6. Jeep Renegade Trailhawk:
This is the only entry in the burgeoning subcompact crossover category with true off-road capability. Properly outfitted with an electronics-aided all-wheel drive system, Renegade upholds Jeep’s go-anywhere tradition – no matter that it’s the first Jeep built in Italy. A product of Fiat’s ownership of the Chrysler, Dodge, Ram and Jeep brands, this boxy five-seater shares its engineering with the curvier Fiat 500X crossover.
Renegade comes in four levels of trim, and you can get a Sport or Latitude model for under $24,400 with a very basic all-wheel drive system and a 160-horsepower four-cylinder engine and mandatory manual transmission. We’re recommending you take full advantage and choose the off-road-oriented Trailhawk model.
5. Hyundai Santa Fe Sport:
This is one of only two true midsize-class crossovers to make our best-under-$30K list (the other is the Subaru Outback). That means you get a pleasantly spacious interior that comfortably seats five, plus plenty of cargo room. Note that Hyundai sells a longer, seven-passenger companion to the Santa Fe Sport as the just-plain Santa Fe. It has a V-6.
The Sport line comes only with four-cylinder engines. The turbocharged 2.0T model breaches our budget, but the base version with all-wheel drive fits nicely. It uses a 190-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder that’s plenty peppy and rates a competitive 21 mpg city-highway combined.