While there aren’t a lot of best new luxury cars under $30,000, there are a few. And those few are definitely worthy of consideration if you’re searching for a luxury make and don’t want to exceed $30K.

Most of the choices are in the small car category, with two exceptions in the midsize ranks. They’re often referred to as upscale or premium cars, since true luxury cars generally cost $40,000 and upwards. Which one of these selections for best new luxury cars under $30,000 makes the most sense for you is purely an individual decision.

  • Audi A3There’s no mistaking an Audi, and the sports car-like performance of the 2010 Audi A3 in a hatchback design is icing on the cake. Even more so is the pricing – base model a little over $27,000 manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP), while top-end model is close to $31,000. What you get for your money: sporty ride, high quality cabin, attractive exterior, and the availability of a fuel-frugal diesel engine. Beyond that, A3 received the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) Top Safety Pick award for 2010. Consumer Guide notes A3’s virtues: “handsome cabin, excellent versatility, and high level of driving enjoyment,” but also says prices can add up quickly.
  • BMW 1-Series With the availability of two engines, precise on-the-road feel, luxurious interior, and BMW’s Ultimate Service maintenance plan, the 2010 BMW 1-Series may be worth a serious look. The downside: exterior styling bothers some reviewers, and the second row is a bit tight. Look at the base model, with an MSRP in the ballpark: about $29,150. New Car Test Drive sums it up this way: “The BMW 1 Series cars have all the style, performance and features a driver could want in a compact package. It’s built around one of the best chassis in the segment, and the only one with rear-wheel drive.”
  • Volkswagen GTIFrom base model MSRP of $23,465 to top-end model’s starting price of $25,120, the 2010 Volkswagen GTI offers plenty of performance, style, luxurious interior, and fuel economy for the class and for the money. In fact, it’s a Car and Driver 2010 10Best Cars winner, with editors saying: “…midrange torque and easy handling allow a GTI to cover twisting blacktop at hair-raising speeds. It steers and stops like a sports car….This latest car is better looking inside and out than was the outgoing model, and we are particularly taken with the interior design and execution.”
  • Volvo S40 Extensive list of safety features and classy styling attract many consumers to the Volvo S40 upscale sedan, whose base MSRP begins at $26,200. But reviewers say the car’s performance keeps it from being higher in the class. Edmunds comments: “The 2010 Volvo S40 is a stylish and comfortable sedan. However, it’s more expensive than the VW Jetta GLI and isn’t as sporty or polished as true European luxury sport sedans.”
  • Volkswagen CCConsumers looking for an upscale midsize car may find it in the 2010 Volkswagen CC, which the automaker describes as a “four-door coupe.” Introduced in 2009, the CC shares much of its architecture with the VW Passat. With a base MSRP of $27,550, CC is more competitive with affordable Chevrolet Malibu and Honda Accord. Motor Trend said of the 2009 model, “Bottom line: A VW that looks this good and matches the driving dynamics of a directly competing Audi earns our respect, especially when it delivers Mercedes CLS looks on a middle-management budget.”
  • Nissan MaximaAnother midsize upscale sedan under $30,000 is the 2010 Nissan Maxima, which the automaker calls a “four-door sports car.” Most reviewers, however, find it less sporty than the hype promises and the interior an interesting mix of quality and cheap. The Maxima does offer clean styling, spacious rear seating, and a fine-tuned suspension that virtually eliminates torque steer. New Car Test Drive called the all-new 2009 Maxima “one of the most fun to drive cars in the class [and] one of the best-engineered front-drive sporty sedans available.”

Two other considerations for best new luxury cars under $30,000 include the compact Volvo C30 and sporty Acura TSX (base model).

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