Money.com.au logo

Car Buying Tips with Money Matchmaker™

The Top 10 Best Cars for $30,000

Written by

Scott Murray

It’s very important to remember, when shopping at this kind of budget, that you must not put pressure on yourself to buy the first vehicle you see or drive. This will be especially important for younger people who’ve probably never bought a car before.

Treat this money with respect and make sure no dealership undermines you by trying to force you to pay a deposit or sign a contract. This is your money, therefore you make the decisions - and 30 grand might seem trivial to others, but it’s your hard-earned ticket to a new car.

Make sure you keep the homework stage separate from the buying stage. Check out the three or four cars you’re most interested in, try them out, pore over them, do a Pro/Con list, and do all this on the same day so it’s fresh in your mind. Then wait a few days before making a decision, and be firm on your budget, put an offer to the dealer for the car you decide on, even to the point of being happy to find a different dealer.

The big benefit of buying a new car in the 30K range is you get a safe, modern, reliable vehicle that comes with the necessary features for driving on today’s roads, with minimal creature comforts which you don’t really need and just cost more.

Mazda 2 2021 review

1. Mazda 2

A top-spec Mazda 2 ‘G15 GT’ will give you about $2000 in change from your 30K budget. Maybe 3000 if you’re a strong negotiator.

What you get for $28,000 is quite impressive, but not without sacrificing a few sweet features in the slightly bigger Mazda 3, like the bristling 2.5-litre petrol engine, pumping Bose premium sound system, and the cool sunroof.

Instead, you get a 1.5-litre petrol engine that isn’t as powerful, but is still spritely enough to move this one tonne car along nicely.

If you want optimum boot space and a secure place away from prying eyes, get the sedan, otherwise the hatch will do for just about everything - shopping, a kid or two, a small dog even. The compromise is, obviously, this is a pretty small car with a 2.5 metre wheelbase in which to fit you all.

Small families will appreciate two ISOFIX and two top tether anchor points for restraints,

Features you get

  • 360° camera
  • Front/rear parking sensors
  • Blind-spot monitoring
  • Radar cruise control
  • Auto-emergency braking (up to 80km/h)
  • Rear cross traffic alert
  • Lane keeping
  • Traffic sign recognition
  • CarPlay/Android Auto
  • DAB+
  • Climate control
  • LED headlights

Features it lacks

  • Leather seats
  • Seat heating
  • Wireless phone charging
  • Tyre pressure monitoring
  • Electric seat adjustment
  • Rear air vents

Mazda 2 range pricing

PurePure SPEvolveGT
$25,000 (Sedan: $27,000)$27,500$28,500$30,100 (Sedan: $30,000)
Mazda 3 G25 GT review

2. Mazda 3

Next time you see the current Mazda 3 in traffic, take a moment to appreciate the level of design effort that’s gone into particularly the rear end of this car. It’s arguably one of the best-looking vehicles on sale right now, so you’ll never have to compromise on looks - however subjective aesthetics are - and to some, they are important.

If you’re a performance-focused person, you’ll want to consider the (35K) G25 Evolve SP which is lighter than the top-spec models, but if you’re capping your budget at that 30K ceiling, the Evolve, with a bit of firm negotiation, will be a trusty modest family car that balances cost against features.

The boot is a decent size, the back seats offer reasonable legroom for most adults, and you’ll manage to get all the necessities in the footwells and boot with the addition of child restraints attached by two ISOFIX points and three top tether points. Plenty of safety gear comes standard on the lower grades, too, which is the bonus of buying a new car today.

Features you get (Evolve)

  • 8-inch touchscreen
  • CarPlay/AndroidAuto
  • Satnav & DAB+
  • Dual-zone climate control
  • 8 speakers
  • Radar cruise control
  • Auto emergency braking incl. reverse
  • Blindspot monitoring
  • Rear parking sensors
  • Lane keeping & departure warning
  • Rear cross-traffic alert
  • 360-degree camera
  • Driver monitoring & attention alert
  • Rain-sensing wipers
  • Tyre pressure monitoring
  • Auto self-levelling LED headlights with steering response
  • LED foglights & daytime running lights

Features it lacks

  • Full-size spare
  • Sunroof
  • Cylinder deactivation (Astina),
  • Premium Bose stereo (12 speakers)
  • 360 degree camera
  • Passive proximity key entry
  • Driver monitoring
  • Front parking sensors
  • Heated powered seats with memory

Mazda 3 pricing

PureHead2Evolve
$30,000$31,600
Australia's Money Matchmaker matching you with your best loans across multiple lenders
Car Loan Lenders prefer to finance new cars over older cars and therefore provide lower rates for them
Subaru impreza 2021 review

3. Subaru Impreza

You’ll need to put your hard $30K offer to a dealer for an Impreza S, because it’s the only variant you really want; that’s a 15 per cent saving, which should be possible as this model nears the end. A new Impreza is coming next year, so dealers will want to clear this stock. Impreza is very reliable, offering great build quality, practicality in either a hatch or sedan, with decent performance.

