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Best Cars for Under $30,000 in 2016

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For the longest time, the $30,000 mark has been considered the average price of a car. Of course, that’s not entirely accurate anymore with the new average now at $33,560. Still, for many of us it’s always a good thing to score an above average car with a below average price.

Btu the search for the “best” car can be topic of furious contention. Part of that is because what’s best for one may not even be good for another. There’s also the problem of what a “car” is in the first place—is a truck a car? And then there’s the price tag, which can balloon past the $30,000 mark when you get lots of optional accessories.

So for the purposes of this discussion, we say “car” when we mean “automobile”. So yes—a truck, a station wagon, and an SUV are all cars (but good luck finding one of these under $30,000). And when we mean best, it means we simply like these cars better than the others. We make no pretense about objectivity here. For us, these cars are more than just good. The fact that they’re available for under $30,000 makes them truly among the “best”.

1.       2016 Honda Accord Sport. Let’s start with something mundane like the Accord. It’s been with us for exactly 4 decades now (it was introduced in 1976) and it’s a perennial member of the top-selling cars in the US. But for us the Honda Accord Sport really stands out. It’s still a family car, but Honda wasn’t kidding about its sporty capabilities. Its 4-cylinder engine cranks out 195 HP, and that’s more than enough to go zipping around town. It looks great, it’s comfy inside, and the Honda durability is undoubtedly present. You can get one with lots of options for about $27,000.

2.      2016 Mazda CX-5. This is a compact SUV that offers a lot for families looking for a roomier transport. It offers appealing looks on the outside, and on the inside everything is laid out nicely with lots of high-quality materials. Its 64.8 cubic feet of cargo space dwarfs most of its rivals, and even the back seat has enough legroom for a couple of adults.

Driving the CX-5 is a pleasure, with its sharp handling and steering coupled with robust brakes. And your bank account will also be pleased with its EPA-confirmed fuel economy at 26/35 mpg city/highway. And even with full options you’re likely to stay below the $30,000 mark.

3.      2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata. Mazda is churning out lots of cars with great value for money these days, and the Miata is another example with a base price of about $25,000. It’s unmistakably a gorgeous 2-door RWD convertible. It feels quick despite its comparative lack of horsepower, and its refined standard 6-speed manual transmission offers very quick shifts. But you can get an automatic transmission if you want.

This is without a doubt an excellent sports car and it’s enjoying brisk sales, despite the doubts about the future of sports car in general. The RWD offers an enjoyable cruise along winding roads, with its responsive steering, strong brakes, and smooth ride. And for a sports car, its 27/34 mpg city/highway fuel economy is terrific.

4.      2016 Subaru WRX. The base model pegs in at about $26,600 and for many even that base model is still a lot to handle. You want an iconic sports car with your modest budget? Then you’ll adore the WRX. Its name is famed among speed fanatics. It looks almost brash with that obnoxious scoop, but at least that overbearing wing is gone.

The WRX offers the expected goodies you’ve come to expect from the model: the all-wheel drive, a powerful engine, and accurate handling. The latest version gives you even more safety and driver assistance features, plus the standard touchscreen infotainment system has been updated.

Though inside you don’t get the luxury touches you may find on more expensive cars, the dashboard controls are simple and the front seats are blessedly supportive. And even the seats at the rear are comfy enough even for adults, which has not always been the case with the WRX.

5.      Ford Escape. Who says Americans can’t make excellent yet affordable cars? This compact SUV offers definitive proof that even with just $23,600 your family can get an ideal transport. Its standard equipment already includes a rearview camera as well as the voice-activated SYNC system which is quite easy to use.

What’s not to like about the Escape? It looks good from the outside and on the inside. It handles almost like a sports car, and when you opt for the turbocharged engine you won’t lack for power. Long trips with lots of baggage won’t be a problem with its spacious back seats and huge cargo hold.

So this is our list. What’s your view on the best cars under $30,000? Tells us about it!

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