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.
1) 2015 Ford Mustang
The all-new 2015 Ford Mustang garners a lot of attention for the availability of its eight-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-four EcoBoost that produces 310 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque, and a 3.7-liter V-6 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 six-speed manual and a six-speed automatic.
2) 2015 Volkswagen GTI
All new for 2015, 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 four-cylinder engine that's good for 210 horsepower and 258 kb-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 six-speed manual transmission and a six-speed automated manual. The standard six-speed manual will zip the 2015 GTI from 0-60 in 5.8 seconds.
3) 2015 Subaru WRX
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 2015, 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 four-cylinder engine. A six-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.
4) 2015 Chevrolet Camaro
Like the Mustang, the entry-level edition of the 2015 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 323-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 engine. Also capable of churning out 278 lb-ft of torque, this mill can be matched with either a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic, and the coupe can hit 60 mph from a standing start in 5.9 seconds.
5) 2015 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 R-Spec
For 2015, the Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 R-Spec just barely makes the cutoff, with a starting MSRP of $29,500. 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 V-6 that has been tuned to provide 348 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, managed by a six-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.
6) 2015 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart
For those who can't afford the loftier price tag of the Lancer Evolution, Mitsubishi offers the 2015 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart as one of the fastest cars under $30k. The Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart - like the WRX - is a compact sedan that features all-wheel drive, and it, too, comes with a turbocharged four-cylinder motor (this one displacing 2.0 liters and generating 237 horses and 253 lb-ft of twist). Unlike its Subaru counterpart, however, the Lancer Ralliart is sold exclusively with a six-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission that bangs out gear changes in the blink of an eye, helping the Ralliart check in with a 0-60-mph time of 5.8 seconds.
7) 2015 Scion FR-S
The 2015 Scion FR-S makes our list of fast cars under $30,000 for reasons other than electrifying straight-line speed. The Scion FR-S is a compact sports coupe that features a 2.0-liter, 200-horsepower four-cylinder engine (one that also generates 151 lb-ft of torque), which doesn't exactly give it the ability to take on all comers in a quarter mile race. Head on over to a road course, however, and the FR-S' secret weapon is revealed: a lightweight, well-balanced chassis that delivers almost telepathic handling. The Scion FR-S is fast in the sense that there's no need to slow down for the next corner, making it an excellent momentum car and the envy of those stuck behind the wheel of heavier automobiles.
8) 2015 Subaru Forester XT
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 four-cylinder engine, the 2015 Forester XT produces 250 horsepower and 258 kb-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.
9) 2015 Kia Optima SX Turbo
The 2015 Kia Optima SX Turbo might at first seem a bit out of place on this list of fast cars under $30k given that it's targeted at mid-size family shoppers. Taking a closer look at this attractively-styled four-door sedan reveals that Kia has stuffed the Optima's under-hood area with a 2.0-liter turbocharged motor that is rated at 274 horsepower and 269 lb-ft of torque. With a 0-60-mph time of 6.5 seconds, it’s hard to deny that the Optima SX isn't deserving a spot on our countdown, and the SX also includes a six-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.