Best AWD or 4WD wagon or crossover SUV

My Geo Prizm took a crap and I’m looking to replace it. I have a budget of $10,000 and would like to get something with less then 150,000 miles on it but hopefully closer to 100,000. I’ve been looking at Honda CR-V’s, Toyota Rav4, and Subaru’s but leaning more towards a Honda CR-V. I’ve also been intrigued by the AWD Audi Quatro and AWD VW Passat but everyone that I talk to says both of those are expensive to repair at shops and difficult for the regular home mechanic to fix. I like they look pretty damn sexy but don’t want to pay an arm and a leg to fix it. I’d also like to keep my gas mileage as high as possible, in the 30’s on the hwy seems realistic. What are people’s thoughts on the best AWD or 4WD wagon or crossover SUV out there?

If you want 30mpg on the highway from a newer crossover, then you’re pretty much gonna be stuck with hybrid models or models out of your price range. The new Mazda CX-5 can get 35mpg on the highway, and that’s pretty much top of the heap for crossovers right now; and only in FWD versions, add AWD to it and your MPGs fall even lower.

If you can lower your expectations to 25mpg, then your choices open up quite a bit

Avoid the Audi and VW, used ones can be money pits. For $10k and 30 mpg highway minimum, you’ll need to look at something besides a CUV/SUV, like @bscar2 said. Do you need AWD? How about a Toyota Matrix or its twin, the Pontiac Vibe?

On a budget of $10,000 I would forget about getting AWD with low mileage. For that amount you can get a good Toyota Matrix, Mazda3, Hyundai Elantra, and a basic Honda Civic or Corolla. The Maza and Elantra come in hatchback form.

Any AWD vehicle that has not been meticulously maintained will be a crapshoot.

Any of the above will have reasonably good gas mileage, especially with a manual transmission. An AWD system will take about 3-4 mpg in fuel economy toll.

Okay, so taking out the gas mileage, which out of all of those (CRV, Rav4, Subaru, Audi Quatro, VW Passat) is the best AWD car for your buck?

Anything not called an Audi or VW. Think what these cost originally. What are they selling for now? You may think they look hot, but other people thinking see steaming piles. I think they know something. Of the rest, the Subies have the most complex awd system. That means it might perform a little better, but also that there is more to go wrong. The CR-V is the best seller of the bunch. They will be cheap and easy to repair and there will be plenty to choose from. The RAV4 has a side-hinged rear door that some love and some hate. Maybe you should figure out how you feel about it before looking at many. It does make it easy to load stuff on top, if you’re likely to do that.

A lot of good advice thus far. Many European brand cars have not shown to have consistent reliability to be recomended under any circumstances and their low prices used reflect that; that is why their purchase is " intriguing ".

Secondly, though CRVs and RAVs ( most Subarus) have reliability records that are enviable to even fwd cars, you just don’t know how these added mechanics were used or maintained. Where I live, Awd is a necessity and you would not believe how some of them have been abused, even to the point that I wouldn’t recomend a used one to my worst enemy. Well, maybe a couple.

With that in mind, 100k, under $10 k Awd cars generally get my huge “no”. Now, if you can buy one from Grammy who lives on the flatland in areas with maintained roads but drives consistently at or near the speed limits and has an impeccable maintenance record…maybe. But, generally no. Look for a used lower mileage fwd compact that doesn’t say VW or Audi. @MarkM makes all good agreeable points on possible Awd purchases, but IMHO, with the caveate that only for cars that have known use and maintenance records.

Generally too, Awd cars have gas mileage that stinks Compared to a good used Civic or Corolla and the like in actual use. My used 2005 RAV with 100k plus is an example of one of these used purchases. I have maintained fastidiously, guarantee it is rust free and it has never been abused. In all good concience, I still would not even give it to a friend or relative with the expectation it would be anywhere near as economical or reliable as my past Corollas with greater mileage.

It is tough to “take out the gas mileage” unless you absolutely live in an area you must have Awd…and few of us really do ! Low gas mileage really wears on you and your budget and makes driving down right depressing every time you fill it up. In the 30 s mpg is totally unrealistic for these older Awd cars. You won’t even come close. Compared to a high mileage fwd compact, the difference in actual highway and city mileage can be as much as ten mpg…or higher in these older Awd cars. Your GEO Prism was a great car…get “another” Corolla !

