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 (21)

2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI Photo Gallery

 Cheap Speed Challenge: 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI S

The 2015 Volkswagen GTI finished first in our $30,000 Cheap Speed Challenge. "Not only is this the best performance bang for the buck, bar none, it's one of the most comfortable cars here," said one of our judges. Check out our gallery below of the GTI up close and on the track.

Click on any image for a larger version.

Cars.com photos by Evan Sears

By Matt Schmitz | July 28, 2014 | Comments (0)

Recall Alert: 2015 Volkswagen Golf, GTI

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Vehicles Affected: More than 2,000 model-year 2015 Volkswagen Golf and GTI hatchbacks manufactured between Jan. 27, 2014, and May 12, 2014

The Problem: The stabilizer link fasteners may come loose and possibly interfere with steering, requiring additional effort to control the vehicle and increasing the risk of a crash. Volkswagen earlier this month issued a stop sale order to dealers on the 2015 Golf and GTI due to the stabilizer link fastener issue, covering about 700 vehicles in dealer inventory; the automaker said no accidents or injuries related to this problem have been reported.

The Fix: Volkswagen will begin notifying owners this month, and dealers will replace the front stabilizer links for free.

What Owners Should Do: Owners can call Volkswagen at 800-822-8987, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's vehicle-safety hotline at 888-327-4236 or go to www.safercar.gov for more info.

Need to Find a Dealer for Service? Go to Cars.com Service & Repair to find your local dealer.

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By Matt Schmitz | July 24, 2014 | Comments (1)

Top 10 Most Overlooked New Cars

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Every year hundreds of new-car models are introduced and enter the research process for millions of car shoppers. The dizzying number of choices sometimes shrouds from the masses what are good cars.

More Top 10s

Here are 10 cars that Cars.com's editors agree are overlooked due to no fault of each vehicle's own substantial merits.

 

1. 2015 Mazda6

The Mazda6 is one of the rare family sedans that is both fun to drive and fuel-efficient; it's rated as high as 28/40/32 mpg city/highway/combined with an automatic transmission and the optional GT Technology Package, which includes regenerative braking and active grille shutters. But even the base automatic gets 38 on the highway. Good cabin quality, intuitive controls, comfortable seating and a striking design also fall into the Mazda's favor.

By David Thomas | July 23, 2014 | Comments (9)

2015 Volkswagen Passat: What's Changed

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Most significant changes: More power, better fuel economy for TDI models

Price change: TBD

On sale: TBD

Which you should buy, 2014 or 2015? 2014 gas, but 2015 diesel

Volkswagen's midsize family sedan receives only a few minor trim and package changes for 2015, with the most notable to the base model S and Wolfsburg Edition trims. An optional Technology Package is available for the two trims and includes a backup camera and a touch-screen stereo system with eight speakers (instead of the current six). Satellite radio also is part of the Technology Package on the S trim; it's already standard on the Wolfsburg.

Related: What Is the Most Affordable Midsize Sedan for 2014?

All TDI diesel models get a new 2.0-liter engine that comes with a 10-horsepower bump to 150 hp as well as increased fuel economy. The Passat TDI now gets an EPA-estimated 44 mpg highway for the manual transmission and 42 mpg highway for the automatic.

By Aaron Bragman | July 22, 2014 | Comments (33)

New Volkswagen SUV to Be Built in U.S., Still Two Years Away

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Today Volkswagen officials announced a new midsize SUV would be built at its Chattanooga, Tenn., plant, where the automaker currently produces the Passat sedan. While officials call the new vehicle a "midsize SUV," it will be based on the CrossBlue concept we first saw at the 2013 Detroit auto show; most would consider the concept a three-row crossover. The company did confirm it would seat seven.

Related: Volkswagen CrossBlue Concept Photo Gallery

Production of the new SUV won’t begin until the end of 2016, so we wouldn't expect to see it on sale until early 2017.

The announcement signals an increased investment by VW in the U.S. of not only an additional $900 million into the facilities but also 2,000 new jobs as well. The company also announced there will be a new research center in Chattanooga to ensure new products meet the needs of U.S. car shoppers.

Cars.com photo by Evan Sears

By David Thomas | July 14, 2014 | Comments (4)

Volkswagen Issues Stop Sale Order for 2015 Golf, GTI

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Volkswagen's redesigned compact hatchback just went on sale, but dealers are being told to hold inventory until a safety defect is addressed. VW issued a stop sale order for the 2015 GTI and Golf in the U.S. because of an issue with the front stabilizer link fasteners. In the affected vehicles they were installed with too little torque and could come loose, increasing the risk of a crash. 

More Safety News

VW spokeswoman Jeannine Ginivan said about 700 vehicles in dealer inventory are affected, and the automaker is in contact with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regarding a recall to cover the vehicles already sold. Ginivan also said that no accidents or injuries have been reported related to this problem. Most of the affected vehicles are GTIs; the new Golf officially goes on sale in the U.S. next month.

Manufacturer image

By Jennifer Geiger | July 10, 2014 | Comments (8)

What Does This Button Do?

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If the illustration on the 2015 Volkswagen GTI's key fob is any indication, the automaker wants us to prepare for an impending alien death-ray attack. VW's counterattack strategy? Honking the horn and flashing the turn signal lights really fast. Man, who would have thought defending Earth would be that easy?

More Curious Buttons

Really, this particular button isn't much of a surprise as much as an interesting way to illustrate the common panic button, which should be used in real emergencies and will honk the horn and flash the exterior lights to alert passersby. Or as we often encounter, scare the crap out of you when your smartphone accidentally hits the button in a pocket.

Cars.com photo by Joe Bruzek

By Joe Bruzek | July 8, 2014 | Comments (18)

Confounded by Car Technology? It's Time to Embrace It

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Today's technology-laden cars, SUVs and even trucks can be challenging for older drivers as well as car buyers who have been out of the market for several years. I'm among the many mature drivers who don't replace vehicles until they've been driven into the ground — my husband and I often go a decade or more between car purchases. Our current vehicles are of 2004 and 2006 vintage, and they lack much of the technology that's rapidly becoming common, often standard, on today's new cars.

Related: AAA Recommends Car Features for Older Drivers

As a Cars.com's copy editor, I'm encouraged to drive the test vehicles we receive at our Chicago offices so that I can experience the things I read about when I edit articles. I enjoy this part of the job, but it's proven to be a challenge due to unfamiliar technology. I often find myself communing with the owner's manual before I can leave the parking garage with one of our test cars.

Here are a few things other potentially overwhelmed car shoppers of any vintage should prepare to encounter:

By Jen Burklow | July 7, 2014 | Comments (11)

2014 Volkswagen Beetle Gains Features With Premium Package

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Volkswagen has announced a new Premium Package for the 2014 Beetle hatchback and convertible. Available in July for 1.8T and TDI diesel trim levels, the Premium Package includes features not previously available for the Beetle, as well as content that had only been offered on the R-Line trim until now.

Volkswagen Beetle Dune Photo Gallery

The package's all-new features include automatic headlights, automatic climate control, the RNS 510 navigation system with satellite radio, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and a cradle for the iPhone 5. Also included are bi-xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights, a sport suspension for 1.8T models, gray mirror caps, R-Line bumpers, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a Fender premium stereo and contrast stitching. Three exterior colors are offered: white, gray and black.

The Beetle 1.8T hatchback with the Premium Package costs $28,175 while the TDI diesel costs $30,175. The 1.8T and TDI convertibles are priced at $31,575 and $33,575, respectively. All prices include an $820 destination charge.

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Manufacturer images

By Mike Hanley | June 27, 2014 | Comments (13)

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