The average price of new cars is getting increasingly expensive, but there are plenty of great options under $30,000. Even for enthusiasts. Here are our picks.
Considering all the performance and engineering prowess put into the Veloster N, you'll struggle to find a better driving experience for the price. Even with the optional $2100 performance pack, which supplies an adjustable suspension, a limited-slip differential, and better tires, it still comes in under the $30,000 mark.
For the longest time, enthusiasts associated the Corolla name with boring economy. With the new Corolla hatch, we can finally report that's no longer the case. It can be purchased with a manual transmission, and it's incredibly fun to drive. is listed for sale on eBay right now.
It's hard to go wrong building a car that's light and simple, which is exactly what the Sonic is. It many not be as popular as its Fiesta competitor, but it's still a blast. If you want a brand-new one, you better act fast, because Chevy is ending production this year. you can own today.
Take everything we said about the Sonic, and turn it up to 11 for the Spark. It's even smaller and lighter, and can be had with a manual transmission. Best of all, it starts at just over $13,000. But like the Sonic, the Spark should be going out of production by the end of 2019. painted white, and can be yours.
If you're looking for something with stylish retro looks, but don't want to buy used, consider the Dodge Challenger. The car's retro vibes are apparent the first second you lay eyes on it, and even with the base engine, it makes for a fantastic cruiser. is painted in a cool flat gray, and it's listed for sale on eBay right now for under $30k.
The newest Honda Civic Si isn't a manic high-rpm screamer like its predecessors, but it's still a fantastic all-around performer. It mixes a punchy 205-hp turbocharged four-cylinder with a crisp six-speed manual gearbox, excellent steering, and a front limited-slip differential. Starting at $24,300 for a sedan, it's a bargain too. If you need more practicality, though, the 174-hp Civic Sport Hatchback offers most of the Si's fun, with more cargo space. listed for sale now.
The Elantra GT N Line may not be as hardcore as the Veloster N, but it still provides plenty of fun for the money. Under the hood sits a turbocharged 201-horsepower engine paired with a standard manual transmission.
The Chevy Cruze doesn't have the same enthusiast cache as the Mazda 3 or Honda Civic, but you can get it with a 1.6-liter diesel engine. It's a torquey, efficient motor that pairs well with a six-speed manual transmission, and a surprisingly nice chassis. Better act fast, though, because GM is shutting down Cruze production . is up for sale on eBay now.
We dig the Charger. It's evolved, it's distinctive ,and it has serious presence. The base V-6 makes 292 horsepower, and that's good enough to haul the admittedly husky sedan to 60 in 6.5 seconds—just a second off what the 2005 Dodge Charger R/T did 10 years ago with a 350-hp Hemi underhood. That car didn't have a miraculous eight-speed auto; this one does. Instead of a bargain-basement penalty box, it's a quick, comfortable, handsome, and unabashedly American sedan for less than $30k. painted in a bright shade of blue that you can own today.
The midsize sedan is typically one of the most boring types of cars, but Mazda managed to introduce some fun into the segment. With only 187 horsepower in its base form, the Mazda 6 isn't really fast, but it's got great steering and a general sense of sportiness. Plus, you can still get it with a six-speed manual for maximum fun. has six miles on the clock, and it's for sale now.
If you're only interested in horsepower figures, the Honda Fit isn't all that impressive. After all, it only makes 130 horsepower. But where the Fit really impresses is in the handling department. It's a surprisingly tossable little car with a wonderful six-speed manual transmission. And even if you go crazy with the options, you'll still be in the low-$20,000 range. listed on eBay right now.
The Jeep Wrangler was totally revamped in 2018, but kept all of the things we love about Jeeps well intact. There's true off-road prowess, plenty of retro styling, and even a foldable windshield. It's everything you could ever want from a modern Wrangler, and more. listed for sale online now.
Listen, it's super-easy to option a Mini Cooper S well past $30K, but exercise restraint, and you shall be rewarded—with more power, the tossable nature you're accustomed to, and at long last, an interior that puts usability ahead of retro-cuteness. Oh, the retro lives on, to be sure, but the new Cooper S is a bit more serious in its mission to deliver a viable GTI alternative. It's fast and fun, but take note—the real secret handshake may not be the S at all. The base three-cylinder turbo Cooper is a snorty, joyful thing, and it's cheaper still. has just 14,000 miles on it, and you can own it.
