradition, particularly when it comes to interior quality, feature availability, and drive experience."
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Fastest SUVs Under $40,000
The $40,000 price point is the typical entry point into the luxury crossover class. You get a quality vehicle, with utility, luxurious touches, quality features, and a more spirited engine.
However, even at that level, prices can rise quickly after you add in options, all-wheel drive, and higher trim lines.
That’s why we wanted to focus on quick SUVs with powerful engines and a host of features that have prices that start closer to $35,000, which allows room for upgrades, taxes, and other add-ons.
With a few exceptions, we’re focusing on the performance subcompact class and all of the models listed had 0-60 mph times of under seven seconds.
A few of these models come in at under $30,000 fully loaded leaving you plenty of spare change to get out and have more fun in your vehicle.
Here are the 2021 models that are the fastest SUVs under $40,000 with 0-60 time* indicated next to the model.
Toyota RAV4 Prime â 5.4 seconds
A Toyota is the fastest SUV under $40,000? Yep. The company has stepped up its performance game added a new hybrid version of its popular compact SUV. The RAV4 Prime pairs the modelâs four-cylinder engine with two AC electric motors and standard all-wheel drive. It adds up an impressive 302 horsepower, which is 99 more than the RAV4.
The RAV4 Prime has a starting retail price of $38,100.
An Older Ford Escape Titanium
Ford Escape Titanium â 5.7 seconds
You probably wouldn’t think an Escape would make a fastest SUV list but you’d be wrong. The Escape is a compact crossover model that unlike many of its competitors offers an optional powerful engine.
The Escape Titanium trim lives up to its name with its robust 250-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and 280 pound-feet of torque. It has standard all-wheel drive and a long list of included features.
While the Escape Titanium may give you pause at nearly $40,000, the 250-horsepower in a compact SUV is nothing to sneeze at. It has 3,500 pounds of towing capacity and is the fastest SUV under $40,000.
So why is the Escape Titanium faster than the equally powerful and more torquey #3 model on our list? It weighs nearly 250 pounds less.
Ford Bronco Sport Badlands – 5.9 seconds
The Bronco Sport Badlands, and also First Edition trims, are compact off-road-focused models with powerful engines. They come with Ford’s 245-horsepower turbocharged EcoBoost four-cylinder engine. They also have an enhanced all-wheel-drive system. So in addition to going fast on the road, they also have more power and traction off-road.
This engine is a significant step up from the base Bronco Sports’ 181 horsepower engine. This makes the Badlands or First Edition trims the clear choice if you want a faster and more powerful Bronco Sport. The turbocharged engine can tow up to 2,200 pounds.
The Badlands and First Edition models come with rubberized, washable flooring and easy-to-clean upholstery. This makes these trims a great choice for people whom are likely to get their vehicles dirty on the inside.
Mazda CX-30 Turbo – 5.9 seconds (estimate)
The CX-30 is a nimble, athletic, fun to drive subcompact offering from Mazda. For 2021, it has added a turbocharged engine to the lineup, which brings a whole another level of performance.
The CX-30 Turbo outputs 250 horsepower and a class-leading 320 pound-feet of torque from its turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. It’s the most amount of torque you can get in SUV under $40,000, even more than the Hyundai Kona Electric. The engine is an adjusted version of the turbocharged engine found in the Mazda CX-5 Signature.
It’s a significant step up from the non-turbo CX-30, which has a 2.5-liter 186 horsepower four-cylinder engine. Its 0-60 time was 8.1 seconds.
In addition to its much more powerful engine, CX-30 Turbo also gets standard all-wheel drive, black 18-inch wheels, larger exhaust tips, and a Turbo badge help differentiate it from the non-turbo model.
The CX-30 Turbo is a new model so not all of the specification details are currently available, including its 0-60 time. So stay tuned and check back for updates. However, with its low weight as a subcompact and class-leading 320 pound-feet of torque, it may just take its spot at the top of our fastest SUVs under $40,000 list.
The CX-30 is anticipated to start arriving in U.S. dealerships by the end of 2020. The price for the CX-30 Turbo is expected to be in the low $30Ks.
Mazda CX-5 Signature â 6.2 seconds
Our second fastest 2021 SUV under $40,000 was actually one of the largest models on this list and heaviest at 3,795 pounds. The compact Mazda CX-5 offers a 2.5 Signature trim with all-wheel drive.
Its 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine outputs 250 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque and offers Mazda’s zoom-zoom driving dynamics. The CX-5 Signature’s starting price, well equipped, is about $39,000.
In comparison, the base CX-5 starts at about $26,000, offers a 187 horsepower engine, and its 0-60 time is two seconds slower.
Mercedes-Benz GLA – 6.3 seconds
Mercedes-Benz’s subcompact crossover offering the GLA is redesigned from the ground up for 2021. It has more power, more cargo room, and a better ride than the 2020 model and it looks premium inside and out.
The GLA comes with a powerful, 221 horsepower four-cylinder turbocharged engine. The GLA250 with 4matic all-wheel drive starts at $39,280.
