The Best Cars Under $35,000


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If you’re in the market for a new car, you’d be happy to know that there are more options available today than at any other point in time. Regardless of the price bracket, there are multiple offerings from a wide range of automakers, right from $20,000 for a basic city runabout to multi-million dollar hypercars, and even novelties that are considered more as toys than actual transportation. Although there are more luxury cars on sale today, the vast majority of buyers are still shopping on a budget.




Luckily, gone are the days of cheap cars lacking quality. At present, even affordable cars offer quite a lot of value. Whether they be the most basic transportation on the market or a premium family SUV, the majority of affordable cars currently on sale provide quite a pleasant driving experience with a good share of comfort and convenience features. And many of them even boast impressive fuel economy numbers.


With such a wide assortment of choices for inexpensive cars, we have assembled what we believe are the best selection of cars for under $35,000 that should be on your list. These vehicles, which range from sub-compact SUVs, mid-size sedans, a pick-up, and even a few enthusiast cars, offer remarkable fuel efficiency, surprising practicality, and spectacular value at their individual price points.


Updated February 12, 2024: With new car prices cooling off, there are still plenty of great options under $35,000, and as such, we’ve updated this article to add 2024 models that are appealing cars for those on a budget. Our update includes some of the best 2024 sedans, and sports cars, and a few SUVs and pickups available, that won’t break the bank.

In order to give you the most up-to-date and accurate information possible, the data used to compile this article was sourced from various manufacturer websites and other authoritative sources, including Edmunds, Car and Driver, and the EPA website. The models below have been ranked based on their starting MSRP going from least to greatest.

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25 2024 Nissan Versa

Starting MSRP: $16,390

2024 Nissan Versa in red posing against industrial scene
Nissan News USA


The Nissan Versa is held in high regard as one of the most affordable cars that still brings value to the table. Barely believable, but the Nissan does just that with their smallest and most fuel-efficient vehicle on sale. Powered by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine and a five-speed manual transmission in its most basic form, optional features, and even higher trim levels are just as reasonably priced as the base trim.

Performance Specifications

Engine

1.6-liter inline-four

Transmission

5-speed manual or CVT automatic

Horsepower

122 HP

Torque

114 LB-FT

Driveline

FWD

Fuel Economy (City/Highway/Combined)

32/40/35

0-60 MPH

9.5 seconds

Top Speed

115 MPH (estimated)


(Data was collected from Nissan, Car and Driver)


Smart-looking, the Nissan Versa is also known as one of the most fuel-efficient gasoline-powered cars on sale today with a combined fuel consumption of 35 MPG. Only the Mitsubishi Mirage does better with a combined 39 MPG. The interior of the Versa is surprisingly well-built and reasonably equipped with standard driver-assist features like automated emergency braking, front and rear, and lane-departure warning. A 7.0-inch infotainment screen is standard and can be optioned with Apple and Android connectivity for not much more.

Pros

  • A lot of value for not much money
  • Unbelievably fuel efficient
  • Doesn’t feel cheap

Cons

  • No major update for 2024
  • Slightly lacks horsepower
  • Apple CarPlay and Android Auto not standard in S-trim

24 2024 Hyundai Venue

Starting MSRP: $19,800

2024 Hyundai Venue with mural in the background
Hyundai


The Hyundai Venue is the smallest SUV in the Korean automaker’s lineup. But even then, Hyundai has equipped its subcompact SUV reasonably well for its sub-20 asking price. Available in three trim levels, packing more features with each one, the small SUV is powered by a thrifty 121 horsepower 1.6-liter, four-cylinder. Although it lacks the punch of higher horsepower engines, it more than makes up for it in fuel efficiency; 31-MPG combined, as estimated by the EPA.

