Thanks to technological advances and the cutthroat, competitive character of the current automotive sales climate, there are a considerable number of fast cars under $30,000 now available. Whether they be modern interpretations of muscle cars, high performance hatchbacks, affordable sports coupes, or even family sedans with a bit of an edge, a greater number of car companies are electing to boost horsepower, improve handling, and add a more aggressive personality to their wares. In the end, the biggest winners are the buyers who are willing to take advantage of this happy confluence of factors and drive home from the dealership in a very capable vehicle. Let's take a brief look at 10 of the fastest cars under $30k.
Photo Credit: Ford
2016 Ford Mustang — MSRP $24,145
The 2016 Ford Mustang garners a lot of attention for the availability of its 8-cylinder GT model, but even in base form the retro-themed coupe has a lot to offer fans of performance driving. The Ford Mustang offers two engines that fall below our price threshold in base trim: a 2.3-liter inline-4 EcoBoost that produces 310 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque, and a 3.7-liter V6 that generates 300 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque. Both will propel the coupe to 60 mph in under 6 seconds. The Performance package pushes the price closer to the $30k threshold, but buyers benefit from bigger brakes, sticker tires, and a shorter rear gear ratio. Transmission choices for the Ford Mustang include a 6-speed manual and a 6-speed automatic.
Photo Credit: Volkswagen
2016 Volkswagen GTI — MSRP $24,995
The Volkswagen GTI is just the latest in a long line of quick and sporty hot hatches from the entry-level German manufacturer. The latest iteration features a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that's good for 210 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. The Performance package adds 10 more horsepower, as well as a limited slip differential and upgraded brakes, and should still come in below the $30k price target. Buyers have a choice between a 6-speed manual transmission and a 6-speed automated manual. The standard 6-speed manual will zip the 2016 GTI from 0-60 in 5.8 seconds.
Photo Credit: Subaru
2016 Subaru WRX — MSRP $26,595
The Subaru WRX has long been the high performance vehicle of choice for those forced to deal with snowy northern winters where traction is at a premium. For 2016, the Subaru WRX is one of the fastest cars under $30k that offers standard all-wheel drive, and the brand's system is not only excellent at dealing with slippery road conditions but also adept at putting down the 268 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque produced by the WRX's 2.0-liter, turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. A 6-speed manual transmission requires skill off of the line to reach 60 mph in just 5 seconds flat, while a rally-inspired suspension system keeps the WRX stable in the corners.
Photo Credit: General Motors
2016 Chevrolet Camaro — MSRP $25,700
Like the Mustang, the entry-level edition of the fully redesigned 2016 Chevrolet Camaro has stepped up its game in order to offer drivers on a budget the chance to park significant horsepower in their driveways. The Chevrolet Camaro is not only one of the fastest cars under $30,000, but it is also one of the most menacing, making its looks a perfect match for its standard 275-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine. Also capable of churning out 295 lb-ft of torque, this mill can be matched with either a 6-speed manual transmission or an 8-speed automatic. The coupe can hit 60 mph from a standing start in 5.4 seconds, a half-second improvement over the previous generation, thanks to the turbocharger’s resulting increase in torque as well as a lighter overall weight.
2016 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 R-Spec — MSRP $29,900
For 2016, the Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 R-Spec just barely makes the cutoff, with a starting MSRP of $29,900. Keep in mind that checking a single box on the options sheet will push this Genesis over the price threshold... but it would probably be worth it. The Genesis Coupe 3.8 R-Spec comes with a 3.8-liter V6 that has been tuned to provide 348 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, managed by a 6-speed manual transmission. It also features Brembo brakes, a limited slip rear differential, sport seats, and a performance-oriented suspension system. The Genesis Coupe 3.8 R-Spec blazes to 60 mph in a quick 5.3 seconds.
Photo Credit: Mazda
2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata — MSRP $24,915
Though the Mazda MX-5 Miata is designed primarily for the enjoyment of a curvy road, rather than straight-line speed, the small roadster’s light weight helps enable strong acceleration. The 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine — the only engine available — provides 155 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque, propelling the car from 0-60 in 5.8 seconds. Not bad for a car that comes in well under our price threshold, shows modest power specs, and isn’t designed for drag racing. Buyers can choose between a 6-speed manual and 6-speed automatic transmission.
Photo Credit: Scion
2016 Scion FR-S — MSRP $25,305
The 2016 Scion FR-S earns a spot here thanks to its compelling entry level price and its combination of a lightweight body and finely tuned chassis. Last year, Scion even retuned the FR-S’ suspension to better match that of its sibling, the Subaru BRZ. The rear-wheel-drive FR-S is powered by a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that puts down 200 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque, enough to make the 0-60 sprint in 6.4 seconds. A 6-speed manual transmission is standard, and in terms of driving enjoyment, it’s superior to the optional 6-speed automatic.
2016 Subaru Forester XT — MSRP $29,195
Yes, the Subaru Forester XT is a sport utility vehicle... but it can still run from 0-60 in 6.3 seconds. Powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, the 2016 Forester XT produces 250 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, which is useful even when the SUV isn't running in a straight line. Equipped with a continuously variable transmission, all-wheel drive, stability control, a generous cargo area and a decent ride height, the Forester XT offers a potent mix of power and functionality, even though for most buyers, its potential for speed is just an afterthought.
2016 Kia Optima SX Turbo — MSRP $29,940
The 2016 Kia Optima SX Turbo, which has been totally redesigned for this year, might at first seem a bit out of place on this list of fast cars under $30k given that it's targeted at midsize family shoppers. Taking a closer look at this attractively-styled 4-door sedan reveals that Kia has stuffed the Optima's under-hood area with a 2.0-liter turbocharged motor that is rated at 245 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. With a 0-60-mph time of 6.8 seconds, it’s hard to deny that the Optima SX isn't deserving a spot on our countdown, and the SX also includes a 6-speed automatic transmission, a sporty suspension system, and a rear spoiler.
10) 2015 Ford Focus ST
The 2015 Ford Focus ST is a little basic compared to some of the other cars on this list, but the model definitely has its fans, and for good reason. The Focus ST, the top-tier edition of Ford's thrifty compact, offers a ton of bang for the buck. The MSRP hovers around $25,000, which is pretty good considering that sum obtains a 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder drivetrain that puts out 252 ponies and 270 kb-fit of torque. A six-speed manual transmission helps put that power down through the front wheels, and the Focus ST is capable of making the 0-60 sprint in 6.6 seconds.