I encourage getting the S because you get lots of features as long as you fight for it, and Subaru has a very strong customer service reputation in Australia.

Features you get (2.0i-S)

  • Adaptive cruise
  • Lane sway warning & keeping
  • Blind-spot monitor
  • Front view camera
  • Lane change assist
  • Rear cross-traffic alert
  • Reverse automatic braking
  • Side view camera
  • Driver’s knee airbag
  • 18-inch alloys with space-saver spare
  • Tyre pressure monitoring
  • Two drive modes
  • Heated auto-dipping power folding door mirrors with memory
  • Sunroof
  • Powered driver’s seat with dual memory
  • Heated front driver & passenger seats with partial leather
  • LED: headlights (self-levelling & steering response)
  • Daytime running lights; dual-zone climate
  • Auto rain-sensing wipers
  • Satnav & DAB+
  • CarPlay/AndroidAuto

Features it lacks

  • Full leather seats
  • Any turbocharging
  • Front-wheel drive options
  • Full-size spare
  • 360-degree camera

Impreza pricing

2.0i2.0i-L2.0i Premium2.0i-S
$26,600$29,700$32,400$35,200

Get matched with the best car loan

FIND YOUR CAR LOAN
Hyundai Venue review

4. Hyundai Venue

The latest of Hyundai's small SUVs to come to life, which sadly does not include a firecracker 'N' performance version. But at least it’s cheap and comes with plenty of gear for any concerned parent wanting to put their adult babies into a safe little SUV - ‘safe’ for you, ‘SUV’ for them, right?

Venue is a pretty compelling package, offering snazzy, trendy looks (says an unfashionable early-30s millennial using such terms), but gets important safety features like auto emergency braking, blindspot detection & collision avoidance, and lane assistance. Not that we should be relying on these features to ever substitute our kids paying full attention to the road. But if they save a life by working once in a thousand hairy situations, they’re worth every cent.

Venue is compact, so don’t expect long-distance roadtrips to be especially fun with ears between the knees, but for running around university it’s a perfect size. The engine is pint-sized too, a 1.6L four-cylinder non-turbocharged four-cylinder making just enough power to be useful enough to move its 1.2-tonne weight, and it only takes regular 91 RON unleaded, unlike many Euro competitors.

The good thing is you can have the top-spec Elite version for bang-on your 30K budget. Just make sure everything you need to take will fit.

Features you get (Elite)

  • Blindspot collision warning
  • Driver attention warning
  • Forward collision-avoidance (city/urban/interurban/pedestrian)
  • Lane-keeping (incl. line/road-edge
  • Rear cross-traffic collision warning
  • High beam assist
  • ‘Traction Mode’ 3 settings (snow, mud, sand)
  • Tyre pressure monitoring
  • Reversing camera with dynamic guidelines
  • Front/rear parking sensors
  • 8-inch touchscreen
  • 6 speakers
  • Wireless CarPlay/AndroidAuto,
  • Satnav
  • DAB+
  • 17-inch alloys
  • Sunroof
  • Single-zone climate control
  • LED daytime running lights & taillights
  • Power folding & heated door mirrors

Features it lacks

  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Full-size spare
  • Driver knee airbag
  • Leather seats
  • Powered & heated/cooled seats
  • LED headlights
  • Powered tailgate

Venue Pricing

Base ModelActiveElite
$24,000$26,500$30,500
Kia rio 2021 review

5. Kia Rio

The Kia Rio is a largely underrated small car, overlooked by people shopping for a Yaris runabout.

You get the feisty little 1.0-litre turbocharged engine from the Picanto, but in a much more practical body with a bigger hatch-design boot, more legroom thanks to a 150mm longer wheelbase which is only 20mm shorter than a Mazda CX-5 costing twice as much. What you’ll notice about Rio is all the essentials are there in the features list, and only some minor omissions which you can probably live with knowing you’re saving a lot of cash on a bigger, more decked-out vehicle. The main issue will be choosing it over a Cerato, but if budget is the limiting factor, Rio wins by a nose.