“If you want 30mpg on the highway from a newer crossover, then you’re pretty much gonna be stuck with hybrid models or models out of your price range.”

Not true.
The 4th Generation Outbacks (introduced in the 2010 model year), when equipped with the 4-cylinder engine and CVT, are rated at 30 mpg on the highway. A friend of mine has one, and she reports that she is indeed capable of achieving that figure, and has actually gotten 32-33 mpg on very long highway trips.

I have a 2011 Outback with the 6-cylinder engine and 5-speed automatic, and even with 85 additional HP, I have been able to eke-out 29 mpg on the highway. However, 27 is more typical for my highway mileage.

I haven’t seen the mpg figures for the new 2014 Forester, but, based on the lighter weight of that vehicle, I suspect that, with the CVT, it should be capable of slightly better gas mileage than the larger Outback.

So if I take out the need for AWD and start looking for a front wheel drive wagon that’s good in snow and the mountains with 30+ MPG, what models am I looking for?

“Good in the snow and the mountains” essentially means that you need to buy a set of 4 winter tires.
Are you willing to do that?


In that case, any smallish, economical FWD wagon should fill the bill, as long as it is equipped with 4 winter tires.

Try the ‘advanced search’ on, put in body styles of wagon and hatchback, less than 100k, priced between $9000 and $11000, and limit it to brands you like. When I did this, I came up with 270 vehicles within 500 miles of me. Ones that stood out include the Fit, the Mazda 3 and 5, and the recent (bigger) Scion xB.

@bendgirl A normal front wheel drive (2WD) with good winter tires is all you really need. We live near the Rocky Mountains and have Michelin X-ICE on our two cars, both 2 wheel drive. No problems getting to our favorite ski areas.

On a $10,000 budget it is best to go for a reliable, low mileage compact which will have the lowest overall operating cost. Gas mileage is only one third of the operating costs. An Audi Quattro which used no fuel at all would still be an expensive car to own. I would go for a Toyota Matrix which has lot of room with the rear seat down to carry bulky or long objects.

I think I missed something here. Are we still talking about Awd cars less then $10 k. I did not know that CVTs were available early enough to qualify. All Outbacks are well under 30 mpg under $10k. We’ll stick with that. I know the newer r ones as you point out are better, but originally, $10k is the limit. @bentgirl. I hope you get that these are expensive cars and a 2010 unless beat to heck will be over 10k and then beyond the point of being recomended as a reliable vehicle. If you can’t afford more then that, you really can’t afford to own an Awd car unless it’s a second car and used little.

No, I overlooked something!
I forgot that the OP had a budget of $10k, which clearly eliminates any of the 4th Generation Outbacks.

I think that, perhaps, a used Ford Focus wagon with 4 winter tires might a good idea for her.


I got on about the 30mpg + AWD thing being limited to hybrid CUVs, and the CX-5 I mentioned isn’t going to be close to $10k, since it was introduced for the 2013 model year. That’s probably what thew you off the 10k mark.

On FWD vehicles and snow tires, a popular domestic vehicle will be cheaper to buy than a popular Asian vehicle. You could get a 2008 Ford Escape for around $10k, whereas you’d be looking at a 2006 Honda CR-V in the price range. A 2008 Hyuundai Tuscon would also be in your price range, as well.

For what you are willing to spend, the SUV is going to be about 7 years old. I would find the SUV in the best condition regardless of the manufacturer. A Rav4 driven hard is less desirable than a Jetta wagon that was maintained well.

Might look for a Toyota Matrix ( or Pontiac Vibe). They are not a crossover- really just a Corolla hatchback- but did come in AWD. 30+ highway is normal, at least for the FWD version. Decent in snow, though I second VDCdriver if you are talking mountains

The Matrix (or Corolla/Matrix on the owners manual of my aunt’s) is a great choice, Most of the CRV’s on the market with under 100k for less than 10k are around ten years old so hopefully a nice used Matrix/Vibe even with AWD could be found. When my brother was advised to buy a 4wd/Awd car so he could always get to work in winter weather (registered nurse) his mechanics talked him out of every Audi he asked them about but directed him to Subaru which they also serviced because it would require vastly less repairs than than similar Audi’s