When shopping for a new car, it's important to find one that fits within your budget. At $30,000, a fairly common limit, there are plenty of good options out there. The auto experts at Autobytel have selected some of the best new cars you can find for under $30,000, all 2017 models that meet a variety of needs and range from family sedans to sports cars to hybrids.
The Best 2017 Cars for Under $30,000
Photo Credit: General Motors
2017 Buick Regal
The Buick Regal is a midsize 4-door European-influenced luxury sedan. Unfortunately, to keep the sticker under $30,000, you’ll need to avoid the all-wheel-drive models and stick with a front-wheel-drive configuration. Power comes from either the standard 2.4-liter 4-cylinder with 182 horsepower or a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder with 259 horsepower, both backed by a 6-speed automatic transmission. We'd opt for the more powerful engine, as it better suits the car's styling and handling. The interior is pleasant, though a bit smaller than those of some of its competitors. The Regal was refreshed for 2014 and will be updated again for 2018. Until then, it remains one of the best 2017 cars for under $30,000.
Photo Credit: General Motors
2017 Chevrolet Malibu
The Chevrolet Malibu is a midsize 4-door sedan with styling that evokes a coupe or hatchback. If you keep the sticker under the $30,000 mark, power comes from a turbocharged 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine with 163 horsepower and a 6-speed automatic transmission. The Malibu’s 2016 redesign brought more interior space, especially in the rear. The interior has an elegant modern look, but as in Chevrolet’s other models (the Camaro), outward vision is somewhat restricted because of the car’s high beltline. A hybrid Malibu is also available with 182 system horsepower (of which 124 horsepower come from the hybrid’s 1.8-liter 4-cylinder) and impressive fuel economy. As an affordable family sedan, the Chevrolet Malibu is one of the best 2017 cars for under $30K.
Photo Credit: Ford
2017 Ford Mustang
The Ford Mustang is a sporty 2-door rear-wheel-drive pony car, and while the 5.0-liter V8 is out of our price range, the 300-horsepower 3.7-liter V6 and 310-horsepower turbocharged 2.3-liter 4-cylinder fit the bill, backed by either a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic transmission. Not having a V8 isn’t as big a deal as it was in the past; both these engines make as much or more horsepower than the V8 did a decade ago, and you get the same styling as the V8, as well as the same rear-wheel-drive layout that makes carving the corners so much fun. Our choice would be a 4-cylinder model with the 6-speed manual transmission and equipped with the EcoBoost Performance Package, which comes in just shy of $30K.
Photo Credit: Honda
2017 Honda Accord
The Honda Accord is a midsize car available in either coupe or sedan form. To keep the price under our $30,000 limit, you’ll need to avoid the V6 and opt for the 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes 185 horsepower, backed by either a continuously variable transmission or a 6-speed manual. Both the coupe and the sedan drive well and feature a nice interior with good outward vision. We’d go for the slightly cheaper and much more practical sedan with its comfortable rear seats, and we’d eschew the CVT for the manual. A hybrid version of the sedan with 212 system horsepower is also available, and just sneaks in below $30,000. No matter which version you choose, it’s one of the best 2017 cars for under $30K.
Photo Credit: Mazda
The Mazda6 is a midsize 4-door sedan that can be had for less than $30,000 even with a fair amount of optional equipment. The current version has been on the market for a few years, but its styling still looks fresh and the car is still very competitive in its segment. Power for all models comes from a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that puts out 184 horsepower and can be paired with either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission. While the automatic does a more than respectable job, the manual makes the Mazda6 a joy to drive, willing to dance through the corners and making the most of the engine’s power. You owe it to yourself to check out the Mazda6 as it’s one of the best 2017 cars for under $30K.
Photo Credit: Mazda
2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata
The Mazda MX-5 is a lightweight 2-seat convertible powered by a 155-horsepower 2.0-liter engine that sends power to the rear wheels via either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission. While the new-for-2017 Mazda Miata MX-5 RF with its folding hardtop is over our $30,000 limit, the normal soft-top version can be had for less, making it one of our best 2017 cars for under $30K. We’d be happy with any version of the excellent-handling Miata, but in the interest of lightness and cost we’d probably go for the base model with a manual transmission, unless we planned on doing any competitive driving in which case the Club version with its sport-tuned suspension, Bilstein shocks, and limited-slip differential would call our name.
Photo Credit: Toyota
2017 Subaru BRZ/2017 Toyota 86
The Subaru BRZ and Toyota 86 (the end of the Scion brand means that the FR-S is no more) are a pair of small rear-wheel-drive sports coupes that have received a slight refresh for 2017. Power comes from a 2.0-liter flat-4 engine that makes 205 horsepower when paired with the 6-speed manual (versions powered by the 6-speed automatic make 200 horsepower). Thanks to the cars’ light weight and skinny tires, it's fun to explore the limits in these affordable coupes. It’s hard to choose between the two, but the Subaru has a lower starting price. We found it easy to configure both cars the way we like without breaking our $30,000 barrier, so both the BRZ and the 86 make our list of best 2017 cars for under $30K.
Photo Credit: Subaru
2017 Subaru WRX
The Subaru WRX is a compact 4-door sedan powered by a 265-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder boxer engine with either a 6-speed manual or a Lineartronic continuously variable transmission. To maintain stability in even the worst conditions, the WRX comes standard with Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive System. You get aggressive exterior styling, but the interior doesn’t quite live up to the rest of the car’s performance, and the sporty suspension can make for a rather rough ride. And although the continuously variable transmission is one of the better ones, it doesn’t really suit the car, so we'd opt for the manual. If you’re looking for a performance sedan for under $30K that can be driven year round, put the Subaru WRX on your shortlist.
Photo Credit: Toyota
2017 Toyota Prius
The Toyota Prius is a midsize hybrid car powered by a combination of a 95-horsepower 1.8-liter 4-cylinder gas engine and a 71-horsepower electric motor. These two powerplants combine to make 121 total system horsepower, which is sent to the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission. The interior is roomy, the ride is smooth, and handling is decent. If it were our money we’d go for the Prius Two Eco, which costs only a little more than the entry-level version but bumps up fuel economy by 4 MPG in the city and 3 MPG on the highway (if you’re buying a hybrid, you might as well go for the most efficient one). If you’re in the market for efficiency, the Toyota Prius is a sure bet, one of the best hybrids on the market for under $30K.
Photo Credit: Volkswagen
2017 Volkswagen Golf GTI
The Volkkswagen Golf GTI is a car that can do it all, whether you need it to be a luxury sedan, a sports coupe, or a family hauler. While you have to forego some of the Golf’s advanced features (like Dynamic Chassis Control) to keep the sticker under $30K, you still get a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that sends 210 horsepower (bumped up to 220 horsepower in some trim levels) to the front wheels through a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Both transmissions complement the car’s excellent handling, though in urban areas the smooth-shifting automatic and Germanic interior make for a remarkably relaxing commute. If you’re done with gasoline, the electric-powered VW e-Golf also just barely makes our $30,000 cutoff.