Skip to main content

The Best SUVs Under $40K, Subaru Stacked The Deck With Forester, Outback, Ascent

Subaru is doing everything possible to stack the deck in their favor. See why Consumer Reports says they have three new SUVs under $40,000 that are among the best.

What are the best new SUVs under $40,000 you can buy now? According to an updated Consumer Reports ranking (by subscription), the 2024 Subaru Forester, Outback, and Ascent are among the best in the 2- and 3-row SUVs under the $40,000 price point.  

Consumer Reports says, "SUVs continue to grow in popularity, as buyers love their versatility, ride height, and comfort." 

There's More To Subaru

The 2024 Subaru Forester, Outback, and Ascent meet all those criteria, but Subaru has done more to stack the deck in its favor. 

Keep reading, and I will give my analysis of the three Subaru SUVs, explaining why they are top picks for a certain type of buyer and the trim levels that stand out. 

First, I've listed CR's best 2-Row 2024 model year SUVs under $40,000 ranked by their Overall Score. 

  1. Subaru Forester
  2. Honda CR-V
  3. Hyundai Tucson Hybrid
  4. Honda CR-V Hybrid
  5. Hyundai Tucson
  6. Subaru Outback
  7. Kia Sportage Hybrid
  8. Toyota Venza
  9. Ford Edge
  10. Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
  11. Mazda CX-50
  12. Mitsubishi Outlander

2024 Subaru Forester on the beach

What does CR say about the 2024 Subaru Forester?

  • Price Range:  $27,095 - $37,395
  • CR MPG:  Overall 28 / City 20 / Hwy 38 mpg
  • #2 of 31  Compact SUVs

"The Forester is a no-nonsense small SUV that delivers a combination of roomy interior, excellent visibility, commendable fuel economy, simple controls, a comfortable ride, and responsive handling. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder combined with the CVT yields 28 mpg overall, which is among the best in its class. But acceleration is a bit tepid, and the engine's coarse hum gets loud at high revs. The cabin is roomy, with a particularly generous rear seat, and access is very easy. The controls are simple to use and within easy reach of the driver. BSW and RCTW are optional. Act quickly if you want a 2024 model, as the Forester is redesigned for the 2025 model year."

What does CR say about the 2024 Subaru Outback?

  • Price Range:  $28,895 - $42,795
  • CR MPG:  Overall 24 / City 16 / Hwy 32 mpg
  • #2 of 17  Midsized SUVs

2024 Subaru Outback Wilderness trim

"Subaru's Outback is a smart alternative to an SUV. Although its roofline is lower than that of a typical SUV, it can easily haul long items. The base 2.5-liter four-cylinder works fine during regular driving around town but can feel strained when quicker speed is needed. The optional 260-hp, 2.4-liter turbo engine transforms the wagon with effortless acceleration. The ride is very comfortable, and the handling is responsive and secure. However, some tasks through the large infotainment screen require more than one step, and the system is slow to respond to inputs. Thoughtful details, such as built-in crossbars and a dual-position cargo cover, are nice touches. Unfortunately, BSW and RCTW are unavailable on the base trim and optional on the second-tier Premium trim."

Below, I've listed CR's best 3-Row 2024 model year SUVs under $40,000 ranked by their Overall Score. 

  1. Kia Telluride
  2. Hyundai Palisade
  3. Mazda CX-90
  4. Subaru Ascent
  5. Kia Sorento Hybrid

2024 Subaru Ascent in the snow

What does CR say about the 2024 Subaru Ascent?

  • Price Range:  $34,395 - $48,695
  • CR MPG:  Overall 22 / City 14 / Hwy 32 mpg
  • #8 of 21  Midsized SUVs 3-row

"The Ascent is a very functional, easy-to-live-with three-row SUV. The Ascent's turbocharged four-cylinder delivers ample power in daily driving and gets 22 mpg overall. However, getting used to the jumpy initial takeoff takes some getting used to. The Ascent's plush ride is steady and controlled, and the suspension does an excellent job of mopping up bumps. This is not the most agile SUV in corners, but it proves to be ultimately secure at its handling limits. The cabin is quiet, and the second-row captain's seats are roomy and comfortable. Even the third row is usable for shorter trips. Controls are very straightforward. BSW and RCTW are not available on the base Ascent. The Subaru is one of the more affordable options, with three versions available for less than $40,000."

Who Should Buy The Forester, Outback, And Ascent?

The Forester, Outback, and Ascent are not your typical SUVs. They have features not found on any other SUV on the list above, and I would say these nine features set them apart from the rest.

  1. They have Subaru's Symmetrical all-wheel-drive technology
  2. Outback and Forester Wilderness trims for all-terrain capability
  3. 8.7 inches of ground clearance (9.4 on Outback Wilderness, 9.2 on Forester Wilderness)
  4. A Boxer engine that sits low in the chassis for a lower center of gravity (improved stability)
  5. Excellent forward visibility because the Boxer engine reduces the hood height
  6. X-Mode and Dual-function X-Mode for improved severe weather and all-terrain capability
  7. EyeSight driver assist safety technology is now standard on all trim levels
  8. A ring-shaped reinforcement frame engineered to help provide high-impact protection
  9. Subaru SUVs have the highest resale value according to KBB data

The 2024 Forester compact SUV, 2024 Outback midsize SUV, and 2024 Ascent 3-Row SUV have trim levels for everyone, but they are designed for the most active customers who will use their SUV for more than commuter or grocery hauler. You'll want to check them out if you use your vehicle to get further away from civilization on the weekends. 


Do you like to get your vehicle dirty on the weekends? If so, click the red Add New Comment link below and let us know.

Thanks for reading, everyone. I hope you enjoyed this best SUV story. See you tomorrow for my latest Subaru Report.

Before you go, check out the Subaru Outback Wilderness Dual XMode Dirt and Rock Off-Road Test YouTube video. 

I am Denis Flierl, a top Torque News and Subaru reporter since 2012. I’ve invested over 13 years in the automotive industry in a consulting role, working with every major car brand. I am an experienced Rocky Mountain Automotive Press member. You'll find my expert Subaru analysis here. Follow me on my X SubaruReportAll Subaru, WRXSTI, @DenisFlierlFacebook, and Instagram.

I’ve got you covered! - I cover all Subaru all the time. 

Please share the article with friends, and post X to your followers! 

Photo credit: Subaru USA