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Front Page - Friday, February 21, 2020

Four sporty SUVs for less than $45,000

Just about every luxury automaker offers a high-performance version of one of its SUVs these days. But not everyone can afford a $70,000 Porsche Cayenne, let alone a $200,000 Lamborghini Urus.

To serve more mainstream buyers, some non-luxury brand automakers have begun to offer sporty SUVs, as well. These are the models you’ll want to consider if you want a sports car but life dictates you have to own a SUV.

Edmunds’ testing and review experts have put together a list of four relatively new or recently updated SUVs with high fun potential and suggested retail pricing of less than $45,000.

These SUVs typically have special trim levels that have high-horsepower engines for quick acceleration, sport-tuned suspensions and gripper tires for enhanced handling potential. Pricing for the recommended trim levels includes destination fees.

2020 Hyundai Kona Limited

Manufacturer’s suggested retail price: $27,220

Subcompact SUVs are becoming more popular, but most are a bit too underpowered to be considered sporty. Hyundai fixes that problem with its 2020 Kona.

Starting with the Limited trim level, the Kona comes with a strong 175-horsepower turbocharged engine and a quick-shifting transmission that help it accelerate quickly. The Kona is also light and nimble when going around turns.

As is typical for Hyundai, the Kona comes with a number of features for the price. On the Limited, you’ll find LED headlights, leather upholstery and a sunroof, for instance. Because it’s a subcompact SUV, the Kona has a fairly small rear seat and cargo area, but it is still a practical vehicle compared to the more typical sport sedan.

2020 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring Reserve

MSRP: $36,180

Mazda CX-5 is engaging and enjoyable to drive. It’s not quite as roomy as similar small SUVs such as the Toyota RAV4, but it has composed ride and handling abilities that make it fun to pilot around town as well as along a twisty road.

The CX-5 also is one of the quickest small SUVs you can buy if you get the optional 250-horsepower turbocharged engine that’s standard starting on the Grand Touring Reserve trim. You don’t really need it to enjoy the CX-5’s sporty character, but if you do choose to spend more you’ll also get an upscale, near-luxury experience.

The Mazda is filled with premium materials, an excellent sound system and comfortable seats.

2020 Mini John Cooper Works Countryman ALL4

Starting MSRP: $42,250

As with other small SUVs we’ve chosen for this list, handling is a real strength of the Countryman. In any trim, this diminutive SUV will prove adept at tackling your favorite curvy road with precision and athleticism.

Notably, Mini is making the most powerful Countryman ever for 2020, offering a 301-horsepower engine. It comes in the sport-tuned John Cooper Works version.

There are a few downsides. Even though it’s already bigger than you might expect a Mini to be, the Countryman is relatively small for an SUV. It can also get pricy.

While prices start at less than $30,000, they can push $50,000 if you want a loaded John Cooper Works. Yet optioning up a Countryman can be part of the appeal – few other non-luxury automakers let you customize with special colors and accessories as much as Mini does.

2020 Ford Edge ST

MSRP: $44,360

The Edge is Ford’s midsize SUV. It’s the biggest model on our list, which means it’s not as nimble or quick to dive into turns. But the Edge ST more than makes up for that deficiency.

Armed with a turbocharged V6 making 335 horsepower, it is quicker to accelerate than most other rival SUVs. It also comes with a sport-tuned suspension, more powerful brakes and unique styling changes.

Negatives include a firm ride quality and less-than-ideal outward visibility. The ST is also the Edge’s most expensive trim level. But you do get a lot of features besides the sporty upgrades, such as a hands-free liftgate, leather upholstery, adaptive cruise control and a premium sound system.

Edmunds says

You don’t need to buy a luxury-branded SUV to get performance. Plenty of affordable options can provide you with a fun and engaging driving experience, satisfying your sports car cravings while delivering the practicality and versatility you expect from a crossover SUV.

Will Kaufman is a content strategist at Edmunds. Twitter: @specwill.