Performance Specifications

Engine

1.6-liter, inline-four

Transmission

CVT automatic

Horsepower

121 HP

Torque

113 LB-FT

Driveline

FWD

Fuel Economy (City/Highway/Combined)

29/33/31

0-60 MPH

8.5 seconds

Top Speed

115 MPH


(Data was collected from Hyundai, Car and Driver)


Quirky good looks and fuel efficiency isn’t the only thing the Venue has going for it, as Hyundai has loaded their baby SUV with a healthy amount of standard driver-assistance features and an 8.0-inch infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. For a small vehicle, the Venue offers quite a spacious cabin, a surprising amount of cargo volume, and also quite a lot of value.

Pros

  • Affordable prices even at higher trims
  • Lots of standard driver-assistance features
  • Spacious for its size

Cons

  • Under-powered for highway driving
  • Not as fuel efficient as classmates
  • No all-wheel drive option

23 2024 Toyota Corolla

Starting MSRP: $22,050

White 2023 Toyota Corolla parked on pavement
Toyota


The 12th generation of Toyota’s bestseller still enjoys much popularity. The brand’s sports car releases in recent years show the brand’s commitment to putting excitement back in its model lineup, and the Corolla is no exception. It comes at a sweet spot between the rally-bred GR Corolla and Corolla Hybrid. Its naturally aspirated 2.0-liter inline-four is also the baseline for the GR Supra’s turbocharged four-cylinder engine. But when practicality is the game, the Corolla takes the top spot from its GR siblings.

Performance Specifications

Engine

2.0-liter, inline-four

Transmission

CVT automatic

Horsepower

169 HP

Torque

151 LB-FT

Driveline

FWD

Fuel Economy (City Highway/Combined)

32/41/35

0-60 MPH

8.3 seconds (hatchback)

Top Speed

114 MPH (governor limited)


(Data was collected from Toyota, Car and Driver)


Compared to its rivals, the Civic and Mazda 3, the Corolla might seem mundane. But with an exhaustive array of trims, from the basic LE-based trims to the more sporty SE trims, the hatchback, and even optional all-wheel drive, there’s bound to be a Corolla for everyone. This popular compact soldiers on head high in an era dominated by SUVs.

Pros

  • Comfortable ride
  • Packed with features
  • Good fuel economy

Cons

  • Tight rear headroom
  • Lacks interior storage spaces
  • Boring driving dynamics

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22 2024 Honda Civic

Starting MSRP: $23,950

Honda Civic Hatchback front quarter tracking
Honda


It would be criminal to not include one of the most popular cars to have graced the planet. A mainstream Honda model that spans several generations, the 2024 Civic falls under the 11th generation of the model. Which, pleasantly, is a lot more understated than the previous generation. Some say it’s boring, some say it’s mature, but we’ll let you be the judge. What the Civic brings is a complete package. Neutral looks (at least to me) hide a well-appointed car that offers something for almost every potential buyer in the segment.

Performance Specifications

Engine

1.5-liter, inline-four, turbocharged

Transmission

CVT automatic

Horsepower

180 HP

Torque

177 LB-FT

Driveline

FWD

Fuel Economy (City/Highway/Combined)

33/42/36

0-60 MPH

7.3 seconds

Top Speed

130 MPH (estimated)


(Data was collected from Honda, Car and Driver)


The Honda Civic is offered in four trims and as a hatchback, with even the highest trim priced just above $30,000. Standard features include a 7.0-inch infotainment screen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and dual-zone climate control. The base LX comes with a 158 horsepower 2.0-liter, whereas the higher trims are powered by a 180 horsepower turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder. The 2024 Civic now also comes with a host of driver-assistance features and a lot of meaningful upgrades that make it one of the best value cars for the price.

Pros

  • Well-designed
  • A lot of cars for the money
  • Uncomplicated interior and features

Cons

  • No more manual transmission option
  • Slight road noise in highway driving

21 2024 Toyota Corolla Cross

Starting MSRP: $23,610

2024 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid
Toyota


Carrying their bestseller’s name over to a compact crossover, Toyota introduced the Corolla Cross in 2022 which finds itself just below the Rav4 and translates the Corolla’s attributes into a more spacious and taller form. The Cross is a reasonably priced, comfortable crossover with decent features and tech, powered by a 169 horsepower 2.0-liter four-pot, partnered with a CVT transmission, and is available with all-wheel drive for all-weather grip.

