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2014 Best Cheap SUVs

Subaru Outback

First used in the mid 1990s, the Outback nameplate dates to the dawn of the crossover age, but never has it graced a more capable Subaru than today’s spacious five-seater. This is essentially a midsize SUV disguised as a big station wagon. Indeed, Outback has as much usable passenger room as virtually any midsize crossover. And only its relatively low roofline prevents it from matching most for cargo volume. The all-wheel-drive systems are impressively capable, the 8.7-inch ground clearance in Jeep territory. And the station-wagon-like center of gravity means it leans less in corners than traditional crossovers. Our $30K Cheap ceiling confines us to the 2.5i models with their 173-horsepower four-cylinder; the 256-horse-six version starts at $32,920. With the continuously variable transmission, the four can feel overmatched, though it rates an impressive 26 mpg city/highway combined. It’s livelier with the available six-speed manual, itself a rarity among SUVs, though suffers a drop to 24 mpg combined. The top Cheap choice is the 2.5i Premium. At $26,620 with manual and $27,620 with the CVT, it comes with a power driver’s seat, 17-inch alloys, leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated front seats and mirrors, and a windshield wiper de-icer. You can add a moonroof for $1,445. Subaru puts a navigation system out of reach by making it part of a Cheap-busting $2,745 nav-moonroof package. At $29,920, the 2.5i Limited model is eligible, though. It includes the CVT, plus leather upholstery, power passenger seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, and a harmon/kardon nine-speaker audio system with a subwoofer. Don’t buy another crossover on this list without shopping the Outback.

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]