10 Best 4-Cylinder SUVs for 2016

With the mighty and thirsty V8 motor slowly finding its way out the door in recent years, the much more efficient V6 and inline-4 are being featured more often in the SUV class.

A properly tuned and well-engineered V4 engine can offer more than adequate power in the right vehicle – and with far better fuel economy. Because of this, many manufacturers are no longer offering a V6 option in their small SUVs and instead choosing to turbocharge their 4-cylinders to balance efficiency and power.

The following guide summarizes 10 of the best 4-cylinder SUVs of 2016 to help you choose the right one for your needs.

VehicleMSRPMPG City/HwySeatsRating
Volvo XC90$49,80020/257 std8.8
Toyota Highlander$29,99020/258 std8.4
Kia Sorento$25,10021/295 std (7 opt)8.35
Nissan Rogue$23,24026/335 std (7 opt)8.0
Hyundai Santa Fe$24,95018/257 std7.9
Dodge Journey$20,99519/265 std (7 opt)7.45
Ford Escape $23,59023/325 std8.03
Nissan Juke$20,25028/345 std7.6
Mazda CX-5$21,79526/355 std8.4
Audi Q5$40,90024/315 std8.2

2016 Volvo XC90 – $49,800 – 7 Passengers – 4 Cylinders

2016 Volvo XC90

Completely reworked for 2016, Volvo’s new XC90 gets far more than an exterior upgrade. Everything from the interior, to the vehicle’s framework, to the powertrain has been redesigned to offer Volvo’s customers an even better package than previous years. When it comes to the XC90 model line, that’s saying a lot.

Featuring a new V4 engine that’s both turbocharged and supercharged, the XC90 has plenty to brag about under the hood. Thanks to the added supercharger, the XC90’s acceleration response is almost immediate, and the vehicle itself is incredibly quiet. This new engine is mated to an 8-speed automatic gearbox that shifts effortlessly between gears in nearly all situations.

The all-new interior looks and feels great, with well-built paneling and extremely comfortable seats. Being in the XC90 doesn’t just impress with it’s comfort; the interior styling is an aesthetic masterpiece and thoroughly communicates to its passengers just how luxurious this vehicle is. It’s incredibly spacious and very clearly designed with a strong focus on placing its occupants in the lap of luxury.

2016 Toyota Highlander – $29,990 – 8 Passengers – 4 (or 6) Cylinders

2016 Toyota Highlander

The 8 passenger 2016 Highlander manages to fit a whole lot of utility into a relatively slim package. Relative is the key term here as the Highlander is not a small vehicle, but it doesn’t have the hulking presence of a Suburban or Yukon on the road. The Highlander makes for an incredibly versatile vehicle, particularly in the AWD models, which equip the Highlander with the tools to handle a bit of off-pavement driving.

The 2016 Highlander is available with two engine options: a 185 horsepower inline-4 and a 270 horsepower V6. The inline-4 is adequate for daily driving, if a bit underwhelming, but the V6 feels much more appropriate while still offering similar fuel efficiency.

Buyers interested in a Highlander aren’t looking for a sports-coupe, however, and where the 2016 Highlander really shines is its utility. The Highlander will seat the entire family with room for cargo in the back, and its seats can be folded away when extra space is needed. The interior isn’t meant to be a luxurious space, but it’s more than acceptable for a daily commuter vehicle. Ride quality in the Highlander is smooth and the vehicle handles well for its size. The engine is quiet in all but the most aggressive driving situations.

2016 Kia Sorento – $25,100 – 5 (or 7) Passengers – 4 (or 6) Cylinders

2016 Kia Sorento

Kia vehicles grab more market share with every passing year, and with SUVs like the 2016 Sorento it’s easy to see why. Available third row seat, controlled handling, and a quality interior coupled with ample power and above-average fuel efficiency create a crossover SUV that hits well above its weight class.

Quality materials highlight the interior of the Sorento, with little to no “cheap” feeling plastic. The Sorento can comfortably seat four adults, or even up to seven on short trips with the third row option added. Ride quality is average for an SUV, and the Sorento feels sturdy on the road. Handling the Sorento is effortless thanks to its above-average maneuvering. Cornering and braking come with a feeling of confidence and precision.

