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The 9 Best SUVs Under $40,000 - CR Says Subaru Outback Is A Smart Alternative

How does the 2021 Subaru Outback compare with the best new SUVs? A new Consumer Report ranking says the wagon is a smart alternative.

How does the 2021 Subaru Outback wagon compare with the all-new Kia Telluride, Hyundai Palisade, Mazda CX-9, Toyota Highlander, Ford Edge, Lexus NX, Lexus UX, and Toyota Venza? According to a new study by Consumer Reports (by subscription), Outback is one of the nine best SUVs under $40,000.

All nine SUVs rank top choices by Consumer Reports in several areas like crash scores, ride quality, fuel mileage, cabin noise, comfortable seats, and active safety features. Scores are also based on owner surveys asking buyers if they would repurchase the same vehicle.

2021 Subaru Outback, features, specs, pricing

CR says the 2021 Subaru Outback wagon is a "smart alternative to an SUV" when rated with the other eight SUVs above. It's rated high for the new 2.4-liter turbocharged engine with additional power and "effortless acceleration."

Outback also gets high marks for a ride that is "very comfortable, and handling is responsive and secure," and thoughtful details like built-in crossbars and a dual-position cargo cover.

2021 Subaru Outback, features, specs, price

What is the downside to the Outback? CR says, "Some tasks through the large infotainment screen require more than one step." Additionally, "The base 2.5-liter four-cylinder does the job but can feel strained under stress."

The newly-remodeled Outback is ranked number one of eleven midsize SUVs and gets a 91/100 on the road test score, 4/5 in owner satisfaction, and an overall score of 86/100.

Consumer Reports ranks the Kia Telluride number one with an overall score of 97, Outback number two at 86, Hyundai Palisade 85, Toyota Highlander 84, Ford Edge 83, Lexus NX 82, Lexus UX 81, Mazda CX-9 80, and Toyota Venza 78.

What is the price of the 2021 Subaru Outback?

The 2021 Outback comes in seven trim levels, base $27,845, Premium ($30,095), Limited ($34,645), Onyx Edition XT ($36,195), Limited XT ($38,545), Touring ($39,045), and Touring XT ($40,995). Pricing includes $1,050 destination. CR says the average price of a Premium trim is $27,419 after discounts and dealer incentives.

Why is the Outback a good choice for consumers?

The 2021 Subaru Outback offers exceptional all-weather capability with the Japanese automaker's standard all-wheel-drive. The SUV-alternative Outback also offers 8.7-inches of ground clearance, a car-like ride, and the versatility and utility of an SUV. Consumer Reports says the wagon is a smart alternative to an SUV.

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Denis Flierl has invested over 30 years in the automotive industry in a consulting role working with every major car brand. He is an accredited member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press. Check out Subaru Report where he covers all of the Japanese automaker's models. More stories can be found on the Torque News Subaru page. Follow Denis on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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Photo credit: Subaru, main image - Team Gillman Subaru North


ABF (not verified)    March 27, 2021 - 2:40PM

I gotta tell ya.....there is much fanfare about how great Subarus are but I am not buying it. Their longevity is plain inferior to Toyota or Honda, their hardware is cheaper and thinner, transverse engines are notorious for either head gasket leaks or oil leaks cause the design is antiquated with the engine on its side, they sound like crap, and their exhaust and manifolds shields seem to make noise before any other manufacturer. I will stick to my first generation Highlander. No dog or love commercials and saving the world. Just a better longer lasting product. ABF

Christopher Iarocci (not verified)    March 28, 2021 - 12:41PM

In reply to by ABF (not verified)

I think the "fanfare" is more based on statistics. In my own experience, the 2002 Outback that I just sold served me well until the day I sold it with 190k miles on it. Besides maintenance and an exhaust system, never had any real problems with it. Replaced it with a Crosstrek, and happy as a clam.

Don (not verified)    September 23, 2021 - 8:46PM

Brand new 2015 Outback. Windshield cracked in the 1st week. Took a class action lawsuit years later for them to payout. Uses a quart of oil every 2500 miles since I bought it. Told it was within tolerance. Parasitic draw on the battery. Spent over 1k and still not fixed. There’s another class action against Subaru for this. I’m an easy driver. Just want dependable transportation. Outback was a big mistake.

Pedro Milana (not verified)    January 26, 2023 - 8:42PM

I took that photo in the headlines. I did post it on social media soim not mad. But wow.