What Are the Best Used Cars for $20,000? | News

NEWS 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe | Cars.com graphic by Paul Dolan By Fred Meier July 12, 2021 Prices for late-model used cars have recently jumped in part because of a dearth of new cars on dealer lots in the wake of a microchip shortage, but safe, reliable used cars still […]

NEWS


2017 Hyundai Santa Fe | Cars.com graphic by Paul Dolan

Prices for late-model used cars have recently jumped in part because of a dearth of new cars on dealer lots in the wake of a microchip shortage, but safe, reliable used cars still exist at a reasonable price. Cars.com has assembled a healthy list of choices available for a budget of about $20,000, but tap the links below to see our picks in other price tiers.

Related: What Are the Best Used Cars for $10,000?
Related: What Are the Best Used Cars for $15,000?

We avoided anything before the 2012 model year, as such examples are likelier to have higher mileage and more potential for mechanical problems. With a budget of $20,000, good choices are myriad: Whether you need more seats, cargo capacity or gas mileage — or even something more upscale or fun to drive — you can find a smart choice at this price.

The vehicles on our list have decent overall safety scores from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, as well as respectable reliability marks in the U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study by researcher J.D. Power. Finally, the vehicles and model years below rate highly in the collective judgement of Cars.com’s expert reviewers.

Cars.com crunched the prices in our used-car listings as of June for vehicles that met our criteria and also came in with median listed prices of about $20,000 for these model years, so you should be able to find one for about $20,000. The picks below include all body styles and powertrains offered in these years unless otherwise specified. Tap the link to each vehicle’s model years, details and reviews to find everything you need to know by model year on the trim levels and features available.

One last bit of housekeeping: Our listed EPA mileage comes after the agency issued revisions in early 2016 that affect stated mileage on some cars back to the 2011 model year. As such, certain earlier models here may have mileage that doesn’t align with original window-sticker numbers. 

Compact Cars

2017 Acura ILX

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2017 Acura ILX | Manufacturer image

  • Type: Four-door, five-seat sedan
  • Median price: About $20,000
  • EPA combined fuel economy: 29 mpg
  • IIHS Top Safety Pick (2017 with optional automatic emergency braking)

Based on the Honda Civic’s bones, the ILX entry model for Acura is not just a dressed-up Civic — it features an upgraded suspension and steering for good handling, and the interior also is more premium and noticeably quieter. The standard media system has a display high on the dash with a knob controller on the center console. The ILX’s standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder has adequate power and excellent fuel efficiency for a premium sedan. Automatic emergency braking was optional, while an A-Spec Package offers a sportier look and interior.  

Research Acura ILX model years, details and reviews.
Research Acura ILX Hybrid model years, details and reviews.

2016-17 Chevrolet Volt

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2017 Chevrolet Volt | Manufacturer image

  • Type: Four-door, five-seat plug-in hybrid hatchback
  • Median price: About $18,000-$18,500
  • EPA combined fuel economy: 106 mpg-equivalent, with 42 mpg after 53 miles all-electric range on a full charge
  • IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus (2017 with optional automatic emergency braking)

The Volt PHEV combines all-electric daily driving range with high fuel economy running as a gas-electric hybrid for longer trips. A much-improved second generation debuted in 2016 with all-new styling and upgrades to its powertrain. Key improvements were 15 miles more all-electric EPA-estimated range, a 5-mpg boost in its EPA mileage once range was exhausted, and a new battery pack design that allowed a conventional three-position bench backseat, though the fifth (middle) position is tiny.

Research Chevrolet Volt model years, details and reviews.

2016-17 Honda Civic

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2017 Honda Civic | Manufacturer image

  • Type: Four-door, five-seat sedan or hatchback, or two-door, five-seat coupe
  • Median price: About $18,000-$20,000
  • EPA combined fuel economy: 30-36 mpg 
  • IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus (2016 sedan and coupe with optional automatic emergency braking); Top Safety Pick (2017 sedan, coupe and hatchback with optional automatic emergency braking)

The Civic line got a dramatic redesign for 2016 and gained a hatchback version for 2017. The redesign got much more personality and a more refined feel. It was notably fun to drive, if a little bouncy on ride quality, and received expanded safety and driver-assistance features, plus enough space to warrant comparisons against certain larger mid-size cars. It got two new engines, too, with most trim levels getting a responsive but efficient turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder. The new generation moved the Civic a step ahead of compact rivals of the times; even in its waning years, it beat out fresher redesigns in a Cars.com comparison test. 

