BOSTON (TheStreet) -- Sport utility vehicles are some of the auto world's biggest sellers these days, but here's a look at the five 2014 SUVs that carry the smallest price tags.
"There are a lot more people out there who are on a budget than who are rich, so manufacturers have realized that establishing a strong foothold [in the low end of the market] is a really good idea," says Warren Clarke of car-buying site Edmunds.com, which recently analyzed prices to find this year's least-expensive SUVs.
Not surprisingly, the five lowest-priced models are all compact SUVs, also known as "crossovers" because they straddle the line between sedans and larger sport utility vehicles.
But Clarke says drivers who buy any of the models below won't give up much beyond cabin size, as cutthroat competition in the SUV segment means even low-priced models provide decent features and performance.
"Many of the [vehicles] on the list are segment leaders, so you really don't have to worry about sacrificing anything," Clarke says.
Read on to check out the lowest-priced SUVs on the U.S. market today.
All dollar figures reflect 2014 manufacturer's suggested retail pricing for each vehicle's base trim line, including destination charges.
Fifth-cheapest 2014 SUV: Dodge Journey
Base price: $20,990
The Journey combines a sub-$21,000 starting price with lots of room and an available third-row seat, a rarity for small SUVs.
Adding a third row will cost around $1,500 extra, but expand the vehicle's passenger capacity to seven people from the base Journey's five. "If you need something that can haul a lot of people around, the Journey is a really good choice," Clarke says.
All Journeys (even entry-level models) also come with a decent list of standard equipment, from a six-speaker stereo to handy storage compartments built right into the floor.
On the downside, lower trim levels offer only front-wheel drive, four-speed automatic transmission and an unimpressive 173-horsepower four-cylinder engine. You'll have to buy a costlier Journey if you want the available all-wheel drive, six-speed automatic transmission and 283-horsepower six-cylinder engine.
Fourth-cheapest 2014 SUV: Mitsubishi Outlander Sport
Base price: $20,295
This compact SUV's list of standard features includes some amenities rare for its price range, from a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty to Mitsubishi's Fuse system of voice-activated electronics.
"It's pretty impressive that even the cheapest Outlander Sport comes standard with cool things like voice-activated controls," Clarke says.
The expert adds that the model offers a "very smooth and quiet ride, even on rough pavement."
That said, the lowest-priced Outlander Sport comes with just front-wheel drive, a manual transmission and a mediocre 148-horsepower four-cylinder engine.
You can add all-wheel drive and continuously variable automatic transmission for around $1,300 apiece, but even top-of-the line Outlander Sports don't offer stronger engines.
Third-cheapest 2014 SUV: Nissan Juke
Base price: $19,980
The Juke's small dimensions put it somewhere between a station wagon and a compact SUV in terms of size, but the car has more than enough "oomph" to make up for its modest proportions.
"The Juke is one of those models that you don't expect will have lively performance, but that actually delivers a downright sporty ride," Clarke says. "It's lots of fun to drive."
Entry-level Jukes come standard with an impressive 188-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a continuously variable automatic transmission. You can also add all-wheel drive for around $2,000.
Clarke adds that while the Juke has a "love-it-or-hate-it" exterior (Cars.com recently crowned the model as the most polarizing car of recent times), "I personally think it's cool looking."
Second-cheapest 2014 SUV: Jeep Compass
Base price: $19,590
The Compass compact SUV offers car buyers the Jeep brand's legendary off-road capabilities for a sub-$20,000 sticker price.
"If you're a weekend warrior who lives to go off-road, the compass can be equipped to handle that," Clarke says.
He adds that the model boasts unusually comfortable front seats, as well as some cool amenities. For instance, the Compass comes standard with a household-style 115-volt power outlet and built-in rechargeable flashlight.
That said, Clarke says the Compass "isn't necessarily the strongest pick in its segment."
After all, base models come standard with just front-wheel drive, manual transmission and a so-so 158-horsepower four-cylinder engine.
Adding automatic transmission will cost you around $1,200 extra, while a package of all-wheel drive and a 172-horsepower four-cylinder engine will set you back some $2,000. Serious outdoor enthusiasts will also want to spend another $650 or so for an off-road package of skid plates, all-terrain tires and other upgrades.
Cheapest 2014 SUV: Jeep Patriot
Base price: $17,190
"If you want to tackle a mountain or trails and don't want to spend a whole lot of money. this is a great vehicle for you to choose," Clarke says. "It's a strong product for what you pay."
The Patriot offers the same off-road abilities, comfortable front seats and cool equipment that the Compass boasts -- although the model shares many of its costlier cousin's shortcomings as well.
For instance, entry-level Patriots come with the same underwhelming front-wheel drive, manual transmission and 158-horsepower engine that the base Compass has. Adding all-wheel drive, continuously variable automatic transmission and/or a 172-horsepower engine will all boost your price.
In fact, you'll even have to pay extra for air conditioning, power windows and other amenities that come standard on most vehicles these days.