Hyundai Kona Electric â 6.4 seconds
The Kona Electric offers zippy performance, engaging driving dynamics, and up to 258 miles of range on a charge. While it’s no Tesla Model Y and doesn’t offer all-wheel drive, it’s significantly less expensive.
The Kona Electric is the only electric SUV for 2021 in this price range and is the clear choice for electric SUV enthusiasts for under $40,000.
The SEL is the only trim line that starts under $40,000, but lacks desirable features such as leather upholstery, sunroof, LED exterior lighting, and a wireless smartphone charging pad. You’ll need to pony up about another $5,000 to get those features.
Despite a price near $40,000, look at the tax incentives for buying an electric vehicle where you reside to determine the true cost of purchase. It could be significantly less. And with the electric motor, this means substantial savings on fuel costs.
The Kona’s sibling model, the Kia Niro EV, starts at just over $40,000. However, that modelâs EX Premium trim can reach $47,000 with no all-wheel-drive option. The Niro EV is only available in 14 states.
BMW X2 xDrive28i â 6.4 seconds
The BMW X2 xDrive28i has a 2.0-liter 228 horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine that still delivers 31 mpg highway fuel economy. The X2 xDrive28i has a starting price of $39,395 with a host of standard features. The X2 emphasizes sport over practicality with the company called it a Sport Activity Coupe.
Although still a subcompact, the BMW X2 is a larger more stylish version of the diminutive X1. The X2 is actually slower than the X1 as it carries more weight. They share the same silky smooth, eager to rev powertrain.
For a less expensive X2, go for the sDrive28i, which is front-wheel drive, and starts at $37,395.
BMW X1 â 6.4 seconds
If you want a new BMW crossover that is more practical and costs less than the X2, go with the spirited but small X1. The X1 has the same engine as the X2 with an eight-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode. The X1 starts at $36,395.
Due to the X2’s sloped rear, the X1 is actually the larger vehicle. The X1 has more utility with 27 cubic feet of cargo space compared to the X2âs 22 cubic feet.
Kia Soul Turbo â 6.4 seconds
Who would have ever thought a Kia under $30,000 could match a BMW but the Soul Turbo can. Normally the Soul isnât known for sport but Kia has added an optional 1.6-liter 201 horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine to the lineup. This really helps this front-wheel-drive subcompact offering pick up the pace.
The Soul Turbo trim, also known as the GT-Line 1.6T comes in at about $29,000. It has a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic with manual shifting mode. Its 0-60 time is 1.6 seconds faster than the Soul’s naturally aspirated 2.0-liter 147 horsepower trim lines.
Hyundai Kona Ultimate â 6.6 seconds
The Kona’s styling varies only slightly from the Kona Electric and its price with a 1.6-liter 175 horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine starts at quite a bit less.
The Kona Ultimate, the top-spec level trim with front-wheel drive, starts at about $30,000. The model’s fuel economy is rated at 28 mpg city and 32 mpg highway. The Kona has a sleeker design but is smaller and less practical than the Soul.
What About the Tesla Model Y?
Tesla announced in 2019 it was going to offer its new Model Y electric crossover at a starting price below $40,000 in standard range rear-wheel-drive base form. However, the company has changed course and that currently isn’t in their plans.
The least expensive Model Y is the long-range rear-wheel-drive which has a starting price of $48,000 and a swift 0-60 time of 5.5 seconds. This would make the Model Y in competition with the Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2.0T for the fastest SUV under $50,000.
However, the cost of ownership for an electric SUV is less than internal combustion-powered crossovers.
Fast SUVs at Other Price Points
Stepping up into the $45,000 price point brings in lots of other luxury compact models to choose from with serious acceleration. These models include the Volvo XC40 T5, Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2.0T, and Jaguar E-Pace among others.
For a look back at content on our website from other price points, check out our older articles on the fastest SUVs under $30,000, under $50,000, and $100,000. And for the ultimate in SUV speed and performance, check out our super SUVs article.
SUVs have become more expensive in recent years and there are fewer performance models at lower price points. Nissan has discontinued its zippy Juke subcompact and Subaru no longer offers the Forester XT performance trim line.
What’s your favorite of these fastest SUV models under $40,000? Let us know in the comments below or cast your vote in our poll.
*All 0-60 times were sourced from Car and Driver.
The way they are right now, SUVs are one of the most common vehicles of choice for family cars due to their comfortableness that comes at the expense of speed or, at the very least, cost if you’re trying to go for both.
Despite their bulky design and other shortcomings, there are still fast SUVs such as Volvo, Acura, Lexus, and others.
Here are some choices of fastest SUVs under 40k that you can add to your reference list:
Table of Contents
- 2021 Volvo XC40 ($35,700)
- 2021 Acura RDX ($38,200 )
- 2021 Lexus NX ($37,510 )
- 2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo ($30,050)
- 2021 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring ($30,560 )
- 2021 BMW X1 ($35,400)
- 2021 Ford Escape ($24,900)
- 2021 Mazda CX-9 ($34,160)
- 2021 Lincoln Corsair ($35,945)
- Final Word
2021 Volvo XC40 ($35,700)
So, the first entry in the fastest SUV under $40,000 listing, Volvo’s 2021 XC40 model, definitely takes the cake. Out of all the SUVs listed in this article, it is cheaper, starting at $35,700.