All but the base trims have a 7-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability; automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and other tech features were readily available as options. Si and Type R performance versions were available for 2017, though used versions of either one will likely run steeper than $20,000.

Research Honda Civic model years, details and reviews.
Research Honda Civic Hybrid model years, details and reviews.

2016-17 Toyota Prius

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2017 Toyota Prius | Manufacturer image

  • Type: Four-door, five-seat hybrid hatchback
  • Median price: About $19,500-$21,000
  • EPA combined fuel economy: 52-56 mpg
  • IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus (2016 with optional automatic emergency braking; 2017 models built after Toyota made changes in August 2016 to improve headlight effectiveness)

The hybrid-only Prius got a full redesign for 2016, but it still looks like nothing else on the road. It also got upgraded dashboard electronics; an improved, roomy interior; and more cargo space. Powertrain upgrades doubled down on its signature virtue with a bump in its EPA mileage ratings. Automatic emergency braking was optional for 2016 and standard in 2017, but Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability remained absent. Depending on mileage and location, many used examples should have some battery warranty remaining (it’s eight years/100,000 miles or 10 years/150,000 miles for states that have adopted California emissions standards). Toyota dropped a PHEV version of the Prius for 2016, then returned it as a separate vehicle named Prius Prime for 2017 with more range and differentiated styling.

Research Toyota Prius model years, details and reviews.

2015-17 Toyota Prius v

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2017 Toyota Prius v | Manufacturer image

  • Type: Four-door, five-seat wagon
  • Median price: About $18,000-$21,500
  • EPA combined fuel economy: 41 mpg
  • IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus (2015-16 with optional automatic emergency braking; 2017 with optional automatic emergency braking and specific headlights)

With its quirky styling and basic interior, the Prius v is clearly part of the Prius family. The more upright wagon adds the cargo space of a small SUV, with the trade-off being much less eye-popping hybrid gas mileage. Occupant space is about the same, so if you don’t need the extra hauling capability, a regular Prius hatchback would be a better choice. Like the regular Prius, the Prius v has tepid power and can be a little noisy, and even for the 2017 model, there is no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto capability. Depending on mileage and location, used examples may have some battery warranty remaining (it’s eight years/100,000 miles or 10 years/150,000 miles for states that adopt California emissions standards).

Research Toyota Prius v model years, details and reviews.

Electric Car

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

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2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV | Cars.com photo by Angela Conners

  • Type: Four-door, five-seat all-electric hatchback
  • Median price: About $21,000
  • EPA combined fuel economy: 119 mpg-e, with 238 miles of all-electric range on a full charge
  • IIHS Top Safety Pick (with optional automatic emergency braking)

This was the debut year for GM’s Bolt EV, a small hatchback with a colorful interior, quick acceleration, competent handling and brakes, and a substantial range on a full charge. The standard onboard charging capability is fine for home and city use; you’ll want one with optional fast-charging capability if you plan any road trips. Convenience features like heated seats were also optional, as was an automatic emergency braking system that helps the Bolt EV earn its top safety ratings. Chevrolet’s standard 10.2-inch touchscreen has excellent graphics, but some Cars.com editors found the front seats to be thin and underpadded. As with any electrified car, note how much battery-pack warranty remains for any example you find.

Research Chevrolet Bolt EV model years, details and reviews.

Compact SUVs

2013-15 Acura RDX

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2015 Acura RDX | Manufacturer image

  • Type: Four-door, five-seat SUV
  • Median price: About $18,000-$19,000
  • EPA combined fuel economy: 22-23 mpg
  • IIHS Top Safety Pick (2013)

The 2013 model year brought a transformation of the RDX from a sporty but quirky small SUV into a bigger, more comfortable V-6 luxury cruiser. The cabin is quiet and upscale, with very comfortable leather seating as standard equipment. The ride is smooth, and handling remains competent if dulled from the previous generation’s racetrack-ready capabilities. Cargo space is adequate. Bluetooth and a USB port were standard, and an 8-inch touchscreen was optional. The redone RDX continued with little change through 2015.

