Top 10 most powerful four-doors under $30,000


We all want to get the most bang for our buck, and for enthusiasts that means the most horsepower within our budget. While muscle cars – in V-8 and V-6 form – seem to fit the bill for cheap power, sometimes reality requires us to have four doors and decent cargo room. With the median new car cost hovering around the $30,000 mark, we put this list together of four-door cars with the most horsepower with a base price below $30,000. One segment dominated the list, which may surprise you.


Subaru WRX
Price: $26,565
Output: 265 hp/244 lb-ft
0-60: 4.5
EPA city/highway: 19/25

The Subaru WRX is the only sport compact to make the cut, coming in tenth place and barely beating out the Mazdaspeed3 by just two horsepower (though the ‘speed3 makes 36 lb-ft more torque). As the only car on this list with all-wheel-drive as standard, the WRX offers Subaru’s surefootedness and wet weather stability. In our last turbocharged sport compact comparison, the turbocharged 2.5-liter flat-four propelled the 2010 WRX to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds, walking away from the other three competitors – including the Mazdaspeed3 – to take the first-place trophy in acceleration tests. The WRX is the only car to offer a choice of bodystyles on our list, with the sedan and hatchback having the same base price.


Toyota Camry SE V6
Price: $29,515
Output: 268 hp/248 lb-ft
0-60: 5.8
EPA city/highway: 21/30

The Toyota Camry is the top-selling midsize sedan in the U.S., with 373,479 sold thus far in 2012, pulling ahead of the number-two Honda Accord by more than 70,000 units. Buyers seeking more power from their family car can opt for the sportier SE trim level with a potent 268-hp 3.5-liter V-6, which lands the midsizer in ninth place on the list. In our comparison, the 2012 Camry SE V6 hit 60 mph in 5.8 seconds, just a tenth of a second shy of the first-place 280-hp Volkswagen Passat VR6 SEL, but more than a full second ahead of the more powerful Hyundai Sonata SE 2.0T, making the popular model a solid – and quick – choice for those faithful to the Toyota brand.


Nissan Altima 3.5 S
Price: $25,700
Output: 270 hp/251 lb-ft
0-60: 5.9
EPA city/highway: 22/31

The thoroughly redesigned 2013 Nissan Altima offers a potent 270 hp and 251 lb-ft of torque from its 3.5-liter V-6, good enough to secure it the number-eight spot. Power is sent to the front wheels via a CVT. During our 2013 Car of the Year testing, we said the Altima drove just like the car it’s supposed to be: a midsize sedan. About the six-cylinder model, we concluded, “…though the 270-hp V-6 model remains the enthusiast’s choice for those forced to consider a basic midsize sedan, it’s no sport sedan.”


Kia Optima SX
Price: $27,575
Output: 274 hp/269 lb-ft
0-60: 7.2
EPA city/highway: 22/34

While the Kia Optima SX uses the same drivetrain as its Hyundai Sonata SE platform-mate, we gave it a seventh-place finish due to a base price nearly $2000 higher and an acceleration time that’s off a couple of ticks. We enjoyed our long-term Optima SX, acknowledging the automaker’s efforts to bring the brand up to the same level as its competition. In our 2011 Kia Optima SX verdict, we concluded by saying, “It’s a complete package, offering styling, performance, ease of use, and spacious interior with quality materials and build quality.”


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