Car Buying Tips

5 Best Small SUVs for Under $40K Including Tax

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There might not be a more universally useful vehicle on the market than a small crossover like the Canadian-made Honda CR-V.

But here’s a fun fact: you can’t buy one in most parts of the country these days for less than $40,000 with taxes and fees – not even the base front-wheel-drive version. Shocked? So were we, but that’s exactly why we put this list together. It’s not just a matter of which models can be bought for that kind of money, but which ones are the best.

Before we get to the list, though, there are a few important points to cover as far as we landed on the prices you’ll find below. First, we took the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP), or the price the automaker recommends, and added the associated extras: freight, A/C tax, and dealer admin fees, to name a few.

From there, we added tax, which is far from standardized across the country. That’s why we used a range starting at five per cent for Alberta and the territories (Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut), all the way up to 15 per cent for the Maritimes (New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador).

Of course, there are other factors, too, like the interest accrued over the course of a finance term, or any incentives that could reduce the asking price. Likewise, some dealers may choose to sell for less and others more. That’s why this list should be considered a general guide – albeit one that fills in a lot of blanks – rather than a definitive fact sheet. If nothing else, it provides a clearer picture of how to budget that next big purchase.

  1. Toyota RAV4
  2. Mazda CX-5
  3. Subaru Forester
  4. Hyundai Tucson
  5. Kia Sportage

1. Toyota RAV4

If you take a look at the best-selling vehicles in Canada, four of the top five are trucks. The other is the Toyota RAV4, and with good reason: it’s great. With a well-earned reputation for reliability, tons of advanced safety features across the lineup, and standard all-wheel drive, it may not be exciting but it checks an awful lot of boxes.

It starts with a spacious cabin that’s packed with practicality, including a large cargo area that has a low liftover height. At 1,059 L behind the back seats, there’s more than enough room for a hockey bag or two, while space in the second row is among the best in the segment. There’s also a reasonable selection of features for the money in the entry-level RAV4 LE, the only trim that comes in under our $40,000 price cap. Heated front seats, touchscreen entertainment, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connections might not be outright luxuries, but they’re certainly nice to have.

The bigger deal, of course, is all the advanced safety equipment that’s standard, including forward collision warning with pedestrian and cyclist detection, automatic emergency braking, junction turn assist that can warn of oncoming traffic when making a left through an intersection, lane-departure warning and lane-tracing assistance, and automatic high-beam control. There’s also blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and adaptive cruise control that works in stop-and-go traffic.

The gas-powered 2023 Toyota RAV4 LE starts at $32,590, while freight adds $1,930 to the asking price.

All-In Price: $36,479–$39,313 (depending on province or territory and tax rate)

2. Mazda CX-5

The Mazda CX-5 isn’t quite as roomy as the rest of the entries on this list, but none are subjectively as stylish, nor do they drive as nicely. Make of that what you will, but at least this sleek sport utility has all the features you could ask for. Well, almost – there’s no touchscreen. Otherwise, there’s all-wheel drive, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, heated front seats, and a full suite of safety features.

While it may not be controlled by touch inputs, the 10.25-inch widescreen display is the biggest of the bunch here, while graphics and response are both respectable. With 871 L of space behind the back seats, the CX-5 offers quite a bit less cargo room than the RAV4 or its other rivals. Likewise, there’s only 1,680 L with them folded compared to more than 2,000 L in that Toyota. However, there’s some added practicality here that’s rare in the segment, with 40/20/40 split-folding seats that create a centre pass-through for long items like skis.

There’s also just about the same advanced safety suite as its rival RAV4 offers, with only the more modern junction turn assist function missing here. That means everything from adaptive cruise control to lane-keeping assistance and blind-spot monitoring comes with the asking price of the entry-level CX-5 – the only one to slide under the $40,000 all-in mark.

The 2023 Mazda CX-5 GX starts at $31,250, while any colour but black or blue adds to the price tag. Freight, meanwhile, is another $1,995.