Research Acura RDX model years, details and reviews.

2017 Chevrolet Equinox and 2016-17 GMC Terrain

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2017 GMC Terrain | Manufacturer image

  • Type: Four-door, five-seat SUVs
  • Median price: About $18,000-$20,500
  • EPA combined fuel economy: 18-26 mpg
  • IIHS Top Safety Pick (2016 Terrain with optional forward collision warning)

GMs compact SUV twins, the Equinox and Terrain, went into the twilight years of their outgoing generation with few changes ahead of 2018 model-year redesigns. Their age was showing at this point, with sloppy handling and a few missing safety and multimedia strengths. But their core strengths remained: a smooth ride, a potent V-6 engine option with 3,500-pound towing capacity, a quiet cabin and more interior room for adults than their rivals, helped by a sliding and reclining backseat. Those are significant strengths, and either SUV remains a solid choice at the right price.

Research Chevrolet Equinox model years, details and reviews.
Research GMC Terrain model years, details and reviews.

2015-16 Honda CR-V

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2016 Honda CR-V | Manufacturer image

  • Type: Four-door, five-seat SUV
  • Median price: About $19,000-$21,000
  • EPA combined fuel economy: 27-29 mpg
  • IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus (both years with optional automatic emergency braking)

These CR-Vs earned a reputation as a carpool SUV, but with good reason. The wide door openings and a low step-in height and cargo floor make it handy for juggling kids and car seats. Add an interior laden with family-friendly features and a large cargo area, and the CR-V is a good choice for a small family. The 2015 model year got a mid-generation freshening with styling updates and a new four-cylinder with more torque, while a continuously variable automatic transmission replaced the former conventional automatic. The combination delivers very good gas mileage for an SUV, and the CR-V’s suspension is tuned for comfort, not spirited driving. The front seats are comfortable but the rear seat is a bit stiff, and interior materials are more utilitarian than upscale. All trim levels have Bluetooth and a backup camera, and top trim levels add adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking.

Research Honda CR-V model years, details and reviews.

2016 Mazda CX-5

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2016 Mazda CX-5 | Manufacturer image

  • Type: Four-door, five-seat SUV
  • Median price: About $19,000
  • EPA combined fuel economy: 26-29 mpg
  • IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus (with optional automatic emergency braking)

The CX-5 is smaller than some rivals with less backseat and cargo space, but it also has sharper handling than most small SUVs — and a firm ride to go with it. For 2016, the SUV got a revised front end and more sound insulation for an interior that already was among the nicer examples in its class. It also got the latest version of Mazda’s controller-based multimedia system. As in earlier years, it’s worth shopping for the higher two trim levels with the more capable 2.5-liter engine, a welcome power upgrade over the base trim’s 2.0-liter.

Research Mazda CX-5 model years, details and reviews.

2017 Nissan Rogue

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2017 Nissan Rogue | Manufacturer image

  • Type: Four-door, five-seat SUV
  • Median price: About $19,500
  • EPA combined fuel economy: 27-29 mpg (gas-only); 33-34 mpg (hybrid)
  • IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus (with optional automatic emergency braking and specific headlights)

The Nissan Rogue got some styling tweaks, interior updates and more noise insulation for 2017, and it continued to be a practical, comfortable choice among compact SUVs. The sole available drivetrain, a 2.5-liter four-cylinder and CVT, carried over with adequate power but limited towing capability. The interior has decent quality and noise abatement, and the ride is geared toward comfort over handling prowess. Cargo is on the larger side of its class, and an optional two-position third row increases seating capacity to seven (though you’ll only want small children in back). The optional 7-inch touchscreen seems undersized with outdated resolution versus some rivals, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto still were not available. Still, the Rogue’s nifty 360-degree camera system option remained an unusual plus for the time. The top safety score requires the Rogue’s optional automatic emergency braking. (Don’t confuse the Rogue with the Rogue Sport, a separate, smaller SUV introduced for 2017 that’s related in name only.)

Research Nissan Rogue model years, details and reviews.
Research Nissan Rogue Hybrid model years, details and reviews.

