2014 Subaru Forester
KBB didn't just put the Forester at the top of its list of all-wheel-drive cars; it put five Subarus in the Top 5 spots of its all-wheel-drive Top 10.
The Outback ($23,495), Legacy ($20,295), Impreza ($17,895) and XV Crosstrek ($21,995) all scored high marks with KBB, but all managed to limbo beneath its $25,000 cutoff.
Still, you can't ask for a better investment. A 10-year-old Forester still has more than 25% of its original value. The newer models have even reverted to the boxy wagon look of their predecessors while retaining the standard all-wheel-drive for Bohemian Bourgeois parents trying to balance shuttle runs to lacrosse practice with trips to Whole Foods or Trader Joe's. Those combined 28 miles per gallon aren't are a vast improvement over the 2013 model's 24 mpg and its interior is bigger than both the Honda CR-V and Ford Escape, though its 34 cubic feet of cargo space is on the low end. Subaru's added Bluetooth connectivity to all its models and beefed up the options on its pricier trims, which means rearview cameras, power liftgate, voice-activated GPS and X-Mode engine control that provides additional traction on inclines and wet roads.
2014 Nissan Rogue
Under $25,000 with nearly 30 miles per gallon worth of combined fuel efficiency? How did this make the list?
Easily one of the the most fuel-efficient and cost-effective vehicle of the bunch, the five-passenger Rogue crossover with its all-wheel drive and 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine is the undercover Forester. Its interior is less plastic than its upmarket competitor and has comfortable seats, a huge center console bin and glove box, an organizer under the floor and nearly 40 cubic feet of cargo space with all seats in place.
Nissan even beefed up the features by making former options such as Bluetooth, keyless entry, folding side mirrors, cruise control, a tilt steering wheel, air-conditioning, full power accessories, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat, a trip computer and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod interface standard. In a mid-market increasingly populated with go-to small SUVs such as the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Ford Escape, the Rogue is the all-wheel-drive winter wagon suited for school and shopping, but without all the socioeconomic baggage.