The Sorento comes standard with a V4, but a turbocharged version with similar fuel efficiency and much more power as well as a V6 are available options. The base model engine can feel a little underpowered at times, but it will still suffice for most drivers daily commuting needs. The turbocharged version is an excellent choice for those wishing to balance efficiency and power, however, as it feels much more aggressive under hard acceleration.
Read our full review.

2016 Nissan Rogue  – $23,240 – 5 (or 7) Passengers – 4 Cylinders

2016 Nissan Rogue

The 2016 Nissan Rogue features one of the best fuel-economy ratings in its class. To accomplish this, Nissan has been forced to trade raw-power for fuel efficiency. While the resulting four cylinder engine feels sluggish at times, this can be an acceptable trade-off for many buyers interested in a lower cost-to-own vehicle.

Fortunately, what it lacks in power the 2016 Rogue makes up for in style and grace. The exterior of the Rogue has been tweaked from last year and looks better than ever before, while the interior has also undergone changes that result in a much more comfortable experience. It will comfortably seat four adults, and it does come with a third row seating option, though this third row will feel far too cramped for anyone except children.

While the Rogue handles well and the ride quality is very smooth, the engine can be extremely noisy due to the CVT transmission’s tendency to run at high RPM too often. This isn’t a new issue for Nissan’s CVT transmission, and is another trade-off made for better fuel economy.

Read our full review.

2016 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport – $24,950 – 5 Passengers – 4 Cylinders

2016 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport

The 2016 Santa Fe Sport is a great looking commuter-SUV with a surprising amount of utility for its low price-tag and quiet exterior. Like a more modern Ford Explorer, the Santa Fe is both comfortable and spacious, with room for cargo along with its passengers. It’s even capable of some very basic off-road driving when given the AWD option.

The standard V4 comes with 190 horsepower and feels just fine in every-day driving conditions. When loaded with cargo and passengers, or towing a significant amount of weight behind it, however, the base model engine quickly begins to feel sluggish. There is a turbocharged inline-4 available as an option that gets almost identical fuel economy and feels much more ready to tackle a range of hauling tasks.

Similar to the trends put-forth by other manufacturers, the Santa Fe Sport is built with high-quality materials on the inside. Tech-features are intuitive and easy to use, and the Santa Fe Sport’s interior is quiet and comfortable. The second-row in particular offers adequate legroom and space for two adults, while the front-seats are about on par with other vehicles in its class.

2016 Dodge Journey – $20,995 – 5 (or 7) Passengers – 4 (or 6) Cylinders

2016 Dodge Journey

A smart mix between an SUV and a minivan, the 2016 Dodge Journey seeks to excel as a people carrier. In that regard it does exceptionally well, with spacious second row seating and an available third row that will seat two adults on shorter trips. The one area where the Journey comes up short is cargo space which is below-average compared to its competitors.

The base model’s inline-4 engine definitely feels underpowered, particularly when carrying heavy loads. This is further exacerbated by an aging four-speed automatic gearbox, and even when the optional 3.6L V6 motor is selected it’s extremely limited by this ancient technology. To make things worse, neither engine excels in fuel economy.

What the Journey lacks in power it tries to make up for in passenger utility. It does this very well, offering a delightful interior with one of the best-in-class infotainment systems available today. There’s ample space to stow small items all around the cabin, and while cargo room ultimately suffers, especially with the third row added, the 2016 Dodge Journey still succeeds admirably well at its primary function as a people-carrier.

2016 Ford Escape – $23,600 – 5 Passengers – 4 Cylinders

2016 Ford Escape

A compact crossover with gusto when properly equipped, the 2016 Ford Escape is a standout vehicle in a class filled with options. Appealing to buyers looking for a mix of driving enjoyment and sport utility, the Ford Escape handles well and offers the same thrill found in some sports coupes, although only when the right engine is selected.

The base model’s 168 horsepower 2.5L 4 cyl. is underwhelming to say the least. It falls short of what’s needed for an SUV to perform well on the roads, and lacks competitive fuel economy compared to its rivals. Ford offers two extremely attractive and affordable alternatives, however. The first is a 1.5L turbocharged inline-4 making 179 horsepower in the SE and Titanium trims. This engine is far more lively than the base models’ sluggish and lackluster performance, and also gets much better fuel economy.

