The wide range of SUVs on the market means that no matter what you need in a utility vehicle, there's probably one available to fill your niche, whether it's people carrying, cargo hauling, trailer towing, or off-roading. sport utility vehicles run the gamut from inexpensive and compact to costly and lumbering, but somewhere in the middle are the SUVs that offer the best value for the money. While sport utility vehicles aren’t for everyone, let’s take a look at some of our favorite buys in the SUV segment and see if there’s one for you.
2016 Buick Encore
The Buick Encore is a subcompact crossover suv that is available in either front-wheel or all-wheel drive. All Encores are powered by a turbocharged 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine, which makes 138 horsepower in Ecotec guise, or optionally 153 horsepower in SIDI guise. Interestingly, the more powerful engine is also the more economical and a more likely contender for best SUV for the money. The extra weight of the all-wheel drive system (and the extra work the engine has to do to overcome it) can be felt when driving the two back-to-back, with even more downshifting required from the transmission to keep up with traffic than in the front-wheel drive version. The Buick Encore is top-rated in all crash-test categories, except the NHTSA’s rollover test, where it scored four stars.
2016 Chevrolet Trax
The Chevrolet Trax, another one of the best value SUVs on the market, is a small 5-seat crossover that is powered by a turbocharged 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine. Front-wheel drive versions of the Trax come in at a featherweight 2,805 lbs, but somehow all-wheel drive versions weigh over 400 lbs more than that, which seems excessive and hurts fuel economy, which lags well behind front-wheel drive models. Ride and handling is respectable for the class, but not up to the standards set by the class leaders, and acceleration is leisurely. While the Trax is quite narrow, there's plenty of room in most dimensions, and it does a good job of insulating the interior from road, wind and engine noise.
2017 Ford Escape
The Ford Escape is a compact crossover SUV that has been redesigned for the 2017 model year with a new front and rear, and some updates to the engine lineup that increase its qualifications as one of the best SUVs for the money. The base model's naturally aspirated 4-cylinder remains, but a new 1.5-liter EcoBoost engine makes 179 horsepower, while the 2.0-liter EcoBoost now makes 245 horsepower. Both EcoBoost engines now also come with an auto stop/start system, but fuel economy is actually down about 1 mile per gallon across the board compared to last year’s model. The Escape is a nice handling vehicle with Torque Vectoring Control that can transfer torque to the wheels with the most grip, and all-wheel drive models feature an Intelligent 4WD System that can transfer torque from the front wheels to the rear wheels.
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