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It's hard to beat the CX-5 when it comes to pure fun in a compact SUV. Even though it only offers 187 horsepower, it features super-sharp handling with the kind of precision and grip that you would expect from a sports car. Inside, you'll find plenty of room and upscale design. The back seats are spacious enough for adults, and the front seats have enough support for a long drive. The infotainment system has a seven-inch touchscreen and loads of connectivity.
Another compact SUV from a well-known Japanese automaker, the CR-V has a long history of being reliable and fun to drive. It has the largest cargo area in its class with a total area of 75.8 cubic feet. The interior has an upscale feel, and the ride is comfortably smooth. The base engine has similar horsepower to the CX-5 with 184, but there is a turbocharged engine available that puts out 190.
The Tucson won't win any performance contests, but it's comfortable and quiet and it offers a lot of peace of mind. The Tucson boasts high reliability scores and a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty. Not only that, but it's been designated a top safety pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. It continues to be one of the most affordable models in the compact SUV market.
The Sportage is pretty close to the top of its class when it comes to luxury interiors in the compact SUV category. It also offers exceptional room in both the front and back rows of seats. The base engine is competent enough in terms of power but definitely makes up for it with athletic handling.
The Sorento is ostensibly a midsize SUV, but with the extra room inside, you'd think it was a full-size SUV. The interior materials are comfortably upscale, and the ride quality is more like a luxury sedan. The Sorento oozes practicality too with above-average fuel economy, an excellent warranty and top crash test scores.
The Escape is Ford's entry in the compact SUV market, and it features better performance than in years past. A turbocharged four-cylinder is available with 179 horsepower. You can get it on the SE trim, which starts around $25,600. That trim also includes power-adjust driver's seat, dual-zone climate control and satellite radio. The SE gives you the option to add AWD, which adds another $1,000 to the price but still stays under $30,000 overall. Other pricey options include leather upholstery, heated front seats or a panoramic sunroof.
It's hard to find a more happily outfitted SUV than the Forester. It's roomy with 75 cubic feet of space, it has standard AWD and it offers strong fuel economy with 32 mpg on the highway and 26 in the city. You can even upgrade from the base 170-horsepower base engine to a 250-horsepower engine and still stay under $30,000. Plus, it's a Subaru, which means better than average reliability.
If you want something even more compact than the CX-5 that's somehow even more fun, then the CX-3 should fit the bill. Even though it doesn't have a lot of power, it handles with balance and precision. The small size makes it a great fit for city dwellers as does the excellent fuel economy.
A very spacious interior and good fuel economy make the Terrain one of the best compact SUV choices for families. It doesn't offer the most athletic engine with 170 horsepower as the base, but it does offer plenty of connection options inside with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Wi-Fi as standard features. The Terrain is comfortable and practical, which is usually a great fit for the average family.
The Tiguan was recently redesigned in 2018, and it features loads of tech, good cargo space and a smooth ride. Not too many compact SUVs offer a third row of seats, but the Tiguan does. For a bit more than the base price, you can get a better infotainment system, a driver's assistance package and heated seats. Even a panoramic sunroof option won't put you over $30,000.
The Traverse offers three rows, plus a large cargo area that gets even larger if you fold down the rear seats. Connectivity and technology are also big pluses with the Traverse. Each row of seats has two USB ports, and Wi-Fi, Apple and Android are standard. A highly tuned suspension gives the Traverse a smooth and comfortable ride for long family trips.
The Edge pushes the envelope a little when it comes to staying under $30,000, but it will get you a larger SUV with a comfortable and quiet cabin. The ride is incredibly smooth, and the base 245-horsepower engine is powerful enough for most situations. The Edge does offer more powerful engines, but you'll be going over $30,000 to get them.
The Rogue stays well under $30,000 while still offering an upscale interior and practical fuel economy numbers. Cargo space is also extremely competitive and even features an organized storage system to more efficiently stow your stuff. The Rogue makes a great choice for families due to its top safety features that are even available on the base model.
This is Chevy's smaller SUV, but it offers a lot of goodies with standard tech and connectivity features. It also offers the automaker's Teen Driver System, which allows you to monitor the speed while your teen is driving it. The interior is comfortably high-quality as well, and the handling feels balanced and composed.
Not all the $30,000 SUVs are compact and underpowered. The Durango begs to differ with its 295-horsepower base engine and beefy exterior design. The inside offers plenty of room and plenty of connectivity with standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The towing capacity can be up to 8,700 with the right equipment, but it will be hard to stay under $30,000.
This article has not been paid for by any advertiser. This content is intended for informational and entertainment purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice or analysis.