We hear your feedback, so now it’s time for something properly affordable on our team challenges.

    Flash back to even a few years ago and there were plenty of new vehicles that could be purchased for under $30,000.

    It’s a different story these days, as more and more cars creep above the $30k threshold. Some notable recent examples include the Mazda 3 and Hyundai Kona, among others.

    Below, each member of the CarExpert team has shared their choice for which new car they would buy with $30,000.

    Anthony Crawford: Kia Picanto GT

    One of the most uninspiring op-ed questions of the year, but I might have found a little bit of fun in the teeny-weeny Kia Picanto GT ($20,490) – and for a lot less than the $30,000 budget.

    What’s not to like about a lightweight (1012kg) 1.0-litre, three-cylinder turbo with a five-speed manual and 174Nm of torque. A little ball of cuteness waiting to be set free with a modest performance download. 

    It’s either that or the Fiat 500 Dolcevita ($25,800). Again, the price leaves room for something extra to be stuffed under the bonnet.

    Paul Maric: Toyota Yaris Cross GX Hybrid

    Most of the cars on the list of sub-$30k options really aren’t very appealing.

    I think back 15 years to when $30k would get you very close to buying a big Aussie car. Today it’s the opposite story. But, to be a good sport I’ve forensically gone through the list and found what I’d buy.

    I would buy a base Toyota Yaris Cross GX Hybrid 2WD ($30,000). Now hear me out.

    Toyota has gone crazy with pricing – they are well and truly having a lend. But, Toyota’s hybrids are incredibly efficient and if you do have to spend up to $30k on a vehicle, you’re getting a small SUV that’s very cheap to service and very cheap to run.

    The sting of the ridiculous pricing will wear off when it comes time to sell and it retains its value than most other cars in that same price bracket.

    Anyway – that’s my rationale! 

    Scott Collie: Suzuki Swift Sport

    Given the manual Mazda 3 is no longer available in Australia, I’ve had to move to my second choice – the Suzuki Swift Sport ($29,990). 

    It’s still a manual, and it’s still a hatchback, but it’s a proper hot hatch! With a kerb weight barely above 1000kg and a turbocharged engine, there’s something a bit old school about the little Suzuki that is appealing. 

    After a few months of saving, I would invest in a new Recaro seat for the driver though. I’m very tall, and the stock seat just doesn’t support me where it needs to. 

    Jade Credentino: Hyundai i30 Active

    Alright, now I’ve had some feedback that I choose too many cars – so for the sake of the commenters I’ll choose one this time. 

    But I do want to preface this by saying I was surprised with the amount of vehicles under $30k before on-roads available. 

    My one pick however has to be the Hyundai i30 Active hatchback ($27,500). I may be a little biased as that’s my daily car but it has everything I need. 

    It has plenty of space, and looks cool! 

    Jack Quick: Kia Cerato Sport

    If I was wanting to buy a brand-new car under $30,000 before on-roads, I know I would want to get as much bang for my buck as possible.

    I think it’s also sad to see so many cars recently creep beyond the $30k threshold, including the Mazda 3 and Hyundai Kona.

    After considering the likes of the Toyota Corolla and Hyundai i30, I couldn’t go past the Kia Cerato Sport ($28,390) in hatchback guise with the optional $1000 Safety Pack.

    The Cerato is considerably more spacious than any equivalently priced crossover or SUV, and arguably offers better driving dynamics, if with a slightly firm suspension tune. It also comes with Kia’s well-known seven-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.

    Given I opted for the Safety Pack, the Cerato Sport comes virtually fully loaded with almost all the safety equipment the Cerato offers.

    There are a couple of sticking points however, including the dreary 2.0-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine with its six-speed torque-converter automatic, as well as the pricier logbook servicing.

    William Stopford: Kia Seltos S

    The Kia Seltos scrapes in just below $30,000 before on-road costs, and it would be my pick.

    It may be a bit dreary in base trim with its urethane wheel and halogen headlights, but you get a full complement of active safety technology. You also get what is probably the best-packaged crossover in its class.

    Unlike the 2.0-litre Cerato, you also get a CVT and, while I’m not usually a huge fan of CVTs, it makes the Seltos feel so much peppier than the Cerato and its torque-converter auto.

    Another possibility for me would be the Hyundai i30 Sedan in base Active trim with the six-speed manual, which I dare say isn’t long for this world. I haven’t driven a manual-equipped i30 Sedan so unfortunately I can’t vouch for the feel of its shifter and clutch pedal – not all sticks are created equal.

    But the idea of a small, four-cylinder sedan with three pedals takes me back to my first car, a 1997 Holden Astra, and I do love the look of the i30 Sedan.

    James Wong: Volkswagen Polo 85TSI Life

    With the Mazda 3 now priced from just over $30,000 plus on-roads, I had to go back to the drawing board.

    Gosh, where are the days where you could get a Hyundai i30 N Line or Volkswagen Golf Comfortline for $29,990? Times have changed dramatically.

    Having recently spent a day driving my sister’s one, I’m going to go with the base VW Polo – the 85TSI Life comes in at $28,990 before on-roads.

    If I could push the budget slightly I’d opt for the $1700 Vision & Tech Package which brings the full suite of driver assists and fancier screens, but even as a base package the Polo ticks so many boxes.

    It’s a comfortable, refined and efficient city hatchback that can comfortably carry adults in the second row and has a big ol’ 351-litre boot. It’s also more than capable of touring highways without feeling out of its depth.

    Runner-up would go to the Hyundai i30 Hatch Active, which at a bargain $30,290 drive-away is such good value for money in today’s market – I just find the old 2.0-litre petrol engine a little thirsty.

    Jack Quick

    Jack Quick is an automotive journalist based in Melbourne. Jack studied journalism and photography at Deakin University in Burwood, and previously represented the university in dance nationally. In his spare time, he loves to pump Charli XCX and play a bit of Grand Theft Auto. He’s also the proud owner of a blue, manual 2020 Suzuki Jimny.

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