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CR’s 14 Best SUVs Under $40K And Subaru’s 3 Top Picks

What are the best 2024 model-year SUVs you can buy for under $40,000? The 2024 Subaru Forester, 2024 Subaru Outback, and 2024 Subaru Ascent are among the best new picks by Consumer Reports. Check out the top fourteen best SUVs.

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I covered the best 2023 model-year SUVs, but why are the best 2024 model-year SUVs you can buy for under $40,000? According to an updated ranking by Consumer Reports (by subscription), the 2024 Subaru Outback, 2024 Subaru Forester, and 2024 Subaru Ascent are among the best new picks for SUV shoppers. 

CR says they only include new SUVs recommended because of their reliability and top safety scores. Consumer Reports only includes models they own, test drive for thousands of miles, put through an extensive array of tests, and ask owners about their experiences. The top vehicles also have the highest IIHS crash scores.

If $40,000 exceeds your new car budget, check out the best SUVs by Consumer Reports under $30,000 here.

2024 Subaru Forester in the snow

CR's best 2-Row SUVs under $40,000

  1. Subaru Forester (88)
  2. Honda CR-V (85) 
  3. Hyundai Tucson Hybrid (85) 
  4. Honda CR-V Hybrid (84) 
  5. Hyundai Tucson (82) 
  6. Subaru Outback (79) 
  7. Kia Sportage Hybrid (79) 
  8. Toyota Venza (79) 
  9. Ford Edge (79) 
  10. Toyota RAV4 Hybrid (78)
  11. Mitsubishi Outlander (77)

CR's best 3-Row SUVs under $40,000

  1. Mazda CX-90 (82)
  2. Subaru Ascent (79)
  3. Kia Sorento Hybrid (77)

Why is the 2024 Subaru Forester ranked the best 2-Row SUV under $40,000 by Consumer Reports?

CR says, "The Forester is a no-nonsense small SUV that combines a 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 generous rear seat and easy access. The controls are simple to use and within easy reach of the driver. While AEB with pedestrian detection and AEB highway are standard, BSW and RCTW are optional. The Forester gets a redesign for the 2025 model year."

What is the 2024 Forester pricing?

The Forester comes in six trim levels: The Base Forester starts at $28,190, Premium ($31,390), Sport ($32,960), Limited ($35,070), Wilderness ($36,015), and Touring ($38,490). Pricing includes destination and dealer fees ($1,295).

What is the 2024 Forester fuel mileage?

The Subaru Forester compact SUV has standard all-wheel drive and gets an EPA-estimated 29 combined mpg and 26/33 city/highway mpg. The Forester comes with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder Boxer engine.

The EPA says the new Forester Wilderness gets an estimated 25/28 city/highway mpg and 26 combined mpg.

The Outback is also a top pick. What does CR say about the 2024 Subaru Outback? 

CR says, "Subaru's Outback is a smart alternative to an SUV. Although its roofline is lower than 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. AEB with pedestrian detection and AEB highway are standard, but BSW and RCTW are optional."

What is the 2023 Outback pricing?

The 2024 Outback remains affordable. All trim levels come standard with all-drive, which you won't find in all SUVs.

For the 2024 model year, the Outback will be available in nine trim levels. The Base is priced at $30,190, Premium ($32,490), Onyx Edition ($37,400), Limited ($37,090), Touring ($41,640), Onyx Edition XT ($40,655), Wilderness ($41,255), Limited XT ($41,490), and Touring XT ($44,090). In addition, destination and delivery fees are included in the price above ($1,295).

Is the 2023 Outback fuel efficient?

CR's mpg is 16/32 city/highway and 24 combined mpg. The EPA fuel mileage rating of the 2024 Outback XT 2.4-liter turbo is 22/29 city/highway mpg and 25 combined mpg. The estimated fuel economy of the standard 2.5-liter engine is 26/32 mpg city/highway and 28 combined mpg.

The EPA says the 2023 Outback Wilderness gets an estimated 21/26 city/highway mpg and 23 combined mpg.

Why is the 2024 Subaru Ascent ranked one of the best 3-Row SUVs under $40,000 by Consumer Reports?

CR says, "The Ascent is a 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. The jumpy initial takeoff takes some getting used to, however. 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 is 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. The standard suite of active safety and driver assistance features includes AEB with pedestrian detection and AEB highway, but BSW and RCTW are optional."

What is the 2023 Ascent pricing?

The 2024 Subaru Ascent comes in six trim levels. The Base trim starts at $35,490, and Premium trims begin at $38,090. The Ascent Onyx Edition starts at $42,890, the upper Limited starts at $43,190, the Ascent Onyx Edition Limited is priced at $47,890, and the top-trim Touring has a starting MSRP of $49,790. Pricing includes destination and delivery fees ($1,295).

Is the 2023 Ascent fuel efficient?

The 2024 Subaru Ascent base and Premium trim levels get an EPA-estimated 20/26 city/highway mpg and 22 combined mpg. Because they are slightly heavier, the Ascent Limited and Touring trim levels get an EPA-estimated 19/25 city/highway mpg and 21 combined mpg.

Are the Forester, Outback, and Ascent safe vehicles?

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the 2024 Subaru Forester, Outback, and Ascent the highest Top Safety Pick+ score in crash tests.

Consumer Reports says the 2024 Subaru Forester is #1 of 27  Compact SUVs in its latest rankings. The 2024 Subaru Forester is now ranked among the top ten most reliable vehicles you can buy. 

The 2024 Subaru Outback is #2 overall of sixteen 2-Row midsize SUVs. CR says the 2024 Subaru Ascent is #5 overall of twenty 3-Row midsize SUVs.

My Take

The 2024 Subaru Forester, Outback, and Ascent come with added features for active customers you won't find on other 2-and3-Row SUVs. All come with Subaru's Symmetrical all-wheel-drive, X-Mode for severe winter weather capability, and dual-function X-Mode on some trim levels for all-terrain capability.  

Thanks for reading, everyone. I hope you enjoyed this Subaru Forester, Outback, and Ascent story. See you tomorrow for my latest Subaru Report.

For additional articles related to new Subaru models, here are a few of my top stories you may enjoy. 

My Must-Read Top Picks

Check out Consumer Reports’ 2024 Cars Reliability Results

I am Denis Flierl, a 12-year Torque News senior writer with 20+ years of Subaru and automotive journalism experience. I enjoy bringing you, the Subaru fans and customers, the most up-to-date Subaru news, reviews, and new model information. You'll find the latest Subaru stories on the Subaru page. Follow me on my The Dirty Subaru website, Dirty Subaru blog, SubaruReport, All Subaru, WRXSTI, @DenisFlierl, Facebook, and Instagram.

I’ve got you covered! - I cover all Subaru all the time - It’s called the “Subaru Report.” Check back daily for my expert Subaru analysis!

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photo credit: Subaru USA

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