Performance Specifications

Engine

2.0-liter, inline-four

Transmission

CVT automatic

Horsepower

169 HP

Torque

151 LB-FT

Driveline

FWD or AWD

0-60 MPH

9.2 seconds

Top Speed

120 MPH (estimated)


(Data was collected from Toyota and Car and Driver)


The Corolla Cross is a no-frills CUV just like the Corolla as a sedan. It is undeniably practical and geared for daily duties, but even then, the 2024 Corolla Cross is packed with convenience and driver-assistance features that make up for its mundane driving dynamics. Inside, an 8.0-inch infotainment screen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay is standard, while automated emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and lane-departure warning are also part of the standard package.

Pros

  • Comfortable ride and interior
  • Packed with features for its price
  • Appealing price

Cons

  • Bland driving experience
  • Tight rear legroom
  • Typical Toyota interior

20 2024 Ford Maverick

Starting MSRP: $23,815

2024 Ford Maverick-10


A happily returning market segment is the small truck offerings from Hyundai and Ford. Although the Maverick is built on the unibody platform of the Ford Escape, it doesn’t take away from the capability and utility that Ford’s smallest truck provides potential buyers. Available in three trims, the Maverick is powered by either a 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine driving the front or all wheels, or a 2.5-liter hybrid spinning just the front tires.

Performance Specifications

Engine

2.0-liter, inline-four, turbocharged

Transmission

8-speed automatic

Horsepower

250 HP

Torque

277 LB-FT

Driveline

FWD or AWD

Fuel Economy (City/Highay/Combined)

23/30/26 (FWD) 22/29/25 (AWD)

0-60 MPH

5.9 seconds

Top Speed

110 MPH (governor limited)


(Data was collected from Ford, Car and Driver)


The Maverick is affordable yet it is cleverly designed and is packed with usable features inside and out. An 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and even onboard Wi-Fi is standard on all trims. The inside is designed with multiple storage spaces and is surprisingly pleasant even when most of the touch surfaces are hard plastics.


The bed is just as loaded with features, starting with its bed size that can fit a full four-by-eight plywood. The bed also comes with a 12-volt power outlet, while a 110-volt outlet, bed extender, crossbars and dividers are all on the options list.

Pros

  • Well-thought-out cabin
  • Amazing capability
  • Highly configurable

Cons

  • Bouncy ride
  • Lower tow rating versus Santa Cruz
  • Some options are expensive

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19 2024 Subaru Legacy

Starting MSRP: $24,895

Blue 2024 Subaru Legacy
Subaru


Subaru built its name on rally stages and, more recently, the outdoor lifestyle. This is why the Legacy occupies a weird space in the automaker’s lineup even though it has been a mainstay in the mid-size sedan market for quite some time. But that’s not to undervalue the Impreza’s bigger sibling. Offered with a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated or a turbocharged 2.4-liter boxer engine, and standard all-wheel drive, the Legacy has its own merits.

Performance Specifications

Engine

2.4-liter, flat-four, turbocharged

Transmission

CVT automatic

Horsepower

260 HP

Torque

277 LB-FT

Driveline

AWD

Fuel Economy (City/Highway/Combined)

27/35/30

0-60 MPH

6.1 seconds

Top Speed

140 MPH (estimated)


(Data was collected from Subaru, Car and Driver)


With the turbocharged engine, the Legacy is a comfortable all-rounder that is packaged in understated styling. Inside feels roomy, and its seats provide good support for front and rear passengers. Ample headroom and legroom even for rear passengers add to the comfort that the Legacy interior offers. Equipped with Subaru’s Starlink system within its dual-7.0-inch touchscreens, an 11.6-inch vertical screen comes standard on the higher trims. The Legacy also comes standard with the Subaru EyeSight driver-assistance suite of features.

