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Edmunds: The 5 Best Cars for Under $30,000

Buying a low-priced car doesn't necessarily mean you have to settle for a subpar vehicle.

This photo provided by Honda shows the 2024 Civic.
This photo provided by Honda shows the 2024 Civic.
American Honda Motor Co. via AP

Pricing for the average new car continues to rise, with the latest reports pegging the average new vehicle transaction price around $48,000. High interest rates are a further impediment for shoppers on a tight budget. While buying used is always an option, there are some great new cars out there that are still affordably priced. The automotive experts at Edmunds have selected five standout vehicles with starting prices less than $30,000.

While there are other less expensive vehicles on the market, oftentimes spending a little more will get you a much more desirable vehicle over the long term. Edmunds took into account qualities such as comfort, fuel economy, driver assist features and practicality. All of the manufacturer suggested retail prices below include destination charges.

SMALL CAR: HONDA CIVIC

Available as a sedan or hatchback, the Honda Civic boasts roomy seating, high fuel economy, and a pleasing amount of standard features even on the base LX trim level. The Civic EX sedan and Civic EX-L hatchback, both of which still fit under our price cap, have a turbocharged engine that provides smooth power for city driving.

Of the two versions, the Civic hatchback is the better buy for practicality. It offers 25 cubic feet of space behind its rear seats, which is about 10 more cubes than the sedan's trunk. Downsides to the Civic are few but include a somewhat noisy cabin at highway speeds and some driver assistance features that could operate a little more smoothly.

Starting price: $25,045

This photo provided by Kia shows the 2024 K5.This photo provided by Kia shows the 2024 K5.Kia America via AP

MIDSIZE SEDAN: KIA K5

The Kia K5 is a relatively new model that competes with a number of more well-known rivals, including the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. But this sedan stands out with its distinctive styling and affordable price. It's also quiet and comfortable on the highway and has easy-to-use controls and technology features.

Starting with the base LXS trim still gets you an appealing amount of convenience features, plus a 180-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine provides reasonable pep and good fuel economy. Upgrading to the GT-Line trim allows you to add all-wheel drive and still stay very close to our $30,000 limit. One drawback to the K5's sporty styling is that its sloped roofline can make it a bit difficult to get in and out of the back.

Starting price: $26,515

This photo provided by Subaru shows the 2024 BRZ.This photo provided by Subaru shows the 2024 BRZ.Subaru of North America via AP

SMALL COUPE: SUBARU BRZ

The Subaru BRZ is a textbook example of a fun-to-drive sport coupe. Unlike most other new vehicles on sale today, it's lightweight and lively and provides a great handling feel of the road. The BRZ's 228-horsepower four-cylinder engine is powerful enough to make you smile but not so much that you'll constantly be at risk for speeding tickets like you can with more powerful cars.

As you might expect from a diminutive sport coupe, the BRZ's rear seats are very small, and its ride quality can get a little uncomfortable over bumps and ruts. But these will be minor drawbacks for the right buyer. Also note that Toyota's GR86 is essentially the same car but with subtle differences. Of the two, Edmunds prefers the BRZ.

Starting MSRP: $29,615

This photo provided by Chevrolet shows the 2023 Bolt EV.This photo provided by Chevrolet shows the 2023 Bolt EV.General Motors via AP

ELECTRIC CAR: CHEVROLET BOLT EV

The Chevrolet Bolt EV isn't necessarily an electric vehicle you will get excited about. Other models are more stylish and powerful. But for all-around value the Bolt is tough to beat. This small hatchback offers a respectable EPA-estimated range of 259 miles on a full charge, and Edmunds found from its own testing that the Bolt can go farther than that in real-world driving.

Other advantages to the Bolt include roomy seating considering its small overall size, an easy-to-park nature, and a decent collection of standard features. The base 1LT trim equipped with some optional features such as heated seats will still be less than $30,000. However, the Bolt isn't the best for long road trips because of its relatively slow DC charging capability.

Starting MSRP: $27,495

This photo provided by Hyundai shows the 2023 Sonata.This photo provided by Hyundai shows the 2023 Sonata.Morgan Segal/Hyundai Motor America via AP

HYBRID CAR: HYUNDAI SONATA HYBRID

There's a lot to like about this stylish hybrid. To start off, it can get up to an EPA-estimated 52 mpg, which isn't too far off from the Toyota Prius' mpg estimate. On top of that, the Sonata Hybrid delivers a lot of value for your money. Even the base Blue trim comes with many helpful driver assist features such as traffic-adaptive cruise control, a lane-keeping system, and a blind-spot warning system with automatic intervention.

As with the regular Sonata, the hybrid has roomy front and rear seating and a no-fuss control layout. There's little compromise in acceleration and trunk space as well. Lackluster comfort on long drives is the biggest drawback to this otherwise well-rounded hybrid.

Starting MSRP: $29,565

EDMUNDS SAYS:

Buying a low-priced car doesn't necessarily mean you have to settle for a subpar vehicle. An entry-level trim of any of our above vehicles will be an excellent choice for value.

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