Whether you're looking your first new car, or a new family car. These ten vehicles should fit the bill. They tick all the major boxes, with strong safety credentials, up-to-date connectivity options, low running costs and easy everyday driving.
The Mazda3 is brilliantly engineered, frugal, great to drive and roomy enough for small Australian families. You won’t fit yourself into the top-of-the-range variant for $30k, but you won’t be driving the poverty-pack base model either. For $27,690 plus on-road costs you’ll drive away in a Mazda3 SP25 auto in either hatch or sedan. It’s a real step up on the base model, using a 2.5-litre petrol four, six-speed auto, 18-inch alloy wheels, climate-control air conditioning, and GPS. It’s no wonder it is one of the best-selling cars in Australia.
Hyundai’s i30 is a competitor to the Mazda3. They’re very close, but with solid philosophical differences; the Mazda3 comes with a three-year warranty for 100,000km while the Hyundai offers five years without a distance limit. The Hyundai i30 also comes with a diesel engine option, and you can certainly fit yourself into a diesel for under $30k. For the latest model Hyundai has evidently stepped up the premium feel and packaging, with superb creature comfort and sportiness available under the price bracket.
Suzuki builds great cars, and for comfortably less than $30k you’ll be driving the ‘works burger’ of Swifts; the GXL turbo. It’s smaller than the Mazda3 or Hyundai i30 and comes with a sweet 1.0-litre turbo three, mated to a six-speed auto transmission. You get 16-inch alloys, loads of safety tech, a proximity key, sat-nav, and auto headlights and wipers. Some $60,000-plus German cars don’t tick all those boxes.
If you want to stand out from the crowd, the Hyundai Veloster is a sure-fire recipe. You’ll either love it or hate it. If you’re in love, you’ll embrace the unique three-door design, which is like a sedan on the kerb side and like a coupe on the driver’s side. (The theory; it’s safer for passengers getting in and out. The reality; it’s just quirky design.) Our $30k ceiling will get you into the Veloster manual, but if you can spare an extra $650 you can step up to the turbo manual.
The Elantra was once a great value proposition in the small to mid-size vehicle market. Nowadays, you can jump into the top-spec SR Turbo from $28,990. And what a car. It’s one of those cars that makes you think, why does anyone need anything more? You get a 150kW gutsy and economical turbo engine, supported by fun and sure-footed handling, and all packaged together with an exceptional level of standard features.
The Subaru XV is the first of many SUVs on this sub-$30k list. The XV exists because successive generations of Forester all got incrementally bigger, leaving a small SUV-sized hole in Subaru’s lineup. Enter the XV, which is – philosophically – what the first Forester was; a small, car-like wagon with Subaru’s trademark Symmetrical All-wheel Drive system and traditionally well thought out Subaru engineering. To scrape in under $30k plus on-road costs, you’ll be in the base model XV 2.0i auto, which comes with plenty of standard kit and five-star ANCAP safety.
You can (just) squeeze into Mazda’s brilliant CX-5 for under $30k. In fact, you can even squeeze into an auto… by the thinnest of margins. You’ll be in the CX-5 Maxx with either six-speed manual or six-speed auto. And you will have to live without the puncher 2.5-litre petrol four or the sensational 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine. But the fundamentals that make the CX-5 a great mid-size SUV are all there in the Maxx. Superb comfort and driving dynamics, and loads of cargo space, all with five-star ANCAP safety.
Suzuki S-Cross Turbo
If you’re disinclined to squeeze yourself into the base-model Mazda CX-5 or Subaru XV, but you want a small, car-like SUV with all the fruit, the Suzuki S-Cross Turbo might be more to your liking. The range tops out with the Turbo Prestige, which is a fully-loaded 1.4T vehicle with six-speed auto and front-wheel drive. Like the Elantra mentioned above, the S-Cross is one of those endearing, passes-all-tests cars. It’s very roomy and comfortable inside, with excellent visibility, along with good performance from the turbo engine. It’s also wonderfully economical in the real world.
Honda’s entry-level SUV comes in with advanced tech and design character as its forte. Take one look at the HR-V's interior and you’ll think you’ve stepped into a time machine and fast-forwarded 10 years. It’s comfortable, smart and connected, with a touch-screen interface housing all main controls into one unit. You also get Honda’s outstanding reliability included, and brilliant fuel economy from the 1.8-litre four-cylinder, with an average consumption stamped at 6.6L/100km.
It’s regarded as one of the more premium offerings in the small car class, and when you’re prepared to pay a bit of a premium and get close to our $30k bracket, you’ll be pleased you stretched. The Golf enjoys impressive sales in Australia, thanks to very economical engines, excellent cabin practicality, and lots and lots of technology. It’s also very strong and sturdy on the road, and passes ANCAP’s five-star benchmark.