Best Cars for $25,000
"What's the best car you can buy?"
As car reviewers, we get asked that question all the time, but answering literally with "Rolls-Royce Phantom" isn't really helpful. At least if you're actually trying to buy the best car possible.
If you are, we've created this series identifying the best new cars you can buy at various price points. We didn't just look at MSRP, either. We checked out actual cars on sale at actual dealerships using our new car listing pages here on Autoblog. We also considered a variety of vehicle sizes and types to make sure there's a little something for everyone.
Today we're looking at the best cars and SUVs for $25,000. Although there are certainly others that could be had at this price point, there's a good chance they're more desirable when at a higher (or even lower) price. Stay tuned.
Research the Honda Civic
2018 Honda Civic
Sure, you could get a cheaper Civic, but in this price window, it truly is one of the best cars you can buy. We would happily choose it over many of the midsize sedans that have price tags of similar or lesser value. A big reason for that is that the "compact" Civic is actually pretty darn big now, with a large adult-friendly back seat and a sizeable trunk. Then there's the high-end cabin that gives up little to pricier midsizers and the small turbocharged engine that manages to deliver both best-in-class acceleration and fuel economy. Throw in the now-unique variety offered by its sedan, coupe and hatchback body styles, AND that the superb new Civic Si costs less than $25,000 … well, there's a little something for everyone.
Research the 2018 Honda Civic
2018 Toyota Camry
Not only can you get a Toyota Camry for less than $25,000, you can get one for considerably less than that. An all-new 2018 one, too, and not a stripper version, either. When we got our first drive of the 2018 Camry, we were particularly impressed by the LE trim, which is substantially sharper to drive than the previous version and boasts a classy cabin that gives up little to pricier versions. As we wrote then, "we can't say you'll be missing out on much if you prefer the LE's look and price tag." So, not only can you get a Camry for less than 25 large, you really don't need to spend any more than that.
Research the 2018 Toyota Camry
2018 Kia Sportage
For those hoping to get an SUV for less than $25,000, we would suggest looking beyond the handful of subcompact SUVs (Honda HR-V, Jeep Renegade, etc.) and instead check out the Kia Sportage. At this price point, you'd be looking at an LX trim, likely with the Popular package, which comes absolutely packed with feature content, including a power driver seat, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Even without it, the Sportage doesn't cheap out on standard equipment, and still boasts a large passenger-friendly backseat, an attractive cabin and a surprisingly comfortable ride. It also has a 5-year limited vehicle warranty.
Research the 2018 Kia Sportage
2018 Subaru Crosstrek
Here is another alternative to those tiniest of SUVs. The Subaru Crosstrek starts life as an Impreza hatchback (itself a choice on our best cars for $20,000 list), but adds rugged body cladding, standard roof rails and the same ample ground clearance as Subaru's other crossovers. The result is a funky little car for weekend outdoor adventures that still offers excellent fuel economy (29 mpg combined with the CVT) and comparatively sharp handling when stuck in town during the weekday commute. And, as it's a Subaru, you don't have to pay extra for all-wheel drive. For $25,000, you'd likely be looking at the Premium trim, which adds a leather-wrapped wheel and heated front seats (among other items) to the base trim's standard Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and user-friendly 6.5-inch touchscreen.
Research the 2018 Subaru Crosstrek
Interested in a hybrid? Well, at this price point, you'd probably be looking at a base model Toyota Prius Two. On the other hand, you could consider the new Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid, which will not only deliver more equipment for your money, a higher trim level and a lengthier warranty, but we think it's an overall better car as well. It's more engaging to drive, has a more conventional and functional cabin design, and doesn't look like, well, the ghastly new Prius. Oh, and fuel economy? Well, it actually betters the standard Prius model's fuel economy by 3 mpg, coming in at a sky-high 55 mpg combined. Also, should you live in California, the equally appealing Ioniq Electric should be available for less than $25,000 thanks to tax incentives.
Research the Hyundai
Mazda MX-5 Miata
The Miata is one of the best cars you can buy, period. However, we debated which price category to place it in. At $25,000 or less, the MX-5 Miata would be a base Sport trim level. On the one hand, you really don't need all the comfort and convenience frivolities offered by the upper trim levels. The Mazda Connect infotainment system alone is enough to make you keep things simple (and cheaper). On the other hand, you'd be doing without the Miata Club trim's limited-slip differential, sport-tuned suspension, summer tires and subtle styling enhancements. Those undoubtedly make the Miata better, but is it $4,000 or more better? Doesn't seem like it, as you definitely don't need them to have an absolute blast in a Miata. If you're looking to have the most fun possible for $25,000, this is the answer.