You need an affordable vehicle that can get you through the tough stuff. Here are our top 10 AWD vehicles for $15,000.
For many of us, our daily driving isn’t reserved to the dry tarmac of the LA freeway. Whether it’s bouncing into town on rutted, muddy dirt roads, or braving a snowstorm on your next shopping trip, or carefully navigating slick ice-covered streets, it’s nice to have power going to all four wheels when conditions are less than perfect. And even though all-wheel drive (AWD) often comes at a price premium, it doesn’t have to be cost prohibitive, either. Here’s our list of the top 10 AWD vehicles you can find for under $15,000.
We’ll start off the list with the most usual of AWD suspects (not including Keyser Söze), and that’s a Subaru; in this case the Impreza. Surefootedness has been a brand hallmark for Subaru going back decades and the Impreza is a big reason why (it spawned both the Outback and WRX models, after all). The Impreza comes in both sedan and hatchback varieties. In addition to its all-weather chops, it also has a sterling safety rating and, depending on the trim level, Subaru’s EyeSight system that includes adaptive cruise control, blind spot detection, lane keep assist, and pre-collision braking.
The Impreza was redesigned for 2017, so if you’re wanting the very latest in features, patiently searching for a newer one in your price range might be the best option. Looking for something a little bigger? The Subaru Legacy is another great choice, this time in a mid-size package.
The Ford Fusion is another excellent choice for mid-size and with AWD. The V6 Sport makes an athletic 325hp but ups the price. Sticking near the $15,000 ceiling, the 2.0L EcoBoost will probably suffice. Performance isn’t the only highlight for the Fusion. Among similarly priced sedans, the Fusion has an excellent interior, both in terms of styling and materials, and also in terms of comfort. The seats are comfortable, and space is ample front and rear.
Many of us look toward the compact crossover segment as the do-it-all solution for family vehicles. One big reason, the higher ride height and AWD that make winter driving much less of a hassle. The Nissan Rogue key strengths are the high-quality interior and generous list of features. We recommend the mid-tier SV trim. There you’ll find amenities like heated front seats, keyless entry and push button start, a power adjustable driver’s seat, along with advanced safety features like blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alerts. Unusual for a compact SUV, the Rogue even sports an optional third row, though it’s best reserved for the kids.
The Ford Edge was redesigned in 2015, and the upgrades are well worth the extra bit of patience to find one at our $15,000 price point. While the Edge is strictly a two-row vehicle, it’s plenty big, and a step up in size from the RAV4s and Rogues of the world. Though the maximum cargo is about average at 73.4cu.-ft., behind the second row is a capacious 39.2cu.-ft. In addition to hauling, the Edge max towing runs up to 3,500lbs. Like the Fusion, the Edge offers a nice interior full of soft-touch materials and a modern design. With a combination of reliability, spaciousness, and generous available features, it’s hard not to go to the Edge (yeah, dad jokes in full effect!).
Already a top contender among subcompact crossovers, the Mazda CX-3 is the best of the segment when it comes to sporty handling (only further enhanced with optional AWD). New in 2016, the CX-3 pairs that fun driving with a refined interior and loads of options. As a compact, the CX-3 is already at the lower end of the price range. Therefore, you can find Touring and even full-loaded top trim Grand Touring versions at our $15,000 price point. In a segment known for listless driving, the CX-3 is the go-to for spirited driving.
The Sportage certainly looks the part of sporty crossover. In 2017, the next-gen Sportage received Kia’s distinctive tiger-nose grille and a sleek front-end design, the Sportage does a good impression of a Porsche Macan. And while it doesn’t have the same power or refinement as that luxury best-seller, the Kia Sportage does offer great handling and a high-end interior that set the bar for comparably priced crossovers. While base LXs are decently equipped and will be plentiful at this price, be on the lookout for the next trim up, the EX. There you’ll find a 7-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, leather upholstery and heated front seats among many other available features. For a sporty AWD crossover with panache, the Kia Sportage deserves a spot on your short list.
It shouldn’t surprise that two Subarus made it onto our list. The Forester maintains that famed symmetrical AWD and 8.7-inch ground clearance of the brand but distinguishes itself from the likes of the Impreza with greater cargo and passenger space. The uber-popular Outback rivals the Forester in these regards (and a greater towing capacity), but that popularity comes at a price premium. The good news is the Forester has its own charms. Chief among them are verticality and visibility, the Forester’s cabin is as airy and open as you’ll find, regardless of the segment. Model year’s 2015 and 2016 are a sweet spot for value, where you can find well-equipped examples of mid-trim Limited and even top-level Touring trims with reasonable miles for around our $15,000 price tag. For a great all-around crossover to get you over the hills and through the woods to grandma’s, the Subaru Forester is a great option.
The Buick Encore may be small, but this subcompact crossover is all Buick. A super smooth ride and quiet cabin combine with that typical near-luxury Buick interior to make the Encore as cosseted and refined as anything you’ll find at this price. Oh, and starting at the second trim on up, it had AWD, too. The Encore Preferred comes standard with keyless entry, leather-wrapped steering wheel, 6-speaker stereo, 8-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility and a WiFi hotspot. To top it all off, Buick has one of the best reliability ratings around, so you can buy used with confidence.
The Honda CR-V is, by all accounts, top dog in the highly competitive compact crossover segment. It’s reliable, spacious, well-trimmed, chock-full of the latest tech, and offers AWD. It turns out, dollar-for-dollar, used CR-Vs are just as impressive as new ones. Though our CR-V recommendation may be a few years older than other crossovers on the list, you can find plenty of the fully-loaded EX-L trim examples between 2013 and 2015 model years. There you’ll find features like a moonroof, keyless entry, a back-up camera, and heated mirrors. This is all on top of sterling reliability and safety scores. What sets the CR-V apart from the competition is how well-rounded it is. If you need a crossover that ticks all the boxes, the CR-V has you covered. And if, you want to spend a little extra, the Honda stablemate Acura MDX is also deserving consideration.
The Chevy Trax is the youngest vehicle on our list thanks to its lower initial sticker price. But even at just 2-3 years old, you can find well-equipped examples for under our price of $15,000. Most plentiful will be the mid-trim LT offering remote start, cruise control, a MyLink 7-inch touchscreen with Apple Car Play and Android Auto, a WiFi hotspot, and a six-speaker stereo. The Trax’s small stature (and short wheelbase) makes it exceptionally spry for a crossover and adding AWD further enhances its capabilities in inclement conditions. As was the case with its GM cousin, the Encore, the Trax distinguishes itself with exceptional safety and reliability scores.