$38K SUV Challenge
Sport utility and crossover vehicles come in all sizes, and an ever increasing amount of shapes. But it’s still the Mid-Size, 5-passenger variety that attracts the majority of buyers. So we once again joined with our friends at Cars.com and USA Today to put six of the biggest sellers to the test, and see which ones offer the most bang for the buck.
Over the last decade, the Mid Size 5-passenger utility has increasingly become the family “car” of choice. So, we joined the editors of Cars.com and USATODAY in Chicago, Illinois to see which ones handle family duties best.
Our half dozen Crossover and SUV contenders are a mix of 2013 and ‘14 models; some two-wheel-drive, some all-wheel-drive, but all coming in under a price cap of $38,000. They are…
…The Euro-sleek 2013 Ford Edge…
…redesigned for ‘13, and wearing a slightly different name, the Hyundai Santa Fe Sport…
…A perennial favorite in the segment, the trail ready 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV…
…not quite all-new, but vastly updated for 2014, the Kia Sorento…
…followed by the very sporty looking 2013 Nissan Murano…
…and finally the most car-like of the bunch, the 2013 Toyota Venza.
As before, we’ve enlisted a local family to help in our scoring as their priorities are often different than ours; as we looked at a wide variety of items from ride comfort, to fuel economy, to family friendly features.
A full rundown of our scoring is available at Cars.com; but for now, here are our top 4 finishers.
Despite having the oldest basic design in the group, the Ford Edge held up well enough for 4th place. Its solid, well equipped nature was backed up by a just under the ceiling $37,125 price. That buys a 285-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 with 22 MPG Combined economy, all-wheel-drive, heated leather seats, blind spot monitoring, as well as Ford’s controversial MyFord Touch infotainment system. Still its age showed with no keyless access or power liftgate.
MIKE HANLEY: I really liked the Ford Edge’s quiet interior; it’s really nice to ride in, very silent on the inside. But in terms of the multi-media system, this one’s quite a bit more cumbersome, I thought, than the Grand Cherokee’s.
BEN DAVIS: The Edge was my least favorite. MyFord Touch still doesn’t do me any favors and the dash, although it’s very driver-centric and very sport oriented, it’s getting old on me; and the wood grain kind of looks Ikea-ish. It’s the most tired of the segment, I believe.
JOHN DAVIS: Third place goes to the Kia Sorento. Its $37,650 price was almost the highest in the group. But, that includes a 290-horsepower, 3.3-liter V6, all-wheel-drive, heated and cooled leather seats, power liftgate, and a panoramic sunroof. Position memory is an option. Fuel economy is just 20 miles-per-gallon Combined. Still our testers raved about the Sorento’s style and overall upscale appeal.
JOE BRUZEK: The Sorento’s ride quality is very refined, and it’s composed like a much more expensive vehicle.
AARON BRAGMAN: The Kia is, frankly, a great update. The styling on the outside is fantastic; the styling on the inside looks great…
JOHN DAVIS: The second place Hyundai Santa Fe Sport’s sticker of $34,205 was by far the group’s lowest. Plus, it’s 23 MPG Combined fuel economy was the highest. Both reflect the test’s only 4-cylinder; a 2.0-liter turbo. Even with the group’s lowest output, 264-horsepower, it didn’t feel anemic. Our Sport arrived with a panoramic sunroof, leather, and seat heat. Seat position memory and power liftgate are not offered. The lack of all-wheel drive didn’t influence our judges since our well-equipped Sport, even after adding AWD, still comes in under the 38-G price limit.
JOE BRUZEK: The Santa Fe Sport’s turbo-charged 4-cylinder is a powerhouse of a 4-cylinder, and it gives all of these other V6’s a run for their money.
BRIAN BROWN: …the Hyundai’s the one that I think we were impressed the most with. It actually has a nice interior; what you get for the money is exceptional… …the ride was really nice… …we scored it really high… …on most things.
JOHN DAVIS: That leaves us with our winner, the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Even with the most traditional SUV traits of this bunch, it stood out. The Jeep packs a high level of refinement inside, with much improved visibility all around while driving. The biggest update for 2014, a new 8-speed automatic for the 3.6-liter V6 improves performance as well as fuel economy, though it still come in at just 20 MPG Combined. Pricing was also near the top at $37,585, but the GC is worth it.
BEN DAVIS: I like that the Grand Cherokee rides like a truck. You sit really high off the road; it’s a great commanding view of traffic… …and it’s the most comfortable inside for me as well… …it’s just a very elegantly designed interior.
JIM HEALEY: The Jeep Grand Cherokee looks like and SUV, that’s a terrific part about it. A lot of work has been done to the V6 package; it now has an 8-speed automatic which works quite well. It’s got dual exhaust, looks mean, sounds good.
JOHN DAVIS: Now all of these utilities provide plenty of space and features for a young family on the go, but in this challenge it was the Jeep Grand Cherokee that did it best.
Still, with such a wide variety of sharply focused designs, it’s not surprising that the Mid-size 5-passenger utility is becoming a household mainstay. So, no matter if you call it an SUV, or CUV, or just “family car”, there’s likely more than one “right one” for you.
2013 Ford Edge
2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee
2014 Kia Sorento
2013 Nissan Murano
2013 Toyota Venza