General consensus, however, is that the real stand-out is the 2.0L turbocharged 4 cyl. option. It only costs $1,295 more than the 1.5L engine, gets similar fuel-economy, and is rated to produce an impressive 245 horsepower.

When equipped with this motor, the Ford Escape goes from an average compact crossover to a diamond in the rough capable of satisfying driving enthusiasts across the board. Even better, both turbocharged options come with one of the most refined and usable stop-start features of any vehicle on the market today. Engine shutoff and startup is seamless, and Ford’s aptitude at creating this system trumps much more expensive manufacturers attempts to do the same.

The interior of the 2016 Escape is standard for a Ford vehicle. Seats are comfortable without being extravagantly luxurious, and the Escape will comfortably seat four adults. Standard features include rearview camera, a voice-activated infotainment system and exceptional sound proofing to create a very quiet ride.

2016 Nissan Juke – $20,250 – 5 Passengers – 4 Cylinders

2016 Nissan Juke

The 2016 Nissan Juke is a compact crossover that very nearly falls into the Hatchback class. Depending on perspective, this could be a good or a bad thing. As a result of this small size, the Juke handles similar to a sport hatchback, and the base model’s turbocharged inline-4 creates a more than adequate 188 horsepower. The only downside in terms of driving performance is Nissan’s CVT transmission, which continues to rev high in the power-band when the vehicle is in “Sport” mode.

As a compact people carrier, the Juke does a fine job at getting four adults around in comfort. The seating won’t rival a luxury sedan in terms of comfort, but they’re more than adequate for everyday driving. The interior looks good as well, and the standard infotainment center is a highlight both in terms of functionality and style.

The 2016 Juke really shines with its high fuel-economy, getting an EPA estimated 28/32 city/highway mpg. The Juke handles nearly as well as a Mini, and driving enthusiasts will find the Juke to be a pleasant alternative to larger compact crossovers.

2016 Mazda CX-5 – $21,795 – 5 Passengers – 4 Cylinders

2016 Mazda CX-5

One of the top rated crossover SUVs in its class, the 2016 Mazda CX-5 aims to impress with superior driveability, utility, and comfort. True to usual Mazda form, the CX-5 is both peppy and handles well when equipped with the 2.5L 4 cyl. engine in the Touring and Grand Touring trims. The base model’s 2.0L 4 cyl. can feel underwhelming under hard acceleration, and even the more expensive trims’ 2.5L engine isn’t particularly powerful, but the latter feels more than adequate for the CX-5.

The CX-5 handles like a dream, not just for an SUV, but for a vehicle in general. It has been compared to a sports coupe in the way it corners and brakes, no small feat for a mid size crossover SUV. The ride quality is also incredibly smooth and the CX-5 will keep its passengers happy and comfortable even on undesirable road conditions.

Like most Mazda vehicles, the CX-5’s cabin is attractive and well-built without being overly lavish. The CX-5 will comfortably seat five adults and features high-quality materials throughout the interior. The standard Infotainment system is a particular stand-out, with easy to use features and easy to learn navigation.

2016 Audi Q5 – $40,900 – 5 Passengers – 4 (or 6) Cylinders

2016 Audi Q5

Audi is often able to find the perfect blend of luxury and performance in its vehicles. The Audi Q5 embodies this in every way, creating a driving experience that is both fun and exceptionally comfortable.

The base models turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder engine produces 220 horsepower and gets an EPA estimated 20/28 mpg city/highway, above-average for the class. More powerful engines are offered in various trims, but the base model’s engine feels like more than enough to propel the Q5 forward, and it gets the model’s best fuel economy outside of the hybrid option. Acceleration is quick and responsive in the standard engine, and only the most particular driving enthusiasts will feel the need to spring for a more powerful option.

The interior of the 2016 Q5 is, of course, luxurious and aesthetically attractive. The Q5 will seat four adults in extreme comfort, and it goes without saying that all materials found in the cabin are of a high-quality. Styling in the Q5 is similar to other Audi’s vehicles, a pleasant and good looking blend of modernity and quietly understated luxury.

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