2015-16 Toyota RAV4

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2015 Toyota RAV4 | Manufacturer image

  • Type: Four-door, five-seat SUV
  • Median price: About $19,000-$21,000
  • EPA combined fuel economy: 24-26 mpg (gas-only); 32 mpg (hybrid)
  • IIHS Top Safety Pick (2015 models built after Toyota made changes to improve crashworthiness in November 2014); Top Safety Pick Plus (2016 with optional automatic emergency braking)

This generation of RAV4 is a practical, fuel-efficient choice. It’s well built overall, and the interior is serviceable if not fancy or particularly quiet. But it  feels a little more dated than some rivals of its time, and Toyota wasn’t keeping up with surprise-and-delight tech and other features. The RAV4 kept a tidy size while some others got bigger, so it’s mid-pack for interior space but above average for parking and maneuverability. Handling is competent for an SUV, though suspension tuning is a little firm. The 2016 RAV4 received a revised front end, some interior upgrades and a high-mileage hybrid version for the top trim levels only; automatic emergency braking also became optional.

Research Toyota RAV4 model years, details and reviews.
Research Toyota RAV4 Hybrid model years, details and reviews.

Mid-Size Cars

2015-16 Buick LaCrosse

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2015 Buick LaCrosse | Manufacturer image

  • Type: Four-door, five-seat sedan
  • Median price: About $18,000-$19,500
  • EPA combined fuel economy: 20-28 mpg

The LaCrosse sedan is a quiet, well-built car with an upscale interior and smooth ride. It’s a bit smaller than bona fide full-size cars but a tad larger than many mid-sizers. Buick offered a four-cylinder engine with mild-hybrid technology or a gas-only V-6; the four-cylinder improves mileage but its battery cuts trunk space, and the LaCrosse feels a bit underpowered with it. All-wheel drive was an option but only for the V-6. The 2016 model included standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control were notable options.

Research Buick LaCrosse model years, details and reviews.

2017 Buick Regal

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2017 Buick Regal | Manufacturer image

  • Type: Four-door, five-seat sedan
  • Median price: About $21,000
  • EPA combined fuel economy: 2224 mpg

The 2017 Regal is a near-premium choice among mid-size sedans. It has a more upscale interior and detailing, but it’s a little smaller outside, with a tighter backseat and trunk, than many mainstream mid-size sedans. It also has more power, with a 259-horsepower, turbocharged four-cylinder engine in most versions (a higher-mileage, mild-hybrid four-cylinder had limited availability). All-wheel drive was available. Options to look for include adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking and an 8-inch touchscreen upgrade with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Research Buick Regal model years, details and reviews.

2017 Ford Fusion

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2017 Ford Fusion | Manufacturer image

  • Type: Four-door, five-seat sedan
  • Median price: About $17,500
  • EPA combined fuel economy: 20-27 mpg (gas-only); 42 mpg (hybrid); 97 mpg-e with 42 mpg after 22 miles of all-electric range on a full charge (plug-in hybrid)
  • IIHS Top Safety Pick (with optional automatic emergency braking)

The 2017 Fusion got a substantial freshening of its interior and technology to make it one of the most updated mass-market sedans of its vintage. It retained the sporty handling, good ride, smallish backseat and big trunk compared to its peers. But 2017 brought Ford’s then-new Sync 3 multimedia system as an option, and it’s worth getting. Ford also offered a Sport trim with a 325-hp, turbo V-6 and a posher Platinum top trim level. Three four-cylinder engine offerings carried over (the 1.5-liter turbo tops the mileage ratings), as did hybrid and PHEV versions. A full array of safety and driver-assistance technology was available from the second-level SE trim on up.

Research Ford Fusion model years, details and reviews.
Research Ford Fusion Hybrid model years, details and reviews.
Research Ford Fusion Energi model years, details and reviews.

2016-17 Honda Accord

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2017 Honda Accord | Manufacturer image

  • Type: Four-door, five-seat sedan or two-door, five-seat coupe
  • Median price: About $19,000-$21,000
  • EPA combined fuel economy: 21-30 mpg (gas-only); 48 mpg (hybrid)
  • IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus (2016 coupe and sedan with optional automatic emergency braking; 2017 sedan with optional automatic emergency braking and specific headlights); Top Safety Pick (2017 coupe with optional automatic emergency braking)

The 2016-17 Accord received light styling updates, with interior quality and overall technology still ahead of the rival Toyota Camry. The Accord remained a pleasant and quiet family car, though new 19-inch tires for Sport and Touring trim levels made for an overly firm ride. Sedan and coupe versions were offered, and four-cylinder or V-6 power was available (the four-cylinder is adequate). A very capable Accord Hybrid returned for the 2017 model year.  Most trim levels got an updated touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, though they also got unintuitive touch-sensitive controls. Automatic emergency braking, necessary for the Accord’s safety awards, was optional. 

