Tennessee-made Atlas among most affordable SUVs for 2021

Friday, April 16, 2021, Vol. 45, No. 16

SUVs top nearly every automaker’s sales charts, and they’re not cheap. Any given SUV costs a few thousand more than its closest sedan counterpart. To help ease the sticker shock, Edmunds’ experts have compiled a list of five SUVs that come in a variety of sizes and have unusually low starting prices for their competitive segments.

What’s more, these models – all 2021 editions – also scored highly in our overall ratings, and they offer a good selection of standard features so you won’t have to spend on upgrades. All prices include the destination charge.

Kia Soul

The Kia Soul is an extra-small SUV that offers a large cargo capacity, especially compared with other vehicles of its size. It’s also fun to drive, and the tall roof and wide door openings allow easy access to the front and rear of the deceptively spacious cabin.

The Soul nails a lot of basics, though we do wish the cabin remained a little quieter on the road. Its transmission can also feel clunky at times, and it does not offer all-wheel drive as an option.

Still, standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity at this price earns the Soul a place on the list over pricier competitors. Manufacturer’s suggested retail price of 2021 Kia Soul LX: $18,765

Hyundai Tucson

The Hyundai Tucson compact SUV includes an impressive amount of standard equipment in its base versions that competitors simply can’t match. For instance, the starter Tucson SE comes with 17-inch wheels, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a six-speaker audio system and several helpful safety aids.

On top of that, the Tucson is comfortable to drive, and all of its technology is easy to use. The biggest drawbacks include unexciting engines and less cargo capacity than some rivals. Keep an eye out for the redesigned 2022 Tucson, which will offer snazzy looks, new engines and tons of tech when it comes out later this year. MSRP of 2021 Tucson SE: $24,885.

Hyundai Santa Fe

The Santa Fe gets a significant overhaul for 2021, giving it the latest in style on top of standout materials and standard features for the class. Another familiar Hyundai highlight is exceptional warranty coverage – every Santa Fe comes standard with a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain plan. Both engines are more powerful and have higher EPA-rated fuel economy than their 2020 counterparts. There’s also a new hybrid option.

One note: Size-wise, the Santa Fe is actually something of an in-between crossover, straddling the line between a small SUV and a midsize SUV. It trails rivals like the Subaru Outback in cargo space, and the ride can be a little bumpy.

But Hyundai threw its might into the standard features: Fog lights, four USB ports, an 8-inch touch screen, and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are all included. MSRP of 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe SE: $28,035.

Volkswagen Atlas

Surprised to see a German car on the list? The Volkswagen Atlas has the lowest starting price of any midsize three-row SUV. On top of that, it currently maintains a strong fourth place in Edmunds’ rankings thanks to its spacious interior, comfortable demeanor and quiet ride. Power and fuel economy with either available engine leave something to be desired, but overall the Atlas is good enough to overcome those flaws.

There is also a wealth of standard features. The Atlas S comes with 18-inch wheels, LED lights, a six-speaker sound system and roof rails. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also included. MSRP of 2021 Volkswagen Atlas S: $32,575.

Ford Expedition

When you get to large truck-like SUVs, there is a lot of similarity. Each is spacious, powerful and capable of towing a lot of weight. But the Ford Expedition stands out, not only because it has the lowest starting price in the group but because it offers a great assortment of standard equipment. Included in every Expedition are 18-inch wheels, fog lights, push-button start and a Wi-Fi hot spot.

You also get the Co-Pilot360 suite of safety features – one of our favorites.

There is a catch, and that is that the base model Expedition XL only offers two rows of seats. So if you want the lowest price, you’ll only be able to seat five passengers. However, the Expedition’s generous equipment, huge towing power and loads of space make it impossible to overlook. MSRP of 2021 Expedition XL: $50,720.

Edmunds says

Automakers now offer impressive standard features on their SUVs, so affordable base models are not as basic as you might think. One of the entry-level versions discussed here could be all the SUV you need.

Ryan ZumMallen is a staff writer at Edmunds. Twitter: @zoomy575m; Instagram: zoomy575m.