Pros

  • Spacious and comfy interior
  • All-wheel drive is standard
  • Packed with safety and tech features

Cons

  • Bland driving dynamics
  • 2.0-liter engine is sluggish
  • No major updates for 2024

18 2024 Mazda CX-30

Starting MSRP: $24,995

Red 2024 Mazda CX-30
Mazda


Four years after its introduction, the smallest crossover in Mazda’s broad model lineup has held its position well in its segment. Thanks to its good looks, a wide spectrum of trim levels, and upscale interior that is typical of Mazda products. The base trim starts at just under $25,000 and is already flush with standard features, a 186 horsepower 2.5-liter inline-four and all-wheel drive. Higher trims come with a turbocharged version of the 2.5-liter making 250 horses, adding to its already fun driving characteristics.

Performance Specifications

Engine

2.5-liter inline-four

Transmission

6-speed automatic

Horsepower

191 HP

Torque

186 LB-FT

Driveline

AWD

Fuel Economy (City/Highway/Combined)

26/33/29

0-60 MPH

7.6 seconds

Top Speed

126 MPH (manufacturer claimed)


(Data was collected from Mazda, Car and Driver)


Inside, the CX-30 also takes a page from the books of European cars, just like every other vehicle by Mazda. The interior is taken from the Mazda 3 that it’s based on and is still pleasantly upscale, also generously appointed with standard tech and driver-assistance features. The standard infotainment system is an 8.0-inch touchscreen that comes with Apple and Android connectivity.

Pros

  • Sporty and agile driving dynamics
  • Flush with standard features
  • AWD is standard

Cons

  • Sluggish naturally aspirated engine
  • Slightly lazy transmission
  • Not as spacious as the competition

17 2024 Kia K5

Starting MSRP: $25,590

2024 Kia K5
Kia


Kia has been on a streak of cars that offer great value for the money. And the K5 midsize sedan is no exception. Well-equipped with features, a refined interior and enough power even in base trim for family duties. The K5 is also styled stunningly and is an underrated option for the popular Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. Kia offers the K5 with a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-pot or a 290 horsepower turbocharged 2.5-liter in the top-spec GT.

Performance Specifications

Engine

1.6-liter, inline-four, turbocharged

Transmission

8-speed automatic

Horsepower

180 HP

Torque

195 LB-FT

Driveline

FWD or AWD

Fuel Economy (City/Highway/Combined)

27/37/31

0-60 MPH

7.0 seconds

Top Speed

128 MPH (manufacturer claim)


(Data was collected from Kia, Car and Driver)


The interior of the K5 is simple and contemporary, yet spectacular for what it costs, making use of upscale materials and even ambient lighting. The cabin is also pleasantly free of road noise and perfectly comfortable for long commutes with abundant legroom. Standard tech in the Kia is equally impressive with an 8.0-inch infotainment screen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. All-in-all, the K5 offers great value that is definitely notable within the established competition.

Pros

  • Attractive styling
  • Well-appointed and well-built interior
  • Cabin is genuinely quiet

Cons

  • GT trim overpowers its drive wheels
  • Lacks all-wheel drive for the GT trim
  • Roofline makes rear seat entry tight

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16 2024 Nissan Altima

Starting MSRP: $26,000

White Nissan Altima SR
Nissan


Nissan’s lineup is odd, because on one side, you have the legendary GT-R and retro-futuristic Z, while the other side is occupied by mostly boring commuter cars with forgettable characters. Even so, the Altima is more than what meets the eye, the newer styling being much more appealing than the previous model’s bland aesthetics. Despite lacking significant updates, the 2024 Altima is a great all-rounder with generous standard equipment and a spacious cabin.

