What's the Best Cheap Speed Car for $30,000?

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Plenty of drivers want a level of performance without breaking the bank. We found eight cars that prove fun at the track is not limited to the well-to-do.

$30,000 Cheap Speed Challenge
Index | What the Judges Said | Mileage Test

We focused our Challenge on compact coupes, sedans and hatchbacks that cost less than $30,000, including destination charge. We picked the price based on Cars.com's listings for cars of this type that came with the features we know are popular with younger drivers looking for a performance kick. After five days of testing (including a day at a drag strip and a day on a road course) by experts from Cars.com, USA Today, "MotorWeek" and a real-life, in-market family, here's how the results broke down:

By Patrick Olsen | July 28, 2014 | Comments (17)

$30,000 Cheap Speed Challenge: Mileage Results

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Any car owner will tell you the cost of driving does not begin or end with the sticker price or the monthly payment notice arriving in the mailbox. There's insurance, maintenance and yes, the cost of gasoline.

$30,000 Cheap Speed Challenge
Index | What the Judges Said | Results

The competitors in our Cheap Speed Challenge may be relatively affordable considering their performance chops, but six of the eight require premium gasoline. Going into the contest, mileage didn't seem like it would be much of a story.

After a 220-plus-mile route through Wisconsin and Illinois that mixed in winding country roads, city streets and plenty of construction-laden highways, we discovered mileage was indeed worth talking about in this class.

By David Thomas | July 28, 2014 | Comments (1)

$30,000 Cheap Speed Challenge: What the Judges Said

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To test our sub-$30,000 speedsters, we put them through an even more rigorous set of tests than we usually use in our Challenges:

  • We spent one day at the Byron, Ill., Dragway to get zero-to-60-mph times and quarter-mile times and speeds; we also captured 60-mph-to-zero braking distances there.
  • We spent one day at the Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, Ill., where the experts put the cars through a long day on the road course there.
  • We took all eight on a mileage drive of more than 200 miles to judge real-world fuel economy.
  • The experts drove all eight over the same course, back-to-back, to judge real-world ride and handling, acceleration and braking.
  • And then we brought in a real-life car shopper, Joe Weiss, a 38-year-old quality assurance manager from Chicago who's in the market for just such a car for himself and his fiancee.

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Weiss joined our cast of judges (left to right):

  • Brian Robinson, producer for PBS' "MotorWeek"
  • Joe Wiesenfelder, Cars.com executive editor
  • David Thomas, Cars.com managing editor
  • Joe Bruzek, Cars.com road test editor
  • James R. Healey, auto writer for USA Today

We set a maximum price of $30,000, including a destination charge. We had 10 cars on our list when we started, but we ended with eight (more on that in a bit):

  • 2014 Fiat 500 Abarth
  • 2014 Ford Fiesta ST
  • 2014 Honda Civic Si
  • 2014 Hyundai Veloster Turbo
  • 2014 Kia Forte5 SX
  • 2015 Mini Cooper S Hardtop
  • 2014 Nissan Juke NISMO RS
  • 2014 Scion FR-S
  • 2015 Subaru WRX
  • 2015 Volkswagen GTI

Mini said it did not have a Cooper in its press fleets that could meet our price cap; the Civic lost a tire after hitting a Chicago pothole, and repairs could not be made in time for track days. The judges did drive it in our round-robin day, and a report on those tests can be found here.

$30,000 Cheap Speed Challenge
Index | Results | Mileage Test

Here's how the scoring broke down: The experts' scores accounted for 50 percent of the total score; 10 percent came from the shopper's scores; 30 percent was based on track performance; and the remaining 10 percent was based on fuel economy.

Here is what the judges had to say about each car, in order of how the cars finished:

By Patrick Olsen | July 28, 2014 | Comments (5)

2014 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Photo Gallery

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The 2014 Hyundai Veloster Turbo finished sixth in our $30,000 Cheap Speed Challenge. "The Veloster Turbo isn't as big of a misfit among the competition as you may expect," said one of our judges. Check out our gallery below of the Veloster Turbo up close and on the track.

Click on any image for a larger version.