Rio gets two ISOFIX and three top-tether anchor points, as do virtually all vehicles in this list, which is great if you have a live-within-your-means attitude in life. Big SUVs are more metal, plastic, rubber and glass, but often give you the same basic necessities as a small car like Rio which gives you the same versatility for less money.

Features you get (GT-Line)

  • 17-inch wheels
  • Sunroof
  • Heated power-folding door mirrors
  • LED foglights & daytime running lights
  • Auto dusk-sensing headlights
  • Rain-sensing wipers
  • Climate control
  • Auto emergency braking
  • Basic cruise control
  • Driver attention alert
  • Lane keeping
  • Reversing camera (incl dynamic guidelines)
  • Rear parking sensors
  • 8-inch touchscreen
  • Wireless Android Auto/CarPlay

Features it lacks

  • LED headlights
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Driver’s knee airbag
  • Full-size spare
  • Electric seats

Rio Pricing

S (manual)S (auto)SX Manual Limited EditionSport (manual)SX Automatic Limited EditionSport (auto)GT-Line DCT
$20,500$21,500$21,990$22,500$22,990$23,500$25,990
Australia's Money Matchmaker matching you with your best loans across multiple lenders
If you have good credit and are employed, you should be able to avoid the costs of a broker and find a good car loan deal by yourself.
Kia Cerato GT review

6. Kia Cerato

If you want all the legroom, boot space and features of an SUV, but you don’t want to pay as much money upfront or in ongoing fuel costs for the rest of your ownership years, buy a Cerato. Seriously.

Compared with various SUVs, you’ll get significantly better fuel economy because it’s 300-500 kilograms lighter. The old Sportage GT-Line cost $50K (weighing 1.7 tonnes); Cerato GT-Line: $32K (weighs 1.4 tonnes) - both full of fuel. Boot size? Sportage: 466L. Cerato sedan: 502L. In either hatch or sedan form, Cerato has great cabin space without being excessively spacious, while also being

Negotiate hard for a GT-Line and you should be able to get pretty close to your 30K budget, but don’t be dismayed if you need to settle for a Sport+, because it’s still a very well equipped vehicle and drives just as well, only it’s tailored more for normal drivers, not the performance oriented.

Features you get (GT-Line)

  • Auto emergency braking
  • Adaptive cruise
  • Lane keeping & following assist
  • Blindspot monitoring
  • Rear cross-traffic alert & collision avoidance
  • Driver attention alert
  • Power-fold door mirrors
  • LED front/rear lighting
  • Tyre pressure monitoring
  • 18-inch alloys + Michelin Pilot Sport tyres (+ space saver spare)
  • Rear air vents + dual-zone climate control
  • Heated/cooled sports leather seats
  • Paddle-shifters
  • Electric park brake
  • JBL premium stereo
  • 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen DAB+
  • Sunroof
  • Smart key + push-button start

Features it lacks

  • Front centre airbag
  • Rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive
  • Manual transmission option
  • Any hybrid powertrain option

Cerato Pricing

SSportSport+GT-Line
$25,500 (Safety Pack +$1500)$28,000 (Safety Pack +$1500)$31,700$36,000

Save $1,000s with the right car loan

FIND YOUR CAR LOAN
Kia Picanto ‘S’ - 'GT' review

7. Kia Picanto

Picanto does a lot for shopping for a new car on a serious budget. This is the thing a lot of people forget: a lot of people just need a replacement car but don’t have a lot to spend. But they default to buying an overpriced used car, rather than a cheap new one.

Certainly, Picanto is compromised for reserves of boot space and an abundance of legroom in the back seat. And it lacks some of the more advanced software-based safety features like lane-keeping, adaptive cruise control and rear cross-traffic/blindspot collision avoidance; which are all aids and should not be relied upon in your routine driving anyway.

But, in the context of how much actual stuff we carry for the majority of our journeys to work, friends’ houses, dropping kids at school - that will all fit - and slightly bulky items you can squeeze or get away with in many other instances. Obviously this is something you need to assess, remembering you want to buy a vehicle based on the 90 per cent usage case, not the remaining 10.

If you like a zippy city car, check out the highly entertaining GT-Line with its 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine. But if you’re just shopping for a cheap, used small car, stop and consider a new Picanto and enjoy not cleaning other people’s crumbs, hair and stickiness from under the seats.