Performance Specifications

Engine

2.0-liter inline-four turbocharged

Transmission

CVT automatic

Horsepower

248 HP

Torque

273 LB-FT

Driveline

FWD or AWD

Fuel Economy (City/Highway/Combined)

25/34/29

0-60 MPH

5.9 seconds

Top Speed

130 MPH (manufacturer claim)


(Data was collected from Nissan, Car and Driver)


The base 2.5-liter engine leaves more to be desired, but fortunately, the range-topping VC-Turbo SR trim is priced at just over $35,000 if you really need the extra power. Inside, the Altima is traditional and straightforward. An 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple and Android connectivity is standard and so are the expected driver-assist features and is even available with Nissan’s ProPilot system.

Pros

  • Sips fuel
  • Spacious cabin
  • Top trim is just affordable

Cons

  • Bouncy ride in top trim
  • Quite a lot of blind spots
  • Forgettable driving experience

15 2024 Toyota Camry

Starting MSRP: $26,420

Blue Toyota Camry SE Nightshade
Toyota


Nothing epitomizes dependable, midsize sedans quite like the Toyota Camry. The nameplate debuted back in 1979 and is still going strong 12 generations later. Based on the TNGA-K platform, it shares its chassis with many of Toyota and Lexus’s larger models, including the Toyota Alphard, Crown, Lexus ES, NX, and RX just to name a few. The spacious interior features a 7.0-inch infotainment screen for 2024 with a 9.0- or 10.0-inch as an option. Bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto are also all standard.

Performance Specifications

Engine

2.5-liter, inline-four + electric motor

Transmission

CVT automatic

Horsepower

202 HP

Torque

182 LB-FT

Driveline

FWD

Fuel Economy (City/Highway/Combined)

51/53/52 MPG

0-60 MPH

7.6 seconds

Top Speed

135 (estimated)


(Data was collected from Toyota, Car and Driver)


The engine choice ranges from a sensible and economical, inline-four hybrid to the TRD’s 301 horsepower V-6. In the eco-friendly, hybrid Camry, you get a CVT transmission while the performance-oriented 3.5 V-6 engine is paired with an eight-speed automatic. The Toyota Camry is one of the most affordable ways to get into a reliable midsize sedan that offers quite a lot of value.

Pros

  • Spectacular fuel economy
  • Spacious cabin
  • Lot of features

Cons

  • Plain driving experience
  • Unrefined four-cylinder engine

14 2024 Hyundai Sonata

Starting MSRP: $27,500

A red 2024 Hyundai Sonata
Hyundai


The Hyundai Sonata’s styling has made it stand out from the crowd, and the midsize sedan remains a solid overall choice. For 2024, it is heavily updated with a new front and rear end design and a significantly updated interior. Gone are the swoopy front lines of the previous model and in its place, is a drastically angular and sharp style that reminds me of their N-Vision concept car.

Performance Specifications

Engine

2.5-liter, inline-four

Transmission

8-speed automatic

Horsepower

192 HP

Torque

195 LB-FT

Driveline

FWD or AWD

Fuel Economy (City/Highway/Combined)

25/36/29 MPG

0-60 MPH

7.1 seconds

Top Speed

140 MPH (estimated)


(Data was collected from Hyundai, Car and Driver)


While power still comes from the same engine choices as the previous model, the interior updates to the 2024 Sonata significantly improve daily usability, adding more storage spaces and cupholders. The gear selector is also moved to the steering column. Hyundai goes big when it comes to screens; two 12.3-inch displays sit side-by-side on the redesigned dash. One is the Sonata’s digital gauge, while the second serves as the infotainment screen with wireless Apple and Android connectivity.

Pros

  • New retro-future design
  • Amazing fuel efficiency
  • Spacious interior with generous storage spaces

Cons

  • Slightly lacking in refinement

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13 2024 Honda Accord

Starting MSRP: $27,895

2024 Honda Accord Front Three Quarter


The eleventh-generation Honda Accord matured and cleaned up the busy aesthetics of the previous model. But it will be a disappointment for those wanting a sporty sedan. The Type-R K20 turbo four has been dropped since 2023 leaving the 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder as the only non-hybrid engine option. The sport model is available starting at $32,895 but with a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter paired to an electric motor instead of the 252 horsepower Type-R engine.