Research Honda Accord model years, details and reviews.
Research Honda Accord Hybrid model years, details and reviews.

2017 Mazda6

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2017 Mazda6 | Manufacturer image

  • Type: Four-door, five-seat sedan
  • Median price: About $19,500
  • EPA combined fuel economy: 28-30 mpg 
  • IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus (with optional automatic emergency braking and specific headlights)

The stylish Mazda6 got mild updates to the interior for 2017. It remained a fun-to-drive alternative to more generic mid-size sedans, though its backseat is also a little tighter. Mazda’s efficient 2.5-liter engine continued, and a new electronic system could enhance cornering by applying small amounts of engine torque to shift load to the front or rear. A new Grand Touring Premium Package was available, offering near-luxury interior trim. The Mazda6 still rode firmly, but Mazda made effective improvements to cut interior noise, which had been a complaint about earlier years of this generation. The available automatic emergency braking is needed for top safety status.

Research Mazda6 model years, details and reviews.

2017 Toyota Camry

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2017 Toyota Camry | Manufacturer image

  • Type: Four-door, five-seat sedan
  • Median price: About $19,000
  • EPA combined fuel economy: 24-27 mpg (gas-only); 38-40 mpg (hybrid)  
  • IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus (with optional automatic emergency braking and specific headlights)

The 2017 Camry closed out its generation ahead of an extensive redesign for 2018. It’s a conservative choice — well built and practical, if unexciting to drive. It just goes about its business. An efficient four-cylinder or V-6 provided power, and Toyota also offered a hybrid version. The ride is set for comfort, except with the sportier XSE trim. The interior is more practical than luxurious, and it’s a little noisy. Optional automatic emergency braking is needed for the top safety status.

Research Toyota Camry model years, details and reviews.
Research Toyota Camry Hybrid model years, details and reviews.

2017 Volkswagen Passat

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2017 Volkswagen Passat | Manufacturer image

  • Type: Four-door, five-seat sedan
  • Median price: About $17,500
  • EPA combined fuel economy: 23-27 mpg
  • IIHS Top Safety Pick

The 2017 Passat is a nearly full-size car with a high-quality interior, comfortable seats and ample room. Despite its size and smooth ride, it handles better than most of its breed. A turbocharged four-cylinder or V-6 engine were offered, but the more efficient four is up to the job and a good overall choice. Automatic emergency braking became standard for 2017 all the way down to the base model, and trims above that got VW’s upgraded media system with a USB port, Bluetooth and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. 

Research Volkswagen Passat model years, details and reviews.

2016-17 Volvo S60

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2017 Volvo S60 | Manufacturer image

  • Type: Four-door, five-seat sedan
  • Median price: About $19,500-$20,500
  • EPA combined fuel economy: 21-30 mpg
  • IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus (2016 and 2017 with specific headlights)

The S60 is a stylish premium sedan with a high-quality interior, though it has less room inside (particularly in the rear seat) than more downscale mid-size cars. Handling is good and the ride is comfortable if you avoid versions with the S60’s available sportier suspension setup. The list of trim levels and options is long (typical of luxury brands) with four-, five- and six-cylinder engines, plus front- or all-wheel drive. Automatic emergency braking was standard, a notable inclusion when many cars of this vintage — even luxury models — offered it only as optional.

Research Volvo S60 model years, details and reviews.

