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.
The 2013 Ford Mustang garners a lot of attention for the availability of its eight-cylinder GT model, but even in base from the retro-themed coupe has a lot to offer fans of performance driving. The Ford Mustang's entry-level engine is a 3.7-liter V-6 that generates 305 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque, which is enough thrust to propel the coupe to 60-mph in 5.6 seconds. When ordered with the Performance package, the Mustang's price still qualifies it for our list of fast cars under $30k while benefiting 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.
02. 2012 Mazda MAZDASPEED3
The 2012 Mazda MAZDASPEED3 is a wolf in sheep's clothing, one of the fastest cars under $30k that many never see coming until it blows by them in the passing lane. The compact hatchback's secret is a 263 horsepower, 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine that makes use of a turbocharger to send 280 lb-ft of torque to the vehicle's front wheels. The Mazda MAZDASPEED3 comes exclusively with a six-speed manual transmission, sprints to 60-mph in a rapid 6.3 seconds, and features a sporty suspension system that helps it to hold its own when the roads turn twisty. Throw in 42.8 cubic feet of total cargo space thanks to a folding rear seat and the MAZDASPEED3 demonstrates a practical side as well.
03. 2012 Subaru WRX
The 2012 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. 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 265 horsepower and 244 lb-ft of torque produced by the WRX's 2.5-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine. A five-speed manual transmission requires skill off of the line to reach 60-mph in just 5.3 seconds, while a rally-inspired suspension system keeps the both the sedan and hatchback editions of the WRX stable in the corners.
04. 2012 Chevrolet Camaro
Like the Mustang, the entry-level edition of the 2012 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 6.1 seconds.
05. 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 R-Spec
The 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 R-Spec is intended for those who regularly take their daily drivers to the track to turn in fast lap after fast lap. One of two Korean entries on our list of fast cars under $30,000, the Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 R-Spec features Brembo brakes, a limited-slip rear differential, sport seats, and a performance-oriented suspension system. It also 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. The Genesis Coupe 3.8 R-Spec blazes to 60-mph in a quick 5.3 seconds, an improvement over the 2012 model.
06. 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart
For those who can't afford the loftier price tag of the Lancer Evolution, Mitsubishi offers the 2012 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.
07. 2013 Scion FR-S
The 2013 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.
08. 2012 MINI Cooper John Cooper Works
The pint-size MINI Cooper John Cooper Works sits just $100 under the price limit of our fastest cars under $30k challenge. The quickest MINI available off of the showroom floor, the MINI Cooper John Cooper Works edition packs big brakes, a flashy body kit, and a nimble suspension system that enhances the already appreciable driving dynamics of the subcompact hatchback. The John Cooper Works model also includes a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that puts out 208 horsepower and 192 lb-ft of torque, which is enough to propel the MINI to 60-mph in a respectable 6.2 seconds. Transmission choice for the turbo hatchback is restricted to a six-speed manual.
09. 2012 Kia Optima SX
The 2012 Kia Optima SX 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. 2012 Honda Accord EX Coupe
The 2012 Honda Accord EX Coupe lops two doors off of the popular sedan edition of the car, sweeps the roof back, and includes a potent V-6 in order to help pump up its performance. The Honda Accord EX Coupe makes our roundup of the fastest cars under $30,000 thanks to its 3.5-liter six-cylinder engine, which is good for 271 horsepower and 254 lb-ft of torque and a zero to 60-mph time of 6.3 seconds when equipped with its optional six-speed manual transmission. The EX Coupe is more aggressively sprung than the sedan, which helps when maneuvering the mid-size automobile through urban traffic or canyon roads, and it offers a very usable rear seat to go with its commendable speed.