Home > Lists > 2014 >

7 Cool Cars Under $30,000

Going Webster on you, the slang adjective “cool” means hip or fashionable. Either trait can be fleeting and difficult to identify. But we know a cool car when we see one. Here are seven with a sense of style and engaging performance available for under $30,000, which happens to be right around the average transaction price of a new car or light truck in the U.S.

From least expensive to most, here are seven cool cars under $30,000. (Starting prices include the manufacturer’s destination fee; these average about $900.)

Mazda Mazda3 – Compact Cool
Starting price: $16,945
Fuel-economy rating (EPA city/highway combined): 31-34 mpg

The compact Mazda3 stands out in a crowded field of cookie-cutter compacts. Thankfully, it makes good on its crisp, curvaceous styling with what lots of professional critics think are the best driving dynamics in the class. Offered in sedan and lots-cooler hatchback body styles, we invite you to consider the hatchback a svelte alternative to a boxy compact crossover SUV. The “i” models use a sufficiently peppy 155-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and start at just $17,740 for the sedan and $19,740 for the hatchback (add about $1,000 for automatic transmission). The “s” versions pack a quicker 2.5-liter four with 184 horsepower. They’re priced from $25,390 for the sedan, $26,890 for the hatch. A bevy of bells and whistles can be added to equip the Mazda3 like a small luxury car, but this can run up the sticker price considerably. The thing is you can get a s Grand Touring hatchback for $27,290, though if you think it needs radar cruise control, lane-departure warning, and Mazda’s i-ELOOP regenerative braking system and it’s stop-you-before-you-rear-end the guy-in front Smart City Brake Support , that’ll require the $2,800 Technology Package and sneak you over $30,000.

About Jim Gorzelany

A veteran Chicago-based freelance automotive journalist, Jim is a frequent contributor to a broad spectrum of print and online publications in addition to carpreview.com. These include Consumers Digest, Muscle & Fitness, Men’s Fitness, Executive Travel, Hemispheres, ForbesAutos.com, and such regional luxury magazines as Chicago, Elegant Accents, and Bespoke. His feature articles and reviews are also syndicated in newspapers across the U.S. by CTW Features. Jim also is author of the Automotive Intelligentsia Money-Saving New-Car Guide and Automotive Intelligentsia Sports Car Guide eBooks. He’s appeared as an automotive expert on local and national broadcast outlets including CNBC, PBS, CNN, and WGN.