And despite its relatively low price, its performance is nothing to scoff at when it comes to fast SUVs. Every XC40 comes equipped with a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine with a horsepower of up to 248hp for its T5 model.
Due to this, it can reach 60mph in a measly 6.2 seconds, which is absurdly good for an SUV that’s more meant for comfort rather than speed.
The Volvo XC40 T5 does not win the most efficient fuel efficiency when it comes to this list. But it’s still one of the best fastest SUVs for under $40,000 due to its pros above.
2021 Acura RDX ($38,200 )
The next SUV for the second spot lands at Acura’s 2021 RDX.
Though it is hard to compare to Volvo XC40 in the first place, Acura’s RDX model is still a great vehicle with great features at the cost of a steeper price than usual at $38,200.
Under the hood, every single one of Acura RDX comes with 272 horsepower charged 2.0-liter four-cylinder in them.
The Acura RDX reaches 60mph in 6.6 seconds, just 0.4 seconds of difference from Volvo’s XC40, which, again, is pretty decent and average for SUVs under $40,000, ensuring you fast travel through highways and/or cities.
As for its fuel efficiency, the RDX scores worse when it comes to MPG than Volvo XC40, with a score of 25mpg on highway tests.
2021 Lexus NX ($37,510 )
Now, to be upfront, the 2021 Lexus NX is a bit of a downer when you compare it to both entries above. But, it’s also way cheaper too with it starting at $36,510.
But despite being cheaper, its 235-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is more than enough for it.
The car’s engine can accelerate from 0-60mph in 6.9 seconds which is still very good for a bulky SUV like the 2021 Lexus NX.
Thankfully, it holds up quite well in fuel efficiency, with ratings of 22mpg for city driving and 28mpg for highway driving.
2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo ($30,050)
Coming in at $30,050, the 2021 Mazda CX-30 is definitely a beast when it comes to acceleration and speed. This is mainly due to its 2.5-liter I4 turbo pushing 250hp for the car to use.
Due to this turbo, the car’s acceleration reaches 60mph in just around 5.8 seconds, way league every other entry before it.
And as for its fuel economy, it scores an average of 25mpg combined, which is not bad but not mind-blowing either.
Overall, the Mazda CX-30 is one sexy speedster, but not much else aside from that.
2021 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring ($30,560 )
While Mazda’s CX-30 trades many things at the cost of speed, Mazda CX-5 is the opposite. It’s not as quick as the one above, but it makes up in other areas while not lagging in the fastest SUV under $40,000 race.
Starting with its engine, it uses 187hp four-cylinder engine that allows it to reach 60mph in 6.1 seconds.
It’s also quite good fuel-economy-wise at 25mpg city-wise and 31mpg highway-wise.
So, if you’re looking for the sexy bodywork and fun experience of driving a Mazda while still being relatively fast for an SUV, the CX-5 Grand Touring got you covered at $30,560.
2021 BMW X1 ($35,400)
Fast and Practical. That’s what the 2021 BMW X1 is as an SUV. It’s not winning any award for design, but it makes up for it in speed and fuel economy with its engine.
The 228hp four-cylinder engine in this car allows it to reach 60mph in 6.8 seconds while maintaining respectable fuel economy at 24/33 mpg and 23/31 for both FWD and AWD, respectively.
As such, the BMW X1 is a great choice for $35,400.
2021 Ford Escape ($24,900)
If you’re looking for an SUV with outstanding fuel economy combined with respectable acceleration and speed, the 2021 Ford Escape is for you.
Starting at $24,900, the Ford Escape has a ton of trims and powertrains for you to choose from. Starting from two gasoline engines, a hybrid and a plug-in hybrid.
The Escape cheapest model uses a turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine that produces 181hp, translating into a 7.7 second in its 0-to-60 mph test.
2021 Mazda CX-9 ($34,160)
Luxurious, comfy, and fun to drive.
The 2021 Mazda CX-9 uses a standard turbocharged four-cylinder engine coming in at 231hp for its engine. Due to this, its 0-to-60 is still respectable at around 7 seconds that will be enough for most drivers.
Its fuel economy leaves something to be desired, but the main selling point of the CX-9 is the experience of driving one, and you can experience said thing starting at $34,160.
2021 Lincoln Corsair ($35,945)
The 2021 Corsair from Lincoln is a handsome and refined SUV that gets the job done for you.
Its 250-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four is definitely a powerhouse that allows it to reach 60mph in just 6 seconds as well as 22/30 mpg, respectively.
There aren’t as many bells and whistles that come with it unless you’re fine stepping out from the $35,945 model.
Though it still is a pretty great contender for one of the fastest SUVs.
And that’s pretty much it for the fastest SUV under $40,000. There are definitely many of them, so try not to feel too overwhelmed when you’re choosing your own to buy. If you’re on a budget that’s over 40K, I recommend checking out the Fastest SUV under $50,000. Of course, you will get better options there.
Suv 40k performance best under
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