There's nothing quite like the freedom that comes with owning your first automobile. For some, that means getting a beat-down family wagon that's been passed from generation to generation. For others, it means scraping pennies together to buy a secondhand car. But a lucky few can look forward to a lovely new-car smell, and if that's your situation, congrats.
But what kind of new car should you buy? These days, it's hard to beat the versatility and all-around appeal of a crossover SUV. Modern crossovers offer relatively good fuel economy, too, so they're a sensible place to start. Narrow it down to the ones that are at the top of their game and you get the seven best crossovers for first-time buyers, in a variety of sizes and prices to suit your needs.
Be sure to visit our Incentives and Rebates page to learn about current incentive and rebate offers before you buy. You might also find the vehicle you're interested in through Edmunds.com's Price Promise program.
Small, efficient and built by the resale-value powerhouse known as Honda, the 2016 Honda HR-V is a great choice for the high-school senior with siblings or friends to schlep around, or the young professional with a commute and an adventurous streak.
A Honda CR-V, the HR-V's bigger brother, would certainly give you more space, but not everyone needs it. What's more, the HR-V gets better fuel economy, and its smaller footprint makes it easier to park. If you like the idea of a genuinely compact crossover with a price to match, the HR-V is a good pick.
A plucky little Jeep with plenty of personality, the Renegade is certainly one of the most off-road-worthy compact crossovers out there, but it's not a one-trick pony. The Renegade also gives you a comfortable ride, cushy seats and lots of easy-to-use tech for a reasonable price. As an added benefit, X Ambassadors can be your de facto theme music. We dare you not to get that song stuck in your head.
The 2017 Subaru Outback is more of a wagon than a crossover, but that doesn't mean it lacks utility. Quite the opposite, actually, as the Outback is one of the roomiest vehicles on our list, offering 73 cubic feet of maximum cargo space — that's almost 50 percent more than the Renegade. It's also got standard all-wheel drive and enough ground clearance for some spirited off-road driving, yet you can count on a comfortable interior and a supple ride on the highway.
This one leaves the entry-level crossovers behind and throws financial caution to the wind. What happens when your parents win the jackpot in Macau? You buy a Macan. Even the base four-cylinder Macan will go from zero to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds, while the ridiculous Macan Turbo will get you there in 4.4 ticks. That's the same acceleration as a standard Porsche 911, but with seating for five and a whole lot more cargo capacity. If price is no object and you want something fast with four doors, this is the one for you.
New for 2016, the RAV4 Hybrid returns an astounding 33 mpg combined, according to the EPA, so it's the obvious choice if fuel economy is a top priority. And if you're worried that the hybrid hardware might limit space for passengers or gear, don't be. With 70 cubic feet of maximum cargo space, the RAV4 Hybrid nearly matches the Outback's massive interior. It's good value, too, with lots of standard equipment, even on the base XLE trim, including dual-zone automatic climate control and a power liftgate. As a bonus, there's enough horsepower on tap to make most passing and merging maneuvers a breeze.
A relatively inexpensive crossover with lots of equipment and tons of room inside, the 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport covers all the basics and then some for shoppers on a budget. It boasts a new look and a number of revisions for 2017, along with a long list of features and one of the best warranties available. You get a choice of two engines, including a powerful turbocharged option that, surprisingly, doesn't really hurt fuel economy. Don't be fooled by the value-oriented pricing: This Hyundai is one of the most well-rounded crossovers in its class.
7. 2016 BMW X1
Perhaps you want your first crossover to be luxurious, but you don't need the bonkers performance (and price) of the Macan Turbo. In that case, it's probably a good time to look at the 2016 BMW X1. In fact, the X1 is almost as quick as the base Macan: 6.5 seconds to 60 mph versus 6.3. It gives you more space: 5 extra cubic feet when you fold down the seats. And there's an undeniably upscale interior. You get all this for many thousands less. This is the smallest BMW crossover you can get, but that doesn't make it any less impressive.