Performance Specifications

Engine

1.5-liter, inline-four

Transmission

CVT automatic

Horsepower

192 HP

Torque

192 LB-FT

Driveline

FWD

Fuel Economy (City/Highway/Combined)

29/37/32 MPG

0-60 MPH

7.3 seconds

Top Speed

118 MPH (governor limited)


(Data was collected from Honda, Car and Driver)


The only transmission option for the 2024 Accord is a CVT automatic, an indication that Honda intends the Accord to be the brand’s “green sedan”. Which leaves the Civic as the last remaining performance sedan from Honda. On the plus side, the Accord’s interior is one of the most spacious in the segment and is, of course, just as reliable as any other Honda.

Pros

  • Simple, attractive styling
  • Great fuel efficiency
  • Spacious cabin and trunk

Cons

  • No more performance-oriented engine option
  • No all-wheel drive option

12 2024 Toyota GR86

Starting MSRP: $28,400

Toyota GR86 in racetrack
Toyota


For the thrills accessible at its price, the rear-wheel drive Toyota GR86 offers the unique value proposition of a fun and simple sports car. It’s only real competition in terms of fun is its Subaru twin and the Mazda Miata. Powered by a naturally aspirated 2.4-liter flat-four, the new 86 raises power to 228 and can still be had with a six-speed manual transmission. Toyota’s sports coupe will scoot from 0-60 mph in 5.4 seconds. The GR86 provides extremely sharp handling and accurate steering, components of the driving “feel” that enthusiasts crave.

Performance Specifications

Engine

2.4 liter, flat-four

Transmission

6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic

Horsepower

228 HP

Torque

184 LB-FT

Driveline

RWD

Fuel Economy (City/Highway/Combined)

21/31/25 MPG

0-60 MPH

5.4 seconds

Top Speed

140 MPH (estimated)


(Data was collected from Toyota, Car and Driver)


And if the mood takes you (and it will, in this sprightly performer), its rear is happy to swing out for some playful drifts. Better still, the GR86 seats four (it’s admittedly a tight squeeze at the back), and though it is a seriously fun sports car, it rides well enough to be used as a daily driver. The GR86 already stands out as a fun, rear-wheel drive sports car, but at under $35,000 for a driving experience, only more expensive cars can provide only highlights its value proposition.

Pros

  • Awesome handling and balance
  • Slick manual transmission
  • Bang-for-buck performance

Cons

  • Almost unusable rear seats
  • Tight trunk space

11 2024 Subaru Outback

Starting MSRP: $28,895

Green Subaru Outback
Subaru


There’s no denying that wagons are the most practical vehicles out there. So how could our list not include one of the last remaining wagons on sale? The Japanese wagon features an even more rugged look for 2024 that gives you the confidence to take on any terrain without thinking twice. The Subaru Outback looks tough on the outside, offers healthy ground clearance, a spacious cabin and starts a few thousand dollars under $30,000. The Outback is sold with eight trims, from the outdoor-focused Wilderness to the luxo-cruiser, the Touring XT.

Performance Specifications

Engine

2.5-liter flat-four

Transmission

CVT automatic

Horsepower

182 HP

Torque

176 LB-FT

Driveline

AWD

Fuel Economy (City/Highway/Combined)

26/32/28 MPG

0-60 MPH

8.5 seconds

Top Speed

130 MPH (estimated)


(Data was collected from Subaru, car and Driver)


Half of the Subaru lineup is powered by their 2.5-liter, naturally aspirated flat-four and the other half by the turbocharged 2.4-liter flat-four, and all but one of their vehicles come with all-wheel drive as standard, and most of them come with CVT transmissions. So, if you’re looking for a daily driver that provides an adrenaline boost, look elsewhere. But if what you need is a great all-rounder that can take you and the family on weekend outdoor trips and even tow up to 3,500 pounds, the Subaru Outback is a compelling option against SUVs and Crossovers.