All-In Price: $35,040–$38,364 (depending on province or territory and tax rate)

3. Subaru Forester

This box on wheels is about as sensible as it gets in any segment, but last year’s tweaks make the Subaru Forester at least a little more stylish – and best of all, it’s still affordable. More importantly, the Forester has most of the space and features you should expect at this price point, including an advanced safety suite and all-wheel drive.

Full-time all-wheel drive has long been a Subaru staple, with the fully automatic system perfectly suited for life in Canada. It also does nothing to impact fuel economy, with the Forester’s combined consumption rating of 8.2 L/100 km topping even the front-wheel-drive entries on this list (more on those shortly). The trade-off is a so-so powertrain, but it’s mostly the automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT) that’s problematic; passing and merging manoeuvres are perfectly adequate, as is the rest of the drive.

There’s a bit less everyday cargo space inside than its key competitors, at least on paper, with the Forester boasting 818 L behind its back seats, but the 2,101 L with them folded is more than even the RAV4 can muster. It also offers most of the same features as the others on this list, like heated front seats, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connections, and a full advanced safety suite (with the exception of blind-spot monitoring).

Only the base trim of the 2023 Subaru Forester falls under the $40,000 price cap with freight taxes, but every one of the five paint choices is a no-charge selection with this $30,995 crossover.

All-In Price: $35,166–$38,502 (depending on province or territory and tax rate)

4. Hyundai Tucson

OK, first the bad news: the Hyundai Tucson doesn’t have standard all-wheel drive. It’s missing a bunch of safety features like blind-spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control, too – and that’s stuff the RAV4, CX-5, and Forester all come with at their cheapest price points.

But at least you can add all-wheel drive and keep the Tucson under $40,000 – and it can tow 1,588 kg (3,500 lb.) with or without that extra traction, which is more than any other entry on this list. Likewise, the 1,095 L of cargo space behind the back seats is more than its adversaries offer, while the 2,119 L with them folded even tops the Forester, albeit barely. The front seats are heated, the infotainment is run through an eight-inch touchscreen, and those smartphone mirroring systems are standard.

Among the Tucson’s few disappointments at its entry-level Essential price point is the absence of a full safety suite, with features like blind-spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control missing from the features list. However, forward collision warning with pedestrian and cyclist detection, automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assistance, and automatic high-beam control are all included.

The 2023 Hyundai Tucson Essential starts at $28,499, while all-wheel drive adds $2,000 to the asking price. Meanwhile, freight is another $1,925.

All-In Price: $32,497–$37,879 (depending on province or territory and tax rate)

5. Kia Sportage

A lot of the same stuff applies to the Kia Sportage, which isn’t especially surprising considering it’s corporate cousins with the Tucson. All-wheel drive is optional on the base trim, and either way, it skips the extra advanced safety stuff. But it’s downright cheap even when you add all-wheel drive – and it’s spacious and stylish, too. Now add in modern-day essentials like touchscreen infotainment, heated front seats, and smartphone mirroring functionality, and the Sportage should definitely make your shortlist in the segment.

It was redesigned just last year and looks nothing like the version that came before it, with futuristic styling that’s accentuated by its boomerang running lights up front. It rides on alloy wheels – even in entry-level LX trim – and features full LED exterior lighting. Inside, there’s heated front seats, an eight-inch touchscreen, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, just like the Tucson.

The 2023 Kia Sportage LX starts at $28,795, while all-wheel drive commands a $2,000 price premium. Freight adds another $2,549 to the asking price.

All-In Price: $32,148–$37,484 (depending on province or territory and tax rate)

Remember: This isn’t a definitive list, but it’s a great place to start your search for a small crossover. What remains the most surprising part of this list is what’s not on it: the Honda CR-V and Ford Escape, neither of which can be bought for $40,000 these days once taxes and fees are included. But that’s exactly why we did the research in the first place: so you don’t have to.