For the longest time, owning a car that delivered genuine performance thrills meant either spending a fortune or scouring the used car classifieds for an unappreciated gem. Times have changed, and car manufacturers are building more and more budget-conscious cars that provide solid sporting ability, without breaking the bank. We round up our five favourite new cars for under $30k.
Ford Fiesta ST
The Ford Fiesta ST is one of the most impressive cars we have driven here at Trailing Throttle. Superb handling and a six-speed manual transmission makes for a thrilling back road experience. It puts many more expensive and powerful hot hatches in the shade.
The ST is powered by a 1.6-litre turbocharged four making 134kW of power and 240Nm of torque. The car’s strong power-to- weight ratio, stiff sports suspension (that borders on the too harsh in town), Recaro seats and a sub-$30k price tag help bring affordable fun back in to the performance car market.
The Toyota 86 made a huge splash since it first arrived in Australia, and rightly so. The front-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout, executed correctly, is hard to beat. Well, Toyota nailed it. Aggressive styling, strong steering, dynamic handling characteristics and infinite tuning possibilities make the 86 a great budget driver’s car.
The 86 is powered by a 2.0-litre four-pot boxer motor. With 147kW of power and a kerb weight of 1298kG, the Toyota 86 is engaging to drive, particularly on the eco tyres that give it a uniquely agile feel. Some say that the car isn’t fast enough; we say brake later.
Volkswagen Polo GTI
A couple of years ago, the Polo GTI might not have made this list. Fortunately, the engineers at Volkswagen came to their senses and made the German hot-hatch earn its GTI badge.
The Polo GTI is now equipped with a fair-dinkum manual gearbox to match its new 1.8-litre turbo engine. The turbocharged four-cylinder TSI motor makes a very usable 141kW of power and 320Nm of torque. With state-of-the-art modern luxuries and performance components to match, this car is as comfortable on the freeway as it is in the twisties.
Hyundai Veloster SR Turbo
Hyundai has come a long way over recent years, proving that Korea is more than capable of building a competent sports car. The Hyundai Veloster SR Turbo Series II is a fun little package with impressive standard equipment and plenty of performance-oriented features.
A surprisingly grippy chassis and a responsive 1.6-litre turbo-petrol engine make the ‘three-door’ capable when the red mist descends. At 150kw and 265Nm, power does feel slightly lacking, but for less than $30,000, we’re not complaining.
Mini Cooper Hatch Five-door
Okay, it’s not the Cooper S and yes there are far more doors than there needs to be, but the Mini Cooper Hatch still manages to excite.
Although the car has only 100kW of power and 320Nm of torque to play with, the characterful three-cylinder turbo engine remains an absolute pleasure. The Mini’s six-speed manual transmission is enjoyable but could use some shorter ratios to maximise performance. With a stylish array of options and the interactive handling characteristics we’ve come to expect from MINI, you’ve got a practical yet fun European car… with a Japanese price-tag.