Pros

  • Off-road capability in a wagon
  • Spacious cabin and cargo area
  • Wide range of trim levels

Cons

  • Lackluster base engine
  • Unrefined engine start-stop system
  • Ordinary driving experience

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10 2024 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Starting MSRP: $28,985

Red Mazda MX-5 Miata
Mazda


Including the Mazda MX-5 Miata in this list almost feels like a cheat, but there’s no denying it’s one of the most fun brand-new driver’s cars you can buy for under $30,000. Currently in its fourth-generation, the Mazda Miata is one of the very few sports cars focused on providing an engaging driving experience. Mazda’s roadster adheres to the old-school philosophy of lightness and simplicity, which is why the 2.0-liter SkyActiv engine only has to haul 2,260 pounds.

Performance Specifications

Engine

2.0-liter, inline-four

Transmission

6-speed manual or 6-speed

Horsepower

181 HP

Torque

151 LB-FT

Driveline

RWD

Fuel Economy (City/Highway/Combined)

26/35/30 MPG

0-60 MPH

5.7 seconds

Top Speed

140 MPH (drag limited)


(Data was collected from Mazda, Car and Driver)


Still naturally aspirated and offered with a manual, the ND Miata is the epitome of “being one with the car”. The Miata has always been a soft-top convertible, but the fourth generation introduced a Targa body style, dubbed the RF. It’s sold alongside the traditional soft-top and comes with an electrically-operated hard-top in contrast, but its price goes over $35,000 new.

Pros

  • Balanced, fun to drive chassis
  • Manual transmission is sublime
  • True driver’s car

Cons

  • Cramped cabin
  • Small trunk space
  • Cabin can be loud on long drives

9 2024 Chevrolet Camaro

Starting MSRP: $30,900

A red 2024 Chevrolet Camaro
Chevrolet


This is the kicker right here. For way under $35,000, you can get into one of the most iconic pony cars of all time. The sixth-generation Chevy Camaro is due to be discontinued after 2024 and what comes after is confirmed to involve electrification, which means this year is your last chance to get your hands on one.


For its starting price right around $30,000, you get a 3.6-liter V-6 making 335 horsepower in the base model. Yes, of course, a V-8 is still available in the form of the 6.2-liter found in the previous generation, but the V-8 Camaro crosses past the $35,000 bracket.

Performance Specifications

Engine

3.6-liter V-6

Transmission

6-speed manual or 10-speed automatic

Horsepower

335 HP

Torque

284 LB-FT

Driveline

RWD

Fuel Economy (City/Highway/Combined)

18/29/22 MPG (automatic)

0-60 MPH

5.2 to 5.4 seconds

Top Speed

167 MPH (estimated)


(Data was collected from Chevrolet, Edmunds)


The cheapest V-8 Camaro, the LT1 starts at a little over $40,000 which still doesn’t account for dealer markups. But even on our $35,000 budget, which gets you in the base 1LT with the 335 horsepower V-6 in GM’s athletic Alpha platform, the 2024 Camaro is still quite a lot of car for the money.

Pros

  • Pony car prestige at Miata price
  • Capable chassis
  • Decent power from the V-6 engine

Cons

  • Blind spots galore
  • Tight back seat
  • Lacking trunk space

8 2024 Ford Mustang

Starting MSRP: $30,920

2024 Ford Mustang
Ford


Ford recently debuted the seventh-generation Mustang, and it will likely be the last non-hybrid muscle car that we get from the automaker. The S650 Mustang rides on the previous model’s platform and carries over some engine options. For under $35,000, the new Mustang comes with the 2.3-liter EcoBoost found in the last generation Ford Focus RS. With the Camaro and Challenger, heading towards retirement as we know them, the Mustang stands tall as the last of the traditional pony-cars.

