Just reading the title, “Best AWD Cars Under $20,000” will make many people do a double take. For that price what pops into most people’s heads is a tiny, cramped little vehicle with limited space and even less in the way of options or drivability. Believe it or not, they are out there. There are still a couple manufacturers who have managed to put some very nice vehicles on the road, equipped with All-Wheel Drive, and still kept the price well within the range of most buyers. They’re not cheap, just affordable, well-built vehicles. They are the best AWD cars under $20,000.

1. 2010-2011 Subaru Legacy          New Model MSRP: $19,995

“The redesigned Subaru Legacy offers standard all-wheel drive and above-average performance in a significantly larger package. If you like the look of it, it’s a solid choice.” Its available with both a 4-cylinder (2.5L) and V6 (3.6L) engine, either of which give excellent performance. It is still one of the best handling sedans on the market, thanks to a responsive transmission and a tenacious AWD system. A new double-wishbone rear suspension gives an even smoother ride. Options like Bluetooth and iPod jack are available but will take the price higher than $20K. (www.edmunds.com, www.consumerreports.org)

2. 2010-2011 Subaru Impreza          New Model MSRP: $17,495

It’s rare to see the same manufacturer taking both the top spots, but it is a testament to Subaru’s mastery of the AWD system. The Impreza is available as both a sedan or hatchback, either of which is powered by a peppy 2.5L 4-cylinder engine giving 170 hp. Its ride and handling are both very satisfactory for a compact car but its wet-weather handling is what makes it a staple in this class. There is a premium package for options, which includes fog lights, sunroof, heated side mirrors, Bluetooth and touch-screen navigation, but it can drive the price up fast if you’re not careful. (www.edmunds.com, www.consumerreports.org)

3. 2010-2011 Toyota Matrix          New Model MSRP: $20,910

Even though the price is slightly over $20,000 for the AWD model, as most people know, the MSRP is never set in stone. For those who want a stylish wagon with great functionality, the Matrix is a solid choice that can be had anywhere near this price range. The base model starts at $16,700. All in all, it possesses a “pleasant ride, intuitive controls, a roomy backseat, a flat load floor that facilitates cargo carrying, and good fuel economy with the 1.8-liter engine” estimated at 20/26 mpg (city/highway). A telescoping steering wheel and ample seat-track travel allow drivers of all sizes to get comfortable, and the controls are both intuitive and attractive. (www.edmunds.com, www.consumerreports.org)

4. 2010-2011 Suzuki SX4          New Model MSRP: $16,899

“The Suzuki SX4 certainly merits consideration if you’re in need of an affordable all-weather vehicle or are just looking for an inexpensive but practical and feature-packed set of wheels.” Most would scoff at the 2.0L 4-cylinder engine being the only option for an AWD vehicle, until they hit the gas pump. Rated at 23/29 mpg, the SX4 gives powerful nasty-weather performance without chewing up tons of cash in gas. The cabin has an elegant design but is built with some less-than-quality plastics in areas. The navigation screen is rather small and has an aftermarket look, but is extremely easy to use and very handy. All in all, a great bargain. (www.edmunds.com, www.consumerreports.org)

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