Earlier this month, we detailed our picks of. But with the average new car transaction price in the US sitting around $35,000, buyers have a lot more choices for just a bit more cash than that $30K mark.
To that end, we're raising the price cap for this new list: the best cars under $40,000. That extra 10 grand opens the door for entry-level luxury cars, midsize SUVs and even long-range electric cars. Here are some of our favorites.
(Note: While all of the vehicles listed here have base MSRPs under $40,000, some of them offer fully loaded trim levels that can exceed this price cap.)
2020 Kia Telluride
I'm going with a somewhat unusual choice for this roundup, because I've recently spent a fair bit of time in Kia's new Telluride and I've been really, really impressed. It's remarkably good. I think it looks remarkably good, too, though it has definitely split opinion.
The ride is on the leisurely side of comfortable, but it really is refined, lulling my passengers to sleep on multiple occasions. Meanwhile, the 3.8-liter V6 provides better-than-adequate power and the eight-speed transmission is responsive and unobtrusive, which is really all you can ask for in an automatic in a rig like this.
You can get in a front-wheel-drive Kia Telluride for $31,690, which is affordable given all it offers. Working within our $40,000 cap, I'd step up to the feature-packed EX trim, which starts at $37,090 and includes Kia's comprehensive Highway Driving Assist system. Another $2,000 gets you AWD, then add on the $1,045 destination fee and you're just $135 over the $40,000 mark for a big, comfortable SUV that's as sophisticated to drive as it is to look at.
-- Tim Stevens
2019 Toyota Avalon
I tend to like small, sporty cars. The 2019 Toyota Avalon is neither of those things, so why am I recommending it? Because it's a fabulously well-done large sedan that's an epic long-distance cruiser. Its looks may not be for everyone, but there's no denying its buttery-smooth powertrain and class-above cabin that are among its many strong points.
A 3.5-liter gas V6 comes standard with 301 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque, offering plenty of power. An optional hybrid model with an electrically augmented 2.5-liter four-cylinder is available for $1,000 more, but unless gas prices spike enough to make its mid-40s fuel efficiency act as a salve for its power deficit (176 horsepower, 163 pound-feet), I'd recommend sticking with the standard engine.
Pricing starts at $36,480 (including destination) for a well-equipped base XLE, with top-shelf Limited models ringing up at just under $42K before options. At that end of the spectrum, you're looking at an Avalon sufficiently luxurious enough to make you forget all about this car's costlier Lexus ES twin. Oh, and if that's not enough to keep you in the Toyota showroom, know this: The Avalon has an infinitely less annoying infotainment interface, plus you can fold the rear seats down.
-- Chris Paukert
2019 Volvo XC40
Subcompact luxury crossovers are oftentimes hit-or-miss affairs. Some skimp on luxury and style, while others are duds behind the wheel. Neither is true about Volvo's XC40. If I were shopping for a small, premium SUV, it's absolutely the one I'd buy.
The XC40 starts at $33,700, and I actually like its lowest Momentum trim the best (the same spec as). Opt for the more powerful T5 engine with all-wheel drive, choose a few option packages, and you've got a really nicely equipped crossover for right about $40,000. LED headlights, leather seats, a 9-inch touchscreen infotainment system and a ton of active safety equipment all come standard.
The XC40 impresses with its easygoing, comfortable driving dynamics, spacious interior and high-quality materials. It's everything I love about Volvo's larger, more expensive vehicles, all in a pint-sized package.
-- Steven Ewing
2019 Hyundai Kona Electric
Earmarking $40K opens buyers to a new generation of entry-level EVs, and one of our favorites is Hyundai's new Kona Electric. The subcompact SUV combines generous safety and cabin tech with reasonable spaciousness, all wrapped into a city-friendly footprint and wallet-friendly budget. It starts at $37,495, but with available electric vehicle incentives, even the feature-rich Limited trim can squeeze in under $40,000.
The Kona's electric motor sends 201 horsepower and 291 pound-feet of torque to its front wheels. That's more get-up-and-go than the turbocharged gasoline Kona, but the heavier EV is a bit slower overall. Without gear changes or revs to build, however, the nearly silent electric SUV should feel more responsive off the line and around town.
Of course, the most important number is the Kona Electric's 258-mile EPA-estimated range -- that should quell most range anxiety concerns. At a DC Fast Charger, the EV can boost its battery to an 80% charge in about an hour. More common, 240-volt, Level 2 home and public stations can juice the battery with a 9.5-hour charge.
-- Antuan Goodwin
2019 Acura RDX
The third-generation Acura RDX landed for the 2019 model year, offering a number of improvements over its already solid predecessor. More appealing styling, a new turbocharged engine and Acura's excellent SH-AWD system work together to make the RDX really interesting. Things are nicer inside, too, with a great layout of controls, some of the most comfortable seats in the business and a healthy list of tech offerings. With a base price of $38,395, including $995 for destination, it's not a bad value for a sporty, entry-luxury crossover.