Mid-Size SUVs

2012-14 Lexus RX

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2012 Lexus RX 350 | Manufacturer image

  • Type: Four-door, five-seat SUV
  • Median price: About $18,500-$22,000
  • EPA combined fuel economy: 20-21 mpg (gas-only); 28-29 mpg (hybrid)
  • IIHS Top Safety Pick (2012-14)

The RX luxury SUV in this generation has the qualities that made the RX popular over the years. It’s an SUV for grown-ups: impressively quiet, smooth-riding and unflappable. The cabin offered leather and real wood trim (though you could get cloth seats in base models, too, in these years). The powertrains — a gas-only V-6 in the RX 350 and a gas-electric V-6 hybrid in the RX 450h — go about their business without drama, which also describes the RX’s competent but unsporty handling. The seats are comfortable, the sliding backseat is roomy and Lexus offered a wide range of optional comforts. The multimedia system was fine for its time, but some will find Lexus’ console-mounted joystick controller cumbersome. Shoppers looking for racier styling can hunt down the sportier-looking F Sport version. For the 2013 model year, the RX got an updated grille treatment.

Research Lexus RX model years, details and reviews.
Research Lexus RX hybrid model years, details and reviews.

2015-16 Nissan Murano

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2015 Nissan Murano | Manufacturer image

  • Type: Four-door, five-seat SUV
  • Median price: About $20,000-$22,000
  • EPA combined fuel economy: 24 mpg (gas-only); 27-29 mpg (hybrid)
  • IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus (2015-16 with optional automatic emergency braking)

Love it or hate it, the Murano’s swoopy styling turned heads. But it envelops a comfortable interior with a near-luxury look and feel. The Murano is a quiet, smooth-riding, spacious mid-size SUV for shoppers who don’t need a third row. It’s not exactly exciting to drive, but it’s an excellent cruiser with plenty of power from its standard V-6 — a factor that helped it top four rivals in a 2016 Cars.com comparison test. Controls are nicely arranged, and tech includes an 8-inch touchscreen on upper trim levels. Rear visibility is a victim of styling fashion, but a backup camera is standard and the upper two trim levels also have a 360-degree camera system. A four-cylinder hybrid version was added for the 2016 model year, but the gas mileage gain wasn’t huge. 

Research Nissan Murano model years, details and reviews.
Research Nissan Murano Hybrid model years, details and reviews.

2014-15 Toyota Venza

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2015 Toyota Venza | Manufacturer image

  • Type: Four-door, five-seat SUV
  • Median price: About $18,000-$19,500
  • EPA combined fuel economy: 21-23 mpg

There’s a lot to like on this Camry-based SUV that looks a lot like a wagon. It’s roomy and comfortable inside, though by the 2014-15 model years — fairly late in the current generation — rivals had outclassed it on cabin materials. The interior has plenty of storage space, and cargo room is surprisingly large. Suspension tuning is firm, but handling is just adequate. The V-6 is more satisfying to drive and gets nearly the mileage of the four-cylinder. The 2015 model got a standard backup camera, which was previously optional.

Research Toyota Venza model years, details and reviews.

Three-Row SUVs

2017 Hyundai Santa Fe

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2017 Hyundai Santa Fe | Manufacturer image

  • Type: Four-door, six- or seven-seat SUV
  • Median price: About $22,500
  • EPA combined fuel economy: 19-21 mpg 
  • IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus (with optional automatic emergency braking and specific headlights built after Hyundai made changes to improve crashworthiness in March 2016)

The 2017 Santa Fe three-row SUV (not to be confused with a separate, two-row Santa Fe Sport also sold in this period) is notable for generous features at each trim level and carlike driving manners that are easy to live with. It rides on the firm side, but the standard V-6 power is smooth. The interior is pleasant, though it has some cheaper materials in certain areas. Top trim offers captain’s chairs and a pass-through in the second row. Third-row access is adequate, but the seating is tight for adults. All 2017 models have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on a 7- or 8-inch touchscreen. Automatic emergency braking, necessary for the Santa Fe’s safety awards, was available only on the top trim levels, which also had a 360-degree camera system.

Research Hyundai Santa Fe model years, details and reviews.

2016-17 Kia Sorento

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2017 Kia Sorento | Manufacturer image

  • Type: Four-door, five- or seven-seat SUV
  • Median price: About $18,000-$20,000
  • EPA combined fuel economy: 19-24 mpg
  • IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus (2016 with optional forward collision warning; 2017 with optional automatic emergency braking)

Kia redesigned the Sorento mid-size SUV for 2016, but it remained bigger than most two-row rivals and smaller than most three-rows. It offered a small third row option to increase seating to seven, but the space was best left to kids, and it left very little cargo space when occupied. Space was plentiful for the first two rows, however. The Sorento is a quiet SUV with a comfortable balance of ride and handling. Three engines were offered: a conventional four-cylinder, a turbo four-cylinder upgrade or a V-6. All-wheel drive was available, though not on the base L trim. A backup camera was standard on all but the L; a 360-degree camera system was optional for the top SX Limited trim. 