Features you get (GT-Line)

  • 16-inch alloy wheels
  • Air-conditioning
  • Premium cloth seats
  • Power heated folding door mirrors
  • LED brake lights
  • LED foglights and daytime running lights
  • 8-inch LCD touchscreen
  • Wireless CarPlay/AndroidAuto,
  • 4-speaker stereo
  • Auto emergency braking
  • Reverse parking sensors
  • Reversing camera with dynamic guidelines
  • Standard cruise control
  • Dusk-sensing auto headlights

Features it lacks

  • Full-size spare
  • LED headlights
  • Leather electric seats
  • DAB+
  • Climate control
  • Auto wipers
  • Adaptive cruise
  • Front sensors
  • Lane-keeping
  • Driver’s knee airbag

Picanto Pricing

S manualS autoGT-Line manualGT-Line autoGT manual
$18,000$19,000$19,500$20,500$21,500
2021 Suzuki Vitara review

8. Suzuki Vitara

Vitara has a simple cabin, a basic features list, and a dead-easy infotainment system. You get lots of child-proof plastic trims which will be easy to clean, the boot space isn’t vast but will cope with small families, young adults, Nanna, or it makes for an ideal second runabout car.

You’ll need to remember to tip 95 RON petrol into it, not 91 - but don’t be dismayed because fuel is relatively cheap. The only real issue is mis-fuelling: putting in the wrong octane fuel (too low) is not good and could have mechanical consequences for the engine. So make sure it doesn’t happen.

Suzuki makes great little engines and pretty reliable vehicles, but the compromise is refinement - they are not especially comfortable or quiet or civilised. Over bumps and on coarse roads you will get tyre roar and the suspension will thump worse than most other SUVs. But other SUVs are significantly more expensive, and it’s not unbearable. Suzuki Australia also has a pretty good reputation for customer service and the outright cost saving you enjoy on the sale price will mean the 12-month servicing won’t even be noticed financially.

While you’re considering a Suzuki Vitara, you might be lured into thinking the Jimny is a good road-going family alternative. It’s not. Don’t buy it. Jimny is as rough as guts and belongs unregistered on a farm next to the Massey Ferguson, in my view. I’m quite fond of Vitara, it gives you the gear you need, some features you want and in an affordable package, which is all you require in this segment. Vitara is Suzuki’s halo car (not the ‘hero’ Swift), so they put the effort into this car.

However it does get a bit pricey if your budget is especially tight and you want all the toys. The expensive top-spec Turbo asks nearly 40K, so you might want to negotiate hard for the mid-spec Turbo (FWD) for bang-on 30K. It’s gonna be the best value: the features, minus AWD which you don’t really need unless you live rurally or have a steep driveway, in which case try a Subaru Impreza.

Features you get (Turbo)

  • Auto emergency braking
  • Lane departure warning & weaving alert
  • Blindspot monitoring
  • Rear cross-traffic alert
  • Driver knee airbag
  • LED auto headlights
  • LED daytime running lights
  • Power folding door mirrors
  • Fog lights
  • Rain-sensing wipers
  • Basic cruise control
  • Satnav
  • CarPlay and AndroidAuto
  • Climate control
  • 6 speakers
  • Paddleshifters
  • 17-inch alloy wheels
  • Partial leather seats
  • Proximity key & push-button start

Features it lacks

  • Sunroof (All-Grip only)
  • Full-size spare wheel
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Full leather seats
  • Seat heating
  • Power seat adjustment
  • Electric park brake
  • DAB+ digital radio
  • Front centre airbag
  • Autonomous reverse braking

Vitara Pricing

Base modelTurboTurbo AllGrip (AWD)
$28,000$35,000$39,500
Australia's Money Matchmaker matching you with your best loans across multiple lenders
If you need a car loan make sure you do the research before you visit the dealership - dealership offer loans but they are generally not the best deal. Compare deals for yourself before you get to the dealership to help negotiate better.
Suzuki Swift 2021 review

9. Suzuki Swift

There's something blissfully basic about driving a Suzuki Swift, in a stripped out rally car kind of way.

Swift is Suzuki's hero car and they do put a lot of effort into making it a great value package.

Unfortunately, you need premium 95 RON petrol, the interior is very plastic, and there's what feels like little in the way of sound deadening. This may not matter to you. I often see plastic interiors as less prone to stains and damage.

