Comparing the Only 2 SUVs Under $20K Recommended by Consumer Reports

2019 Hyundai Kona | Hyundai

While SUVs are the rage, they come at a steeper price point than their sedan counterparts. Just look what you’ll find when you check Consumer Reports recommendations for models priced below $20,000 for the 2019 model year.

Among small cars (compact and mini models), shoppers can choose from 10 different models with the nonprofit testing agency’s approval. However, when it comes to utility vehicles below the same price ceiling, you’ll only find two options: Honda HR-V and Hyundai Kona.

Here’s a look at what these two affordable subcompact SUVs offer to buyers.

2019 Hyundai Kona

2019 Hyundai Kona | Hyundai

The Hyundai Kona ($19,900) made its debut for the 2018 model year and returns with only a few changes (and a slight price increase) for 2019. It comes with the choice of two powertrains:

  • 2.0-liter four-cylinder Atkinson (147 horsepower, 135 pound-feet torque) with six-speed automatic transmission (standard)
  • 1.6-liter turbo engine (175 horsepower, 195 pound-feet torque) with seven-speed dual-clutch transmission

Consumer Reports testers raved about its handling/drive character and said it topped the HR-V and Chevrolet Trax in that department. Meanwhile, it got 26 mpg in testing. EPA estimates for both engines sit at 30 mpg combined for front-wheel drive and 27 mpg combined with all-wheel drive.

Overall, the Kona scored a 71 on its road test and got average predicted reliability. (These evaluations came for the 2018 model.)

Kona’s safety edge

Looking exclusively at the 2019 model, it will be hard for consumers to find a safer subcompact SUV. It started out with a Top Safety Pick+ award, one of the very few utility models to do so. That designation depended on optional advanced safety tech and certain LED headlights.

Hyundai made its “superior” front-crash prevention tech standard for this model year, thereby improving the value of the base model. Every Kona will come with forward collision-avoidance, lane-keep assist, and driver attention warning.

2018 Honda HR-V

2018 Honda HR-V | Honda

While the 2019 Honda HR-V stretches beyond the $20,000 mark, the ’18 edition ($19,670) remains available in dealerships. That’s the model we’ll work with to stay within our parameters of vehicles Consumer Reports recommended. In this case, there’s only powertrain to speak of:

  • 1.8-liter four-cylinder (141 horsepower, 127 pound-feet torque) with continuously variable transmission

This engine offers a bit less power than the Kona, and Consumer Reports testers noticed. Not only did it feel less than capable at times; in the road test, you can read about its “jarring” ride. Overall, it scored a 66, lower than Hyundai’s entry in this category.

With front-wheel drive, HR-V posted even higher fuel economy ratings (31 mpg combined) than the Kona. Using the all-wheel-drive system, it managed 29 mpg in EPA testing.

HR-V’s superior reliability

Since the Kona is new, Consumer Reports can only predict how it will hold up. In the HR-V’s case, there is data available and it rated above average for two of its three years on the road. (Honda’s track record in this department is strong.)

In terms of crash tests, HR-V was not among the elite. It posted “average” scores in the small overlap front test and rated “poor” for headlights. No front-crash prevention tech is available.

Still, Consumer Reports gave it the thumbs-up for HR-V’s overall package and value. If you choose either (or the slightly more expensive Mazda CX-3), you’ll be getting one of the best models in the segment for your money.

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