Best Four-Cylinder SUVs With Turbo in 2021
Turbocharging four-cylinder vehicles is one way auto manufacturers design cars that not only have respectable gas economy, but can still have the punch of a six-cylinder or larger engine vehicle once the “pedal is put the metal” in a four-cylinder car.
The beauty behind turbocharging is that it forces more air into the engine only when the driver needs added acceleration such as during lane changes and passing; or, just getting out of the way of an impending accident.
When the turbocharging kicks-in from increased exhaust gases hitting a fast spinning fan, more air is brought into the engine leading to additional air provided to the fuel air mixture, which results a significant increase in explosive power within the cylinders.
Here is an informative short video that demonstrates the details of how a turbocharger works on an engine:
How Turbocharger Works | Autotechlabs
Consumer Reports on Turbochargers and Engine Reliability
You can easily imagine that with the added stressors placed on a turbocharged engine, that it could lead to a decreased engine life in relative comparison to non-turbocharged engines referred to as “naturally-aspirating vehicles.”
In fact, that is a question posited in a recent Consumer Reports news piece that discusses the reliability of engines in makes and models of cars that come with a turbocharger feature.
“Generally speaking, turbocharging is a great idea. It’s a smaller engine, but you’re still getting a decent amount of power,” says Mike Quincy, autos editor at Consumer Reports. “The idea with a smaller engine, especially a four-cylinder, is that you’re going to get decent fuel economy without giving up power. But it’s not so easy to generalize about reliability for turbocharged engines. You have to look at the powertrain and the model as a whole.”
According to CR analysts, turbocharged engines typically are paired with 8-, 9-, or 10-speed automatic transmissions that take on the brunt of forces from the added power during acceleration. Although, some models do come with a 6-speed transmission.
They point out because of this, however, that rather than the engine being adversely affected so much, that the weakest part of a turbocharged car could be in its powertrain. This in turn could lead to some misinterpretation of published reliability ratings of vehicles that do not go into the full story of a particular model’s engine reliability.
While the CR news piece did not go into specific models as examples of this, what they did point out to consumers is that it makes smart shopping sense---based on reliability surveys generated by data from CR readers---if you are in the market for a turbocharged vehicle, that choosing models with a long history of producing turbocharged vehicles (such as Audi, BMW and Porsche) tend to also have more reliable powertrain systems.
Why It Pays To Wait On That Turbo
CR analysts state that they generally recommend avoiding new or redesigned car models adding on a turbocharge system for the first time, until at least some reviews have been published about the model to see if it has kinks that need ironing out.
In fact, in earlier discussions of new car reliability, CR analysts pointed out that it can take a few years following the redesign of a model before all of the bugs are worked out. But for now, since new models often come with the same engine as an earlier model, at least the overall engine reliability part of the turbocharge equation can be factored in by analyzing their latest reviews.
SUV Turbo-Shopping for the Best of theTurbocharged Four-Cylinder SUVs
That said, here is a recent listing created by U.S. News & World Report about their choices for the best four-cylinder SUVs that includes those that are turbocharged that were found to generate 250 or more horsepower, with generous amounts of torque, and some competitive MSRP prices that pushed a few choices ahead of the others. A summary of the models is as follows:
1. 2021 Audi Q5
$43,300 | USN Overall Score: 8.2/10 | USN Performance Score: 8.0/10
2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 261 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque, with an estimated 23 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. A plug-in hybrid version with an electric motor added to the turbocharged four cylinder engine increases its output to 362 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. Both models are matched with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
2. 2021 Mercedes Benz GLC
$43,200 | USN Overall Score: 8.2/10 | USN Performance Score: 8.1/10
The GLC 300 comes with a sufficiently swift 255-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a nine-speed automatic transmission; it’s rated at an above-average 22 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway.
3. 2021 Mazda CX-30
$21,900 | USN Overall Score: 8.2/10 | USN Performance Score: 8.1/10
The CX-30 is available with a 2.5-liter turbo-four at 227 horsepower (250 with premium-grade fuel) that gets 24 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard with this model.
4. 2021 Audi Q3
$34,000 | USN Overall Score: 8.3/10 | USN Performance Score: 7.3/10
A turbocharged four-cylinder engine that provides 228 horsepower with 258 pound-feet of torque and is matched with an eight-speed automatic transmission. However, mileage with the Q3 is sub-par at 22 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway.
5. 2021 Kia Sportage
$23,990 | USN Overall Score: 8.3/10 | USN Performance Score: 7.5/10
Choosing the top SX Turbo trim version of the Sportage gives you a 2.0-liter 240-horsepower turbocharged four. It's estimated at 20 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway.
6. 2021 Hyundai Kona
$20,400 | USN Overall Score: 8.3/10 | USN Performance Score: 7.8/10
Available in a 175-horsepower 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine model mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, fuel economy is rated at 28/32 mpg city/highway.
7. 2021 Mazda CX-9
$33,960 | USN Overall Score: 8.3/10 | USN Performance Score: 8.7/10
Available as a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder, 227 horsepower (250 horses with premium) engine running and a six-speed automatic transmission, fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 22 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway.
8. 2021 Volvo XC40
$33,700 | USN Overall Score: 8.4/10 | USN Performance Score: 8.0/10
Available either with a standard 187-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine or a 248-horsepower alternative, which measured at an EPA-estimated 23 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway, and 22/30-mpg city/highway respectively.
9. 2021 BMW X1
$35,400 | USN Overall Score: 8.4/10 | USN Performance score: 8.1/10
A 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that provides 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque through an eight-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy is rated at 24 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway.
10. 2021 Kia Sorento
$29,390 | USN Overall Score: 8.5/10 | USN Performance Score: 7.4/10
Available in a 281-horsepower turbo-four version with an eight-speed automatic transmission, its fuel usage measures at 22/29 mpg city/highway.
11. 2021 BMW X3
$43,000 | USN Overall Score: 8.5/10 | USN Performance Score: 8.1/10
The base 30i model packs an energetic 248-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine and an eight-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy is rated at 25 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway.
12. 2021 Mazda CX-5
$25,270 | USN Overall Score: 8.6/10 | USN Performance Score: 8.5/10
Available in a turbocharged four-cylinder version that produces 227 horsepower, with a six-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy is at 23 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway.
13. 2021 Honda CR-V
$25,350 | USN Overall Score: 8.7/10 | USN Performance Score: 8.4/10
Comes as a 190-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine that’s mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The CR-V is EPA-estimated to achieve 28 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway.
14. 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLE
$54,750 | USN Overall Score: 8.9/10 | USN Performance Score: 8.2/10
The base model GLE 350 comes with a 255-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder with a nine-speed automatic transmission. It has an EPA-rated 19 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway.
Timothy Boyer is Torque News automotive reporter based in Cincinnati. Experienced with early car restorations, he regularly restores older vehicles with engine modifications for improved performance. Follow Tim on Twitter at @TimBoyerWrites for daily automotive-related news.