Cars.com photos by Evan Sears

By David Thomas | July 28, 2014 | Comments (0)

Hyundai Unveils 2014 Veloster RE:FLEX at the 2014 Chicago Auto Show

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Hyundai's Veloster sports coupe has always been a fun little oddity, with its one big driver's door and two smaller passenger doors, and in turbo form, it can be quite entertaining to drive as well. To keep interest up between redesigns, the company has come up with a few specials editions, the latest just introduced at the 2014 Chicago Auto Show.

More 2014 Chicago Auto Show Coverage

The Veloster RE:FLEX is a follow-up to last year's RE:MIX special edition, and it will be only a trim, paint, and equipment package.

By Aaron Bragman | February 7, 2014 | Comments (0)

What Hyundai-Kia's Latest Strike Means to Car Shoppers

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Hyundai-Kia's troubled home-turf labor relations continue. The latest chapter has Korean labor unions voting to strike over wage and benefit disputes with the South Korean automaker. The result could mean a production stoppage in its home country.

Hyundai-Kia, which together rank fifth in global sales, is the sixth on the U.S. sales pole, with year-to-date sales down 0.3%. Still, the automaker builds popular cars like the Hyundai Elantra and Sonata, as well as the Kia Optima and Soul. All four rank in the top 35 best-sellers so far this year — and although the automaker operates two assembly plants in the U.S., all Soul and a significant chunk of Optima, Elantra and Sonata vehicles hail from South Korea. A production stoppage could hamstring dealer supply in a matter of weeks.

By Kelsey Mays | August 15, 2013 | Comments (1)

Hyundai Air Freshener Leaves Lasting Impression

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Buying a new car is a big life event. You're happy as soon as you walk out of that dealership and twist the key to start up your new ride. A year later, the new-car high has worn off along with the new-car smell.

For some Hyundai owners, that's why a small token delivered in the mail is a big surprise.

By Robby DeGraff | May 29, 2013 | Comments (3)

Cars.com Family Reviews the 2013 Hyundai Veloster

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With its three-door setup, the Hyundai Veloster looks like it would be a great car for smaller families, but Cars.com Family reviewer Carrie Kim found that wasn't the case for her family. The driver's side has one door, and the passenger side has two small doors; her daughter's forward-facing convertible car seat nearly blocked the entire rear door opening on the passenger side. Carrie did appreciate the Veloster's eye-popping looks and its turbocharged engine.

2013 Hyundai Veloster Family Review

By Jennifer Newman | March 22, 2013 | Comments (3)

Recall Alert: 2012 Hyundai Veloster

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Hyundai is recalling 6,071 versions of the 2012 Veloster hatchback due to panoramic sunroofs that could crack, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This is an expansion of a December 2012 recall that affected 13,500 Velosters with panoramic sunroofs.

The affected vehicles were manufactured from July 4 through Oct. 31, 2011 (check your vehicle's build date on a sticker on the driver-side doorjamb), and are equipped with panoramic glass panels. In these cars, the panoramic sunroof assembly may have been weakened during factory installation, which could cause it to break.

Hyundai will notify owners starting in March 2013, and dealers will inspect and replace the sunroof glass assembly for free. Owners can call Hyundai at 800-633-5151 or NHTSA's vehicle safety hotline at 888-327-4236 for more information.

Related
Research the 2012 Hyundai Veloster
More Safety News on Cars.com
Check out Other Recalls

By Jennifer Geiger | February 27, 2013 | Comments (1)

Recall Alert: 2012 Hyundai Veloster

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In its second recall of the day, Hyundai is recalling 13,500 versions of the 2012 Veloster hatchback due to panoramic sunroofs that could crack, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The affected vehicles were manufactured from Nov. 1, 2011, through April 17, 2012 (check your vehicle's build date on a sticker on the driver-side doorjamb), and are equipped with panoramic glass panels. In these cars, the panoramic sunroof assembly may have been weakened during factory installation, which could cause it to break.

Hyundai reports that it's not aware of any accidents related to the recall, but the automaker did receive five reports of minor cuts due to the broken glass.

By Jennifer Geiger | December 19, 2012 | Comments (0)

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