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2014 Best Cheap SUVs

Toyota Rav4

Toyota’s popular compact crossover was redesigned for model-year 2013 with new styling inside and out but no great advances in performance. The 2014 RAV4 returns little changed, retaining a 176-horsepower four-cylinder and six-speed automatic transmission as its sole powertrain. Highlights include a spacious cabin of quality materials, with XLE and top-line Limited models getting French-stitched seats and dashboard padding. Cargo room is generous and AWD fuel economy is at least midpack at 25 mpg city/highway combined. Downsides run to lethargic throttle response, a too-stiff ride, and uninspired handling. Toyota’s reputation for reliability and strong residuals add to the value message, though, and you can score the base-model LE with AWD for a painless $25,810. It looks rather plain, with black instead of body-colored exterior details and plastic wheel covers. But LEs do come with a backup camera, cruise control, Bluetooth, and a 6.1-inch dashboard screen touchscreen to control audio and view climate settings. Add the upgraded Entune Display Audio, a tonneau cover and roof rails and your still at just $26,665. Perhaps the even smarter Cheap buy is the midline XLE AWD. For $27,201 is has alloy wheels, fog lamps, color-keyed heated mirrors with turn-signal indicators, power moonroof, a chrome-accented grille, roof rails, dual-zone automatic climate control, upgraded seats and interior trim, and a better stereo. The LE isn’t available with a navigation system but the XLE is. The option retains the rather puny 6.1-inch screen but includes a nice JBL audio setup, for a reasonable $585.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]