If you can stretch your budget up to $30k, then you can sample any one of the best new cars under $30,000 that we've rounded up for this article. While far from exhaustive, the list we've put together represents 10 excellent options in a number of different niches - all new cars under $30k, and all currently available in the United States.
It's a great time to be in the market for a brand new automobile, and with so many choices out there that at times it can feel overwhelming - especially if you have $30,000 to invest in a vehicle. Let's take a closer look at 10 of the best new cars under $30,000.
Best New Cars Under $30,000 - The Thrifty Coupe - 2013 Ford Mustang V6
The eight-cylinder Mustang GT might have priced itself out of our list but the 2013 Ford Mustang V6 is far from a consolation prize. Motivated by a 3.7-liter, six-cylinder unit that also delivers 280 lb-ft of torque, the Ford Mustang V6 is no slouch in the acceleration department as it can leap to 60-mph in just under six seconds. A six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission can be had with the coupe, and it maintains the retro-cool styling of the GT - all while turning in 31-mpg during highway driving, making it one of the thriftiest cars in its class.
Best New Cars Under $30,000 - The All-Weather Performer - 2012 Subaru Impreza WRX
The 2012 Subaru Impreza WRX makes the most of its rally-bred heritage in order to offer performance-seeking compact shoppers considerable thrills for the money. The Subaru Impreza WRX is built around a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder motor that makes use of a turbocharger to generate 265 horsepower. This output is sent to all four wheels via a standard all-wheel drive system, and a five-speed manual transmission represents the only gearbox available with the automobile. Excellent grip and handling are complemented by the practicality of being able to choose between both sedan and hatchback body styles when ordering the Impreza WRX.
Best New Cars Under $30,000 - The Off-Roader - 2012 Toyota FJ Cruiser
The 2012 Toyota FJ Cruiser might look a bit like an oversized Tonka truck, but its styling is actually an homage to the early FJ45 Land Cruisers that ruled the Serengeti with their off-road capabilities. The modern Toyota FJ Cruiser also boasts a considerable amount of all-terrain prowess, with optional low-range four-wheel drive, Bilstein shocks, a locking rear differential, and knobby tires giving it the surefootedness required to navigate even the toughest of trails. A 4.0-liter, 260 horsepower V-6 contributes to the cause, and transmissions include either a five-speed automatic or a six-speed manual.
Best New Cars Under $30,000 - The Reliable SUV - 2012 Honda CR-V
Redesigned for the current model year, the 2012 Honda CR-V picks up where it left off in providing families with reliable and well-rounded transportation for up to five passengers. The Honda CR-V also boasts a roomy interior as well as space to haul as much as 70.9 cubic feet of gear with the rear seats folded forward. Under the hood, the CR-V's 185 horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine might not be the most robust amongst small SUVs, but it stands as a leader when it comes to fuel efficiency: the Honda turns in 23-mpg city and 31-mpg highway. All editions of the SUV are matched with a five-speed automatic transmission, and all-wheel drive can be added as an option.
Best New Cars Under $30,000 - The Tough Pickup - 2012 Ram 1500
The 2012 RAM 1500 is available in a myriad of different body styles, trim levels, and engine configurations, just like any full-size pickup truck. There's a lot of value to be had with the Ram 1500 for anyone shopping for a sub-$30k truck, as it's possible to pick up the Tradesman edition of the pickup within our list's price parameters. The Tradesman can be had with a towing package, four-wheel drive, and the Ram 1500's 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 engine, which puts down 390 horsepower and 407 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission helps the Ram 1500's Hemi make short work of almost any task thrown its way.
Best New Cars Under $30,000 - The Compact Fuel Miser - 2012 Volkswagen Jetta TDI
The 2012 Volkswagen Jetta TDI is one of the most fuel efficient small cars on sale in the United States. The secret is the Volkswagen Jetta TDI's 2.0-liter, four-cylinder diesel engine which develops 140 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque. Buyers can choose between either a six-speed manual or a six-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission, with either allowing the sedan to post fuel mileage ratings of 30-mpg in stop and go driving and 42-mpg on the highway. Throw in the fact that the Jetta features a more spacious platform and upgraded styling compared to years past, and it's clear that there are few fuel misers out there that can match the features it has to offer at its price point.
Best New Cars Under $30,000 - The People Mover - 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan
The 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan has long been a pioneering people mover from the domestic brand, and the most recent edition of the minivan is no exception. The Dodge Grand Caravan - even when spec'd out in top-tier R/T trim - sneaks under our list's $30k price cap, and on top of providing seven passenger seating it also comes with the Stow 'n Go feature that makes it a snap to fold down the rear rows. This creates a flat load floor and helps the minivan swallow up to 143.8 cubic feet of cargo. All editions of the Grand Caravan leave the factory under the power of a 3.6-liter V-6 that delivers 283 horses and 25-mpg on the highway. A six-speed automatic transmission is also standard.
Best New Cars Under $30,000 - The Individual - 2012 Nissan Cube
Sometimes you just want to stand out from the crowd, and the 2012 Nissan cube certainly doesn't follow convention when it comes to either form or function. The Nissan Cube's name hints at the heavy use of 90-degree angles in its design, and the compact crossover also sports a unique transparent rear panel in order to improve visibility. The Cube can accommodate up to five passengers, and with the back seats out of the picture it also able to transport as much as 58 cubic feet of gear. A 1.8-liter, four-cylinder motor pulls duty in the Nissan, and it offers up 122 horsepower. Buyers can choose between a six-speed manual gearbox and a continuously-variable automatic transmission, with the latter posting up 31-mpg during highway cruising.
Best New Cars Under $30,000 - The Comfortable Hatchback - 2012 Volkswagen Golf
The 2012 Volkswagen Golf is priced to appeal to entry-level buyers, but the compact hatchback has gained a reputation as a vehicle that caters to those who are also seeking a refined interior and the availability of high end features. A loaded Volkswagen Golf can feature two or four doors, heated seats, a sunroof, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a touchscreen audio system for well under $30k. Tight handling is par for the course, and the Golf also comes with a 2.5-liter, five-cylinder engine that generates 170 horsepower and 170 lb-ft of torque. Transmission choices include a five-speed manual and a six-speed automatic, and fuel economy for the hatch (which offers 46 cubic feet of total cargo space) tops out at 31-mpg on the highway.
Best New Cars Under $30,000 - The Sports Car - 2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata
The 2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata is perhaps one of the purest sports car experiences available at an American dealership - as well as one of the most affordable. Eschewing the Mazda MX-5 Miata's available retractable hard top helps to keep the vehicle's weight down and the chassis well-balanced, enhancing its legendary cornering capability and feeling of connectedness with the road. 167 horsepower from a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine might not sound like a lot, but combined with the Miata's low-mass design it's certainly enough to plaster a smile on the face of a capable driver. A five or six-speed manual transmission is almost mandatory with the compact Mazda roadster, but a six-speed automatic is also available, and fuel mileage is listed at 22-mpg in city driving and 28-mpg on the highway.