The 2017 model added Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for the available touchscreen, and Kia made available a software update to add the integration retroactively to compatible touchscreens on the 2016 Sorento. The 2017 model also added automatic emergency braking (needed for the top safety rating) as an option; the 2016 Sorento only offered forward collision warning as an option, though that was enough to earn then-less-stringent IIHS awards.

Research Kia Sorento model years, details and reviews.

2013 Toyota Highlander

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2013 Toyota Highlander | Manufacturer image

  • Type: Four-door, seven-seat SUV
  • Median price: About $19,000
  • EPA combined fuel economy: 19-22 mpg (gas-only); 28 mpg (hybrid)
  • IIHS Top Safety Pick (2013)

Ahead of its 2014 redesign, the 2013 Highlander remained well built, practical transportation with a lot to like. V-6 and hybrid powertrains were available. The interior wasn’t fancy — expect lots of cheap plastics — but it’s comfortable and family features included a sliding second row with a removable center section that converts it from a bench to captain’s chairs with a pass-through. The third row has very limited legroom. Powertrains offered included four-cylinder and V-6 gasoline engines, as well as a gas-electric V-6 hybrid. A backup camera was optional on the base trim and standard on all others.

Research Toyota Highlander model years, details and reviews.
Research Toyota Highlander Hybrid model years, details and reviews.

Full-Size Cars

2016 Kia Cadenza

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2016 Kia Cadenza | Manufacturer image

  • Type: Four-door, five-seat sedan
  • Median price: About $19,000
  • EPA combined fuel economy: 22 mpg 

The Cadenza is a classy sedan with an upscale look and feel that belies what you might perceive from the Kia badge. It boasts a roomy, quiet interior, a smooth ride and standard V-6 power. Kia added a new, less expensive base model with fewer features for 2016, while the upper two trims got additional standard features. Either one would be a better choice overall.

Research Kia Cadenza model years, details and reviews.

2014-16 Toyota Avalon

toyota-avalon-2016-exterior-front-oem

2016 Toyota Avalon | Manufacturer image

  • Type: Four-door, five-seat sedan
  • Median price: About $18,500-$22,500
  • EPA combined fuel economy: 24-25 mpg (gas-only); 40 mpg (hybrid)
  • IIHS Top Safety Pick (2015); Top Safety Pick Plus (2016 with optional automatic emergency braking)

A more upscale, larger sibling of the Camry, the Avalon is a great road-trip car with a quiet interior and comfy seats, plus adult-sized backseat space, a huge trunk, a lot of standard features and a wide range of luxury options. V-6 or high-mileage hybrid powertrains were offered. A backup camera became standard for 2014. The 2016 model got mild updates to styling and interior trim, with greatly improved performance for the optional automatic emergency braking.

Research Toyota Avalon model years, details and reviews.
Research Toyota Avalon Hybrid model years, details and reviews.

Minivan

2014-15 Honda Odyssey

honda-odyssey-2015-exterior-front-three-quarter-oem

2015 Honda Odyssey | Manufacturer image

  • Type: Four-door, seven- or eight-seat minivan
  • Median price: About $19,000-$20,500
  • EPA combined fuel economy: 22 mpg 
  • IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus (2014 with optional forward collision warning); Top Safety Pick (2015) 

You can’t beat a minivan for family hauling, and the 2014-15 Odyssey is a solid choice. The 2014 got freshened styling, updated center controls and an 8-inch touchscreen system on all but the base model, and top trims added a built-in vacuum cleaner to scoop up spilled Cheerios. Carried over were such family-friendly features as an expandable second row that can fit three child-safety seats, a built-in trash bag holder and numerous cupholders. The V-6 continued, while a six-speed automatic became standard on all trims for 2014 to improve the already surprising drivability for a vehicle this large.

Research Honda Odyssey model years, details and reviews..

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