Performance Specifications

Engine

2.3-liter inline-four, turbocharged

Transmission

10-speed automatic

Horsepower

315 HP

Torque

350 LB-FT

Driveline

RWD

Fuel Economy (City/Highway/Combined)

22/33/26 MPG

0-60 MPH

4.9 seconds

Top Speed

145 MPH


(Data was collected from Ford, MotorTrend)


Even in base trim, the S650 Mustang is a great all-rounder and is one of the best two-door coupes you can buy. The 2024 model has become a lot more digitized featuring a digital instrument cluster and a 13.2-inch infotainment screen, which also operates climate control. Interestingly enough though, the base model can no longer be had with a manual.

Pros

  • Big updates from previous model
  • Controlled and comfy ride
  • Powerful base engine

Cons

  • No more manual for base model
  • Options are expensive
  • Interior looks a little cheap

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7 2024 Acura Integra

Starting MSRP: $31,800

2023 Acura Integra front 3/4 exterior shot
Acura


The Acura Integra is one of the biggest disappointments in recent times, but it doesn’t mean it’s a bad car. The Integra nameplate comes with a lot of weight and while it has always been a pampered Civic with a more exciting engine, the new model was not what we expected. Still, if you want the Civic’s reliability and practicality in a more sophisticated package, the Integra is as good as it can get for under $35,000. Unfortunately, the interior is frankly too similar to the much cheaper Civic, even though it’s well put together and features slightly more upscale materials.

Performance Specifications

Engine

1.5-liter, inline-four, turbocharged

Transmission

6-speed manual or CVT automatic

Horsepower

200 HP

Torque

192 LB-FT

Driveline

FWD

Fuel Economy (City/Highway/Combined)

30/37/33 MPG (automatic)

0-60 MPH

7.0 seconds

Top Speed

135 MPH (estimated)


(Data was collected from Acura, Car and Driver)


It would be wise to upgrade from the standard 7.0-inch infotainment screen to the 9.0-inch. They are both responsive and away with the annoying touchpad controller found in other Acura models. Engine-wise, unless you go for the more expensive Type-S, you get the Civic Si’s 1.5-liter turbocharged four-banger, which provides adequate power and great fuel efficiency. Performance kits are available if you want to get closer to the K20C power.

Pros

  • Great handling
  • Available in manual
  • Awesome fuel efficiency

Cons

  • Too similar to the Civic for its price
  • Cabin needs more sound insulation
  • Limited options for non-S trims

6 2024 Volkswagen Golf GTI

Starting MSRP: $31,965

2024 Volkswagen Golf GTI 40th Anniversary Edition
Volkswagen 


Considered one of the staples of the hot hatch segment, the Golf GTI remains one of the best fun all-rounders that can be had at under 35-large. Though the hottest hatch from Volkswagen has been the Golf R for some time now, the GTI is still perfectly capable of serving fun without sacrificing practicality and daily usability. Its turbocharged 2.0-liter four drives the front wheels and is still available with a manual transmission, but if you’d rather have the Golf GTI shift itself on the mundane commute, a seven-speed DSG is also available.

Performance Specifications

Engine

2.0-liiter, inline-four, turbocharged

Transmission

6-speed manual or 7-speed DSG automatic

Horsepower

241 HP

Torque

273 LB-FT

Driveline

FWD

Fuel Economy (City/Highway/Combined)

24/33/27 MPG (automatic)

0-60 MPH

5.7 seconds

Top Speed

128 MPH (governor limited)


(Data was collected from Volkswagen, Car and Driver)


Although the lack of physical buttons is a little inconvenient and the capacitive touchpads can be annoying, they aren’t deal-breakers and can be learned to live with. The interior design stays purposeful and is littered with fun details that were also found in previous generations, like the plaid pattern found on the seat inserts and the golf ball-textured shift knob if you specify yours with a manual transmission. Which honestly, should be how you order yours since it’s bye-bye for 2025.

Pros

  • Daily usability and practicality
  • Punchy engine
  • Fun and dynamic chassis

Cons

  • Overly complicated infotainment screen
  • Lots of plastic interior panels
  • Down on power compared to rivals



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