Swift is pleasantly balanced between offering you kit you need and not shoving unnecessary techy features at you which may never get used.

As a car for the kids, it's safe, affordable and reliable.

Features you get (GLX Turbo)

  • Auto emergency braking
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Lane departure warning & centering
  • Blindspot monitoring
  • Rear cross traffic alert
  • High beam assist
  • Leather steering wheel
  • Digital air conditioning (as opposed to manual adjustment)
  • Proximity key
  • Satnav
  • CarPlay & Android Auto
  • 6 speakers
  • Paddleshifters
  • 16-inch alloys
  • LED auto headlights
  • Parking sensor
  • Reversing camera
  • Power folding heated door mirrors
  • Halogen foglights

Features it lacks

  • Leather seats
  • Seat heating
  • Full-size spare wheel
  • Tyre pressure monitoring
  • Autonomous reverse braking
  • Driver’s knee airbag
  • Autonomous reverse braking

Swift Pricing

GL NavigatorGL Navigator PlusGLX Turbo
$22,490$24,990$28,790

Find the best deal on car loans

FIND YOUR CAR LOAN
Volkswagen Polo 2021 Review

10. Volkswagen Polo

If you’re this far down the list, you’re probably looking for something European. The Volkswagen Polo is a pretty versatile, very comfortable small hatch.

Of this list, it’s certainly going to be one of the most pleasing to drive and live with on a daily basis - without spending a huge lump of money, as is the case with most Euro cars.

Having said that, Polo does mean forgoing some features in order to have that prestige feel. For example, you don’t get adaptive cruise control as standard on the $25K Style, yet it’s on a base Kia Cerato with the safety pack. The Cerato gets dynamic guidelines in the reversing camera, power folding door mirrors, keyless entry, and a much bigger boot, plus more legroom.

You get the Polo because you want the crisp handling, the firm but well-damped suspension and the perky 1.0-litre turbo petrol engine (which takes premium 95 RON fuel, by the way), and you want the slick-shifting seven-speed DSG gearbox - and less for the software.

If you do want adaptive cruise, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, park assist and power folding mirrors, you need the optional ‘Driver Assistance package’, which is $1500.

Negotiate hard for a GTI and you’ll be very satisfied driving it on backroads and in suburbia.

Features you get (85 TSI Style)

  • 16-inch alloys (15-inch spare wheel)
  • Power folding heated door mirrors
  • LED tail lights
  • Rain sensing wipers
  • Auto headlights
  • Rear fog light
  • Tyre pressure monitoring
  • Dual-zone climate control
  • Premium sound system
  • Satnav
  • 10.25-inch touchscreen
  • Wireless phone charging
  • CarPlay & Android Auto

Features it lacks (as standard)

  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Autonomous reverse braking
  • Keyless entry
  • LED headlights
  • Dynamic reversing camera guidelines
  • Sunroof
  • Front centre airbag

Polo Pricing

75 TSI Trendline85 TSI Comfortline85 TSI StyleGTI
$21,800$23,400$25,700$32,900
Australia's Money Matchmaker matching you with your best loans across multiple lenders
Get pre-approved before you shop - this can save you thousands, by making sure you have the most control of your payments, loan length and lender. It will also be pressure free.

About the Author

Scott Murray from BestFamilyCars.com.au

Scott

Murray

Scott Murray

BestFamilyCars offers honest information & discounts for your next new car. Our lives depend on cars, but most reviews don’t answer the real questions. I live with the cars I test, to report their strengths and weaknesses, ad free

Address

Money Pty Ltd,
Suite 3, Level 2,
1 Taylor Street,
Moorabbin, VIC, 3189 Australia

Company

Money Pty Ltd trading as Money
ABN: 42 626 094 773
ACL: 528698
AFCA: 83955

© Copyright 2021 Money Ltd.



Disclaimer

Money Pty Ltd (trading as Money.com.au) provides information about credit products and is authorised to do so as the holder of Australian Credit Licence 528698. Money.com.au does not compare every Lender in Australia. We are not a broker or credit provider and when we provide information via this website, we are not providing you with a recommendation or suggestion about a particular credit product. When you apply for a credit product via the Money.com.au website, you are not applying with us, you are applying directly with a Lender Partner. Before entering into any credit product from one of our Lender Partners, you should confirm the rates and product information with the Lender. All information on this website is general advice only and does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. You should consider whether this advice is right for you and we encourage you to seek independent financial advice.