So picture this, you just acquired $30,000 and you want to spend that on a new car. You’ve always liked the culture that comes with cars, and wished that instead of being the guy driving 5 under the speed limit in your 2001 Hyundai Elantra with 2 missing hubcaps, an exhaust leak, and so much clear coat peel that your car doesn’t even look that factory grey anymore, that you would rather be that slick dude who passes you in a brand new, sleek, clean, tastefully modded car with a beautiful sounding exhaust, nice wheel and tire setup, and if it’s a turbo, that ever so sweet sound of blow-off when you shift.
“Well I definitely don’t have enough money to afford one of those”, you think to yourself as your rust-bucket rattles up your driveway.
Well that’s where you’re wrong, kiddo. So grab your cash, hope to god that hoopdie starts up, and get down to the dealership because NETC is here to give you a list of some of the nicest tuning cars you can afford right now for under 30k. Let’s get started!
Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ
We’re going to kick things off with a vehicle more on the slower side of things, but still a popular choice among today’s young tuners. The Scion FR-S and or the Subaru BRZ (Depending on your preference) is a Rear-wheel drive 2-door sports coupe that was made as a joint effort between Toyota and Subaru.
This sleek sports car was designed with the driver in mind, sporting a nice low center of gravity, modest 200hp horizontally opposed 4 cylinder, and futuristic cockpit. A real drivers car, the FR-S/BRZ is a nice car for an entry level youngster who maybe doesn’t have the cash on hand to go out and pick up that new 3 series coupe.
While the car does have some slight aesthetic differences, the motor remains the same. The subaru version of this car comes with a few little extras like an upgraded interior and heated seats, and a bit of a price bump to boot.
The FR-S starts at $25,305 and the BRZ variant starts around $27,000 brand new. While a little more on the under-powered side, it’s still a nice sporty coupe to throw around back roads, and since it is becoming quite popular of a vehicle in the tuning world, you’ll find no shortage of mods on the market for all aspects of the body, motor, and suspension.
I know what you’re thinking, “But Dakota, the mustang is a muscle car” and yes you are right, however the new ecoboost platform has been making great strides recently. The 2017 Mustang Ecoboost is powered by a 2.3 liter 4 cylinder motor mated to a nice little turbocharger. This bad boy makes 310hp from the factory! Couple that with the fact that mustang parts manufacturers are all over the place, and that it has forced induction, this car is an easy way to get some serious power while maintaining that budget.
The mustang is Rear-wheel drive as is the custom, and while it does sound and feel much different from it’s V8 powered brother, the GT, the ecoboost mustang is still a fun and fast car for the budget, with a tasteful yet classic interior that the mustang has had for decades.
The Ecoboost Mustang starts around $25,900 which still leaves plenty of room for an exhaust, intake, and a nice tune to keep you within your $30,000 budget and still get some ponies out of it. Ha get it? Ponies, Mustang…No? Yeah that was a pretty bad pun.
Ford Focus ST
Speaking of Ford and their fancy new turbo motors, take a look at this trim level of the ever popular Focus. The Ford Focus ST is a step up from the regular sedan/wagon of old, coupling a turbocharger to the 2.0 liter 4 cylinder motor. This car makes 252hp from the factory, pushing it well into hot hatch territory. With companies like Mazda doing away with their own turbo hatch, the ST runs practically unopposed in the Front-wheel drive category aside from the GTI.
A stylish interior not unlike fords for the past few years, and with a beautiful change to the front fascia and wheels from the standard Focus, the ST really does deliver a lot in its category, and as mentioned with the previous car, the ecoboost platform has a nice range of options in terms of modifications and engine upgrades for the car, making it rather easy to hit that 300hp mark within that budget.
The car starts around $24,425 with some optional upgrades to the interior and technology.
Keeping with hot hatches, it would be rude of me not to talk about the GTI for a minute. Not much has changed with this classic ride in the past few years, the car is still a front-wheel drive hatchback that has a 2.0 liter engine with a baby turbo that makes 210hp from the factory.
Now I don’t know how much you know about VW and their cars, but they are seriously De-tuned from factory. It’s not a far cry to make up that lack of power that the factory Focus ST has but it’s okay because you’ll still be under budget since the car starts around $24,995.
Given Volkswagen’s law troubles for the past bit, it isn’t uncommon for VW to try to give these cars away so right now you could get a great deal on this classic hot hatch if you hurry in now. If the budget was higher I’d talk about the Golf R which is All-wheel drive but that’s a story for another time.
Now we come to the first and likely only All-Wheel drive car I plan to put on this list, but here it is. The WRX has always been popular among tuning fans. Now, yes it is dwarfed by it’s bigger brother the STI, but those start around 35k so they are out of this category.
The WRX is actually pretty nifty considering the fact that it is powered by a 2.0 liter boxer motor that is mated to a turbo which puts out 256hp. The difference between everything else on this list is the fact that the WRX again, is all-wheel drive, meaning it takes that horsepower and puts it all to the ground whereas with the ST which for some reason is technically a competitor to this car, will spin its front tires a bit and the torque steer will likely turn you into a wall if you are un-experienced with driving it.
The WRX starts around the $26,695 mark with the options for some upgrades. Slap an intake and exhaust setup on there coupled with an accessport from Cobb Tuning and a nice tune from a local performance shop, and you’ll be smiling all the way to and from work no matter what the weather looks like.
Honda Civic Si
Ah the civic Si. An oldie but a goodie. Now yes, the Civic is a front-wheel drive vehicle available in a sedan or a coupe, and yes it does have V-Tec, but the car still makes a little over 200hp and starts nice and low on the budget scale at $22,890.
If you’re new to the car scene then you probably are trying to stay away from honda because your cousin has that old beat up civic that sounds like a jar of bees is being unleashed from the muffler, but relax pal. In fact if you stick around long enough, some of the nicest cars you’ll see at shows and meets will be those old hondas, just done up nicely probably with a nice suspension and wheel setup and the accompaniment of a turbocharger.
The Civic Si is a classic tuner car that has been re-designed to keep with the times, and is still a tasteful design that is cheap and fun to throw around back roads with a lot of room to grow and an unending amount of mod support.
Fiat 500 Abarth
So here’s something you probably didn’t think would be on this list. The Fiat 500 Abarth hasn’t been getting that much attention, on account of it basically looks like a glorified smart car and you’re probably thinking “Who would want to tune one of those?”
Well guess what? There’s actually a few of these bad boys running around with some decent work to them. Now, the con is that this car makes 160hp from the factory and is a front-wheel drive car, but the plus sides are that it is still a turbocharged car that has the ability to make some serious power with some bolt-ons and perhaps a turbo upgrade, and this sucker only weighs a little over 2500 pounds.
Now, the 500 Abarth starts around $19,990 and that means that you still are well under budget. With the extra money you will save by picking this up, you’ll have more than enough to fully do the intake and exhaust, maybe even replace the turbo and tune that sucker for all the boost you could dream of, but be warned there is not a lot of leftover space in that engine bay so you might want to find a mechanic or a friend with some small hands like yours truly.
Well, there you have it; 7 tuning cars that are under that 30k budget. Now you can get rid of that old Elantra and start cruising around with something newer, faster, and more appealing to the ladies *wink wink* (unless you are a lady in which case replace that word with boys).
I know there are probably some other options you may have thought would be on this list, but we were going for newer cars and will have plenty of time to write up a list of some older model cars that are still popular among tuners today.