Fastest SUVs Under $40,000

The $40,000 price point is the typical entry point into the luxury crossover class. You get a quality vehicle, with utility, luxurious touches, quality features, and a more spirited engine.

However, even at that level, prices can rise quickly after you add in options, all-wheel drive, and higher trim lines.

That’s why we wanted to focus on quick SUVs with powerful engines and a host of features that have prices that start closer to $35,000, which allows room for upgrades, taxes, and other add-ons.

Affordable Performance

With a few exceptions, we’re focusing on the performance subcompact class and all of the models listed had 0-60 mph times of under seven seconds.

A few of these models come in at under $30,000 fully loaded leaving you plenty of spare change to get out and have more fun in your vehicle.

Here are the 2021 models that are the fastest SUVs under $40,000 with 0-60 time* indicated next to the model.

Toyota RAV4 Prime

Toyota RAV4 Prime – 5.4 seconds

A Toyota is the fastest SUV under $40,000? Yep. The company has stepped up its performance game added a new hybrid version of its popular compact SUV. The RAV4 Prime pairs the model’s four-cylinder engine with two AC electric motors and standard all-wheel drive. It adds up an impressive 302 horsepower, which is 99 more than the RAV4.

The RAV4 Prime has a starting retail price of $38,100.

Ford Escape Titanium

An Older Ford Escape Titanium

Ford Escape Titanium – 5.7 seconds

You probably wouldn’t think an Escape would make a fastest SUV list but you’d be wrong. The Escape is a compact crossover model that unlike many of its competitors offers an optional powerful engine.

The Escape Titanium trim lives up to its name with its robust 250-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and 280 pound-feet of torque. It has standard all-wheel drive and a long list of included features.

While the Escape Titanium may give you pause at nearly $40,000, the 250-horsepower in a compact SUV is nothing to sneeze at. It has 3,500 pounds of towing capacity and is the fastest SUV under $40,000.

So why is the Escape Titanium faster than the equally powerful and more torquey #3 model on our list? It weighs nearly 250 pounds less.

Ford Bronco Sport

Ford Bronco Sport Badlands – 5.9 seconds

The Bronco Sport Badlands, and also First Edition trims, are compact off-road-focused models with powerful engines. They come with Ford’s 245-horsepower turbocharged EcoBoost four-cylinder engine. They also have an enhanced all-wheel-drive system. So in addition to going fast on the road, they also have more power and traction off-road.

This engine is a significant step up from the base Bronco Sports’ 181 horsepower engine. This makes the Badlands or First Edition trims the clear choice if you want a faster and more powerful Bronco Sport. The turbocharged engine can tow up to 2,200 pounds.

The Badlands and First Edition models come with rubberized, washable flooring and easy-to-clean upholstery. This makes these trims a great choice for people whom are likely to get their vehicles dirty on the inside.

mazda cx-30

Mazda CX-30 Turbo – 5.9 seconds (estimate)

The CX-30 is a nimble, athletic, fun to drive subcompact offering from Mazda. For 2021, it has added a turbocharged engine to the lineup, which brings a whole another level of performance.

The CX-30 Turbo outputs 250 horsepower and a class-leading 320 pound-feet of torque from its turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. It’s the most amount of torque you can get in SUV under $40,000, even more than the Hyundai Kona Electric. The engine is an adjusted version of the turbocharged engine found in the Mazda CX-5 Signature.

It’s a significant step up from the non-turbo CX-30, which has a 2.5-liter 186 horsepower four-cylinder engine. Its 0-60 time was 8.1 seconds.

In addition to its much more powerful engine, CX-30 Turbo also gets standard all-wheel drive, black 18-inch wheels, larger exhaust tips, and a Turbo badge help differentiate it from the non-turbo model.

The CX-30 Turbo is a new model so not all of the specification details are currently available, including its 0-60 time. So stay tuned and check back for updates. However, with its low weight as a subcompact and class-leading 320 pound-feet of torque, it may just take its spot at the top of our fastest SUVs under $40,000 list.

The CX-30 is anticipated to start arriving in U.S. dealerships by the end of 2020. The price for the CX-30 Turbo is expected to be in the low $30Ks.

Mazda CX-5 Signature

Mazda CX-5 Signature – 6.2 seconds

Our second fastest 2021 SUV under $40,000 was actually one of the largest models on this list and heaviest at 3,795 pounds. The compact Mazda CX-5 offers a 2.5 Signature trim with all-wheel drive.

Its 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine outputs 250 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque and offers Mazda’s zoom-zoom driving dynamics. The CX-5 Signature’s starting price, well equipped, is about $39,000.

In comparison, the base CX-5 starts at about $26,000, offers a 187 horsepower engine, and its 0-60 time is two seconds slower.

Mercedes-Benz GLA

Mercedes-Benz GLA – 6.3 seconds

Mercedes-Benz’s subcompact crossover offering the GLA is redesigned from the ground up for 2021. It has more power, more cargo room, and a better ride than the 2020 model and it looks premium inside and out.

