Daily Driver? — Five Best New Cars Under $30,000 for the Commuter


If you are a car guy like me, then you probably don’t mind doing a lot of driving.  Driving is a sport, and there are many forms of it.  Commuting to work isn’t a sport.  It’s a headache.  Traffic is a nightmare.  Driving to meet clients and responding to sales calls in your own car can kill your wallet on gas and will make your odometer spike.  Living in Boston offers many driving challenges whether its navigating a storm or dodging potholes downtown.  Here are five new cars, in no particular order, that are under $30,000 that are cool, fun to drive, good on gas, and would be great for a New Englander.

2013 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Sport Limited 5 Door — $25,965

2013 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Sport Limited 5 Door

2013 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Sport Limited 5 Door

Subarus are known for their fantastic all wheel drive systems.  They will plow through the snow in the winter and hug corners in the summer.  The Impreza has been around since 1992, and has been a popular seller in the Northeast United States.  Buying one of these can be a process because there are so many models and options to pick from.  We are going to focus on the 2.0i Sport Limited 5 Door

I decided to choose the 5 door over the 4 door simply because it gives you more room.  You get a nice hatchback instead of a trunk, and you can certainly store a lot of stuff once you fold down the rear seats.  Under the hood is a 4-cylinder boxer engine that produces 148 horsepower.  This will get you around 25 miles per gallon in the city, and 33 on the highway.  An extra $260.00 will get you a 110 volt power outlet, which is money well spent.  This is great for plugging in your laptop or any other device you take along with you on the road.  Another nice option is the combination moon roof and navigation system, and this will set you back $2200.00.  We haven’t reached the point yet where navigation systems are standard on all new cars, but this one in the Impreza is great.  It is voice activated, alerts you when you receive a text message, and notifies you on the current traffic conditions.

All in all this is a great car to get around the city in, or to take on a little business trip.  No matter the season or weather, the Impreza will be sure to get you there.

2014 Jeep Patriot Latitude 4×4 — $24,480

2014 Jeep Patriot Latitude 4x4

2014 Jeep Patriot Latitude 4×4

The Patriot is an awesome little SUV that came to the market back in 2007.  It is actually the cheapest brand new SUV that you can buy.  Starting at only $15,995, the Patriot is a great choice for someone who is always on the go, does a lot of driving, and doesn’t want to worry about dumping his or her paycheck into the gas tank.

We chose the Latitude, which is the mid-model of the Patriot lineup.  Powered by an inline 4 with 172 horsepower, the Patriot offers acceptable gas mileage for an SUV.  You can expect to get 21 miles per gallon in the city, and 27 on the highway.  Front wheel drive is standard, but there is nothing more useless than owning a front wheel drive Jeep in New England.  Spend the extra dough and get the 4×4.  The All Weather Capability Group is another option that is something to consider.  For an extra $395 you get daytime running lights, an engine block heater, all season floor mats, all terrain tires, and tow hooks.  I think navigation is a must these days and will try to include it with every vehicle in this write up.  For an additional $695 you can get the UCONNECT system, which is combination navigation and entertainment system.  It offers navigation, a 40-gigabyte hard drive, voice command, and a USB port.  The Patriot is a great choice if you want classic Jeep styling without the classic Jeep gas mileage.

2013 Nissan Juke SL — $27,675

2013 Nissan Juke SL

2013 Nissan Juke SL

This crossover looks like a mix of a praying mantis and a frog.  The Juke was introduced in 2010 for the 2011 model year and has been quite a hit.  Its style sure is different, and there is nothing else like it on the road.  The Juke offers sports car like performance while giving you the room and comfort of a small SUV.  Check out the tail lights inspired by its big brother, the 370Z.

The Juke starts at $18,990 but can get pricy once you start to add the bells and whistles.  The SL comes standard with a navigation system, and that is reflected on its price tag compared to some of the lower end versions.  It is powered by a turbo 4 cylinder that has an impressive 188 horsepower.  Be sure to hit “Sport” mode when you feel like pushing this thing to its limits because you can notice that it has quicker shifting and better handling.  Front wheel drive is standard like the Jeep Patriot, but when we were building the Juke online we switched over to all wheel drive for an additional $1700.00.  With 27 miles per gallon in the city and 32 on the highway, the Juke will certainly be easy on your wallet while still allowing you to have some fun while driving it.

2013 Dodge Dart Aero — $20,030

2013 Dodge Dart Aero

2013 Dodge Dart Aero

The Dodge Dart is finally back after taking a 36-year nap.  This isn’t anything like what it used to be back in the 60s, but rather a combination of its current big brother Charger, and forefather Neon from the 90s.  The Dart is the cheapest car that is being featured in this segment, and you can get a bare bones one brand new for $15,995.  Ours came out to a little over $20,000 when we built it online and added some options.

We chose to go with the Aero model which features an optional 1.4 liter turbocharged 4 cylinder that has 160 horsepower.  Gas mileage is impressive with 28 miles per gallon in the city and 41 on the highway.  The Dart is only offered in front wheel drive, which may scare away some buyers that are interested in something that can get them through a harsh winter, but there are rumors of a future all wheel drive model.  This car has awesome styling cues taken from the bigger, badder, and ballsier Charger.  Kind of like a resurrected Neon that morphed with a new Charger, the Dart is sure to please between its stylish looks and nimble handling.  An additional $795.00 will get you the same UCONNECT system that we equipped the Jeep Patriot with.  Go with the Dart if you are looking for something that will take you to your office that is 30 miles away.  Can’t complain with gas mileage like that.

2013 Mini Cooper S Countryman ALL4 — $30,595

2013 Mini Cooper S Countryman ALL4

2013 Mini Cooper S Countryman ALL4

OK, I failed at making sure all of the cars featured here were under $30,000. 

This Mini came in just over $30k, but who knows what a little bullshitting with the sales guy will get you.  The Countryman is the four-door version of the Mini, and it is a great alternative if you want some added room.  With a base price of $27,300, it is our most expensive car that we are writing about.  The only option we added, while trying to keep it in our price limit, was the Technology Package for a whopping $2,500.  This gets you a keyless entry system, Harman/Kardon audio system, Bluetooth connectivity, a navigation system, and an iPhone synch app.  We chose the ALL4 version of the Countryman because it offers all wheel drive.  You are sure to get around town quick with the turbocharged inline four that gives a generous 181-horse power.  Fuel consumption is very reasonable at 25 miles per gallon in the city and 31 on the highway.  I suggest that you go on miniusa.com and build your own version of the Countryman.  The possibilities are endless, and you can get really creative with coloring, striping, etc.  Enjoy the sportyness of this Cooper while appreciating its roomy cabin.