Is the V-6 Camaro as powerful as the V-8? Nope. Should you care? Nope! The days of the V-6 Camaro being the weak edition are long over. It's smooth, amply powerful at 335 horsepower, sounds good, and looks great thanks to the recent redesign. If you go for the V-6, you'll also have enough money leftover to spring for the performance exhaust while still staying under $30,000. In the end, the V-6 Camaro is proof that you don't need eight cylinders to feel bitchin'. can be yours for $27,000.
How good is the Fiesta ST? Good enough that many current and former R&T writers have bought them. The hatch pushes 197 horsepower through its 1.6-liter turbo four, but that's not what makes the car a win. The suspension and stability control tuning do some funny things with physics, resulting in a car that can bend any road to its wee little will. The car lives right on the blurry edge between quick and fast, and has no problem embarrassing pricier, more low slung hardware up your favorite mountain pass. If you want a new one, you better act fast—production will cease by the end of 2019. is painted in a nice shade of blue, and you can own it.
You need a big, spacious family car, but you want something that doesn't feel like you're flying the white flag of surrender? The Honda Accord is your answer. It's understatedly handsome, the six-speed manual is one of the best on earth. Plus, it's cavernous inside, so throw in the child seats and preach the manual-gearbox gospel to the kids. Chances are, you'll still have the car when they're old enough to drive. has the manual, and it's for sale right now on eBay.
The Scion FR-S may be dead, but the small, lightweight rear-driver still lives on as the Toyota 86. Out of the box, this thing is a track weapon. And on track, you can't hear the zombie mob calling for more power. What it needs is a better exhaust note, but the perfect placement and action of the pedals, wheel, and shifter put a lot of the petty gripes into perspective. It's exactly what we've been asking for since the 240SX went away. So haters gonna hate, but we'll keep enjoying it on the track. you can own now.
If you'd rather have a Subaru badge on your boxer-engine two-door, the BRZ is another great choice. It shares almost everything with the 86, save for the front and rear fascias. It's also nearly $1000 cheaper. has a good amount of miles on the clock, and can be yours for cheap.
For years, the Mazda Miata has been the go-to sports car for enthusiasts on a budget. Its balance, handling, and simplicity make it a blast to drive right out of the box, but it also makes a great starting point if you want to build your own heavily modified track car. The ND Miata's styling is more controversial than before, but it's still got the same magic found in the original. listed for sale has just 2 miles on the clock.
Never been to Italy? It's loud. It's ridiculous. It constantly satirizes itself. It might be perfect. You'll probably love it, and you'll never really figure it out. That's the Fiat 500 Abarth, too. Punching out 160-hp and 170 lb-ft of torque, the Abarth's turbocharged 1.4-liter wails absurdly Italian sounds and the stiffly sprung little car loves to hang its tail out in lift-throttle oversteer. The interior is genuinely cheap and entirely cheerful. Together, the 500 Abarth is an espresso shot of Italian culture, and it's cheap. Twenty grand buys the fastest 500, and personality for days. you can own for just over $14,000.
The original is still the champion. As good as the other hot hatches on this list are, the GTI continues to be the benchmark, and with good reason. It's a great chassis combined with a proven engine. Argue stick vs. DSG all you like—whichever trans you pick will leave you smiling in the end. Most importantly, there's a maturity to the GTI that's missing from many of its rivals. The interior is subtle, straightforward and eminently usable. There are more powerful hot hatches. Faster ones, too. But they're still trying to live up to this one's standards. has just 10,000 miles on the clock, listed for sale on eBay now.
Subaru might have softened the edges of the WRX, but it's still a simple, elemental AWD sports car. Equipped with a 268-hp flat-four and a six-speed manual transmission, the WRX still happily hoons down gravel roads, and all that traction makes it a fine choice on the tarmac as well. Four spinning wheels don't come cheap, though. Starting at $27,195, the WRX slides right under the $30k cutoff. in black you can own today.
Fifteen years ago, the retro S197 Mustang GT landed in dealers with a 4.6 liter V-8 producing 300 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. Fast forward to today, where the Mustang EcoBoost makes 310 hp and 350 lb-ft from half the displacement, courtesy of Ford's 2.3-liter turbo four. No, it doesn't sound as good as a V-8—how could it?—but man, it's punchy, fuel economy is no cause for worry, and the new Mustang is a vastly higher-quality all-around car than the one it replaces. Skip the automatic. It's a bore. Option up a stick and the performance pack, and have a blast for thousands less than a comparably equipped GT. has the manual, and it's for sale right now.
If you're not into the Miata's looks, and would rather rock something retro, consider the 124 Spider. It's built alongside the Miata in Japan, and comes with that car's brilliant chassis. Best of all, it starts at a cheaper price than the Miata. listed for just under $20,000.