The GLA comes with a powerful, 221 horsepower four-cylinder turbocharged engine. The GLA250 with 4matic all-wheel drive starts at $39,280.

Hyundai Kona Electric

Hyundai Kona Electric – 6.4 seconds

The Kona Electric offers zippy performance, engaging driving dynamics, and up to 258 miles of range on a charge. While it’s no Tesla Model Y and doesn’t offer all-wheel drive, it’s significantly less expensive.

The Kona Electric is the only electric SUV for 2021 in this price range and is the clear choice for electric SUV enthusiasts for under $40,000.

The SEL is the only trim line that starts under $40,000, but lacks desirable features such as leather upholstery, sunroof, LED exterior lighting, and a wireless smartphone charging pad. You’ll need to pony up about another $5,000 to get those features.

Despite a price near $40,000, look at the tax incentives for buying an electric vehicle where you reside to determine the true cost of purchase. It could be significantly less. And with the electric motor, this means substantial savings on fuel costs.

The Kona’s sibling model, the Kia Niro EV, starts at just over $40,000. However, that model’s EX Premium trim can reach $47,000 with no all-wheel-drive option. The Niro EV is only available in 14 states.


BMW X2 xDrive28i – 6.4 seconds

The BMW X2 xDrive28i has a 2.0-liter 228 horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine that still delivers 31 mpg highway fuel economy. The X2 xDrive28i has a starting price of $39,395 with a host of standard features. The X2 emphasizes sport over practicality with the company called it a Sport Activity Coupe.

Although still a subcompact, the BMW X2 is a larger more stylish version of the diminutive X1. The X2 is actually slower than the X1 as it carries more weight. They share the same silky smooth, eager to rev powertrain.

For a less expensive X2, go for the sDrive28i, which is front-wheel drive, and starts at $37,395.


BMW X1 – 6.4 seconds

If you want a new BMW crossover that is more practical and costs less than the X2, go with the spirited but small X1. The X1 has the same engine as the X2 with an eight-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode. The X1 starts at $36,395.

Due to the X2’s sloped rear, the X1 is actually the larger vehicle. The X1 has more utility with 27 cubic feet of cargo space compared to the X2’s 22 cubic feet.

Kia Soul Turbo

Kia Soul Turbo – 6.4 seconds

Who would have ever thought a Kia under $30,000 could match a BMW but the Soul Turbo can. Normally the Soul isn’t known for sport but Kia has added an optional 1.6-liter 201 horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine to the lineup. This really helps this front-wheel-drive subcompact offering pick up the pace.

The Soul Turbo trim, also known as the GT-Line 1.6T comes in at about $29,000. It has a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic with manual shifting mode. Its 0-60 time is 1.6 seconds faster than the Soul’s naturally aspirated 2.0-liter 147 horsepower trim lines.

Hyundai Kona

Hyundai Kona Ultimate – 6.6 seconds

The Kona’s styling varies only slightly from the Kona Electric and its price with a 1.6-liter 175 horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine starts at quite a bit less.

The Kona Ultimate, the top-spec level trim with front-wheel drive, starts at about $30,000. The model’s fuel economy is rated at 28 mpg city and 32 mpg highway. The Kona has a sleeker design but is smaller and less practical than the Soul.

Tesla Model Y

What About the Tesla Model Y?

Tesla announced in 2019 it was going to offer its new Model Y electric crossover at a starting price below $40,000 in standard range rear-wheel-drive base form. However, the company has changed course and that currently isn’t in their plans.

The least expensive Model Y is the long-range rear-wheel-drive which has a starting price of $48,000 and a swift 0-60 time of 5.5 seconds. This would make the Model Y in competition with the Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2.0T for the fastest SUV under $50,000.

However, the cost of ownership for an electric SUV is less than internal combustion-powered crossovers.

Fast SUVs at Other Price Points

Stepping up into the $45,000 price point brings in lots of other luxury compact models to choose from with serious acceleration. These models include the Volvo XC40 T5, Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2.0T, and Jaguar E-Pace among others.

For a look back at content on our website from other price points, check out our older articles on the fastest SUVs under $30,000, under $50,000, and $100,000. And for the ultimate in SUV speed and performance, check out our super SUVs article.

SUVs have become more expensive in recent years and there are fewer performance models at lower price points. Nissan has discontinued its zippy Juke subcompact and Subaru no longer offers the Forester XT performance trim line.

What’s your favorite of these fastest SUV models under $40,000? Let us know in the comments below or cast your vote in our poll.

*All 0-60 times were sourced from Car and Driver.

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One Response

  1. The Best 2022 SUV For Seniors | Top SUV For Seniors 2022 Says:

    […] While the Tucson delivers in terms of features and value, it does have some weaknesses. Its highway passing acceleration is not brisk with the base engine. While the hybrid engines are quicker, particularly the plug-in hybrid, it’s not as quick as the Toyota RAV4 Prime, which is the fastest SUV under $40,000. […]

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