A 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder powers the RDX, producing a respectable 272 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. The latter is available from just 1,600 rpm on up to 4,500 rpm for peppy acceleration from stops and out of corners, and works with a well-calibrated 10-speed automatic. Spring for the optional adaptive dampers and you'll have a small crossover that can be entertaining to toss around, or comfortable for normal driving at the push of a button.
Acura's new True Touchpad Interface with a 10.2-inch center screen is in charge of infotainment, and it's intuitive to use after a short get-to-know period. It's offered with navigation, a 16-speaker ELS audio system, Wi-Fi hotspot and Apple CarPlay capabilities. For safety, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise, lane keep assist and a multiangle rearview camera come standard.
-- Jon Wong
2019 Mercedes-Benz A-Class
The A-Class is a great entry point into the Mercedes-Benz brand. This little sedan punches way above its weight with premium materials, a peppy turbocharged engine and plenty of technology.
Mercedes' new MBUX infotainment system comes on an optional 10.25-inch touchscreen, and brings natural voice recognition to the table. Plus, I love the augmented reality overlay that's available on the navigation. It displays navigation directions directly on top of the real-time video display from the front camera, ensuring you'll never miss a turn.
The four-cylinder turbocharged engine puts out 188 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque, which is more than adequate in the A220 sedan. A Sport mode can dial up the transmission and throttle response, while Comfort is great for daily driving. Power goes down to the front wheels through a seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission, although all-wheel drive is available for those in colder climates.
Overall, the new A-Class is a truly premium car -- far more so than the last-generation CLA250 ever was.
-- Emme Hall
2019 Volvo V60
I didn't only pick the V60 because wagons are such a great blend of car-like driving pleasure and SUV-like utility. Rather, it's because the Volvo V60 is such a wonderfully well-designed and well-packaged machine for any type of driving. It's the perfect everyday, everything vehicle.
The V60 is beautifully designed, is packed with the latest and greatest active-safety tech (albeit sometimes as paid options) and it drives with poise and maturity. With either the base, thrifty 2.0-liter turbo engine or the optional, surprisingly powerful turbo- and supercharged T6 version, the Volvo offers a nice balance of workaday civility and easy power.
The Volvo V60 does sneak in under our $40,000 cap, starting at $39,895 with destination for the T5 Momentum model. But I'll concede that it's very, very easy to blow the budget once you start adding more features or upgrading to all-wheel drive. Still, at any price the V60 represents one of the most well-rounded entry-premium cars you can buy today.
-- Jake Holmes
2019 Genesis G70
The compact sport sedan segment has long been my jam, and the most compelling entry in that field is the 2019 Genesis G70 -- it even won Roadshow's Shift Award for Vehicle of the Year. Any way you slice it, the smallest Genesis (so far) is a solid consideration with a starting price of $35,895 (including $995 for destination).
The compact, rear-wheel-drive Genesis comes standard with a 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 252 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, connected to an eight-speed automatic or an optional six-speed manual transmission. All-wheel drive is optional. A 3.3-liter, twin-turbo V6 is available, but places the G70's price north of $40,000. Besides, most Roadshow staffers prefer the 2.0T anyway.
You still get heaps of tech and driver-assistance features with the base car, including an 8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and automatic high-beams. If you want that level of advanced driver assistance from BMW, Mercedes or Audi, you'll have to pay closer to $50,000.
-- Manuel Carrillo III
2019 Toyota RAV4
Toyota's RAV4 has been one of the world's best-selling small SUVs for a reason. It's simple, stout, well-built and priced appropriately. Now, for 2019, it looks good, too.
The drivetrain options on the 2019 RAV4 may not be the most exciting in the world, but they are efficient and shouldn't give you many problems going forward. Optional hybrid power in a compact SUV is a great selling point, too.
The new RAV4, particularly in Adventure trim, is a handsome SUV that begins to look a little like its more off-road capable siblings without forcing those vehicles' compromises on its owner. It's a great crossover, and is more appealing than ever before.
-- Kyle Hyatt
2019 Audi Q3
The 2019 Audi Q3 will land in the US later this year (summer, we're told) packing some major improvements, and I believe that'll give this diminutive German the edge over its competitors, many of which are very compelling.
Having already sampled the Euro-spec Q3 late last year, I can attest to its prowess in the handling department. Wielding the same 228-horsepower turbo I4 as the Volkswagen Golf GTI, it should also provide enough hustle to back up an on-road demeanor that begs you to have a little fun behind the wheel.
The Q3's starting price of $35,695 including destination nets you some solid standard equipment, including a 10.25-inch gauge cluster display, a panoramic sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, two rows of USB ports and automatic emergency braking.
-- Andrew Krok