All-wheel drive has become one of the most desirable features in the automotive landscape, as evidenced both by the continued and growing popularity of truck and SUVs of all sizes, as well as the increased availability in vehicles that normally wouldn’t offer it. And while we wouldn’t consider it necessary in many situations, there’s no denying the ability to get power to more wheels to get going in bad weather or dirt roads and trails is appealing.
It also turns out that you don’t need to buy a big, expensive SUV or pickup to get AWD either. There are many options for less than $30,000 that will let you have that extra traction, and we rounded up the 10 most affordable options on the market. They include sedans, hatchbacks and small SUVs from around the world with a wide array of powertrains. And whether you’re looking for space, efficiency or fun, there’s likely a vehicle here that will be perfect for you.
1. 2024 Subaru Impreza Base
Starting out at barely more than $24,000, the 2024 Subaru Impreza is the cheapest car in America with AWD. It actually used to be even cheaper, too, when it was available as a sedan and with a manual transmission. But the latest version is only available as a hatchback with a CVT. For the cheapest base model, the Impreza comes with a 152-horsepower 2.0-liter flat-four that makes 145 pound-feet of torque and returns 30 mpg combined. While not numerically the lowest output on this list, the Impreza feels like one of the slowest options in practice with its noisy engine. It’s not particularly engaging elsewhere, either. But it does have a quite spacious interior and a comfortable ride. And if you need more power, it is available with a 182-horsepower engine that’s more pleasant and still manages to be under $30,000.
2. 2023 Mazda CX-30 2.5 S
The CX-30 is a favorite of ours for reasons you’d expect from car enthusiasts. It has the most standard horsepower of any vehicle on this list at 191, and a still-healthy 186 pound-feet of torque. It comes from a 2.5-liter four-cylinder paired to an old but unobtrusive six-speed automatic transmission, and fuel economy is solid at 29 mpg combined. That power makes the Mazda spunky everywhere, and it happens to be paired with some of the best handling and steering of any car in this price range. The interior is stylish and feels premium, and it’s an attractive SUV on the outside, too. There are a couple of foibles, though. The CX-30’s infotainment is a bit slow and clunky compared to newer competitors, and the interior is tight on space, particularly for rear passengers. It also rides a bit firm as a trade-off to the sporty handling. A particularly swift turbo CX-30 is available, but it comes up on the mid-$30,000 range.
3. 2023 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport 2.0 S
The third cheapest AWD option in America is also the oldest by far. The Outlander Sport has mainly seen styling and feature refreshes since its original introduction in the U.S. in 2011. The current model features stying changes implemented for the 2020 model year to help it look more like the much newer, though more expensive, Eclipse Cross and Outlander. In part due to its age, the only real advantages the Outlander Sport has are a spacious interior and the low price. Otherwise, it has a cheap, dated interior, lazy handling, subpar ride, and an underwhelming powertrain. The base models get just 148 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque from a 2.0-liter four-cylinder paired with a buzzy CVT. Fuel economy is disappointing for the specs at 26 mpg combined. A 168-horsepower 2.4-liter engine is available on the top GT trim, but it starts at just over $29,000.
4. 2023 Hyundai Kona SE
The Hyundai Kona is about to be replaced by a larger and potentially even better successor, but until then, the current one is still a fun little machine. The standard 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 147-horsepower and 132 pound-feet sounds pretty underwhelming on paper, especially as it now has a CVT, but the Kona’s small size helps it feel more sprightly. The 29 to 30 mpg combined (depending on trim) is solid, too. It’s particularly fun to chuck around in corners and is super easy to maneuver. The ride is pretty comfortable, too, if a touch firm. Unfortunately, the Kona is as small inside as it is outside, with not much cargo space and a tight back seat. There’s a turbo 1.6-liter model as well with a peppy 195 horsepower, but you’re approaching $30,000 to get it with AWD.
5. 2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid LE
The first of only two sedans on this list, and the sole hybrid, is the Toyota Corolla. And the big draw here is the outstanding fuel economy. Depending on trim, it will get from 44 to 48 mpg combined. On the downside, the Corolla Hybrid is the least powerful vehicle on this list with only 138 horsepower and 105 pound-feet of torque from its hybrid 1.8-liter four-cylinder and second rear motor (to give it AWD). As such, it’s pretty sluggish, and it can be quite buzzy with the CVT. But otherwise, it has a very comfortable ride and relatively responsive, if not sporty, handling. It has a pleasant interior with enough space to keep adults comfortable front and rear. For a frugal commuter, the Corolla Hybrid is hard to beat.
6. 2024 Kia Seltos LX
The Seltos is a close cousin of the aforementioned Kona. It has basically the same base powertrain with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder making 146 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque and a CVT. It’s also just as efficient at 29 mpg combined. But for the extra money, you get much more space both for passengers and cargo. Though more spacious, the Seltos isn’t quite as nimble and playful as the little Kona, but it’s still a well-rounded car in terms of ride and handling. For about $30,000, you can get one with the same turbo engine as the Kona with the same output.
7. 2024 Subaru Legacy Base
Almost everything on this list is a compact or subcompact vehicle of some sort. But if you’re on a budget and in need of more space, you’ll want to check out the Subaru Legacy. This is a very roomy family sedan, and it costs thousands less than the next cheapest AWD-equipped sedan in the same class. It’s a confident and capable handler, even if it’s not particularly exciting, and it’s quite comfortable. The base 2.5-liter four-cylinder makes 182 horsepower and 176 pound-feet of torque are underwhelming in the sizable sedan, but it gets the job done, and 30 mpg combined is pretty good. A 260-horsepower turbo engine is available that makes the Legacy pretty sporty, but it gets into the mid-$30,000 zone.
8. 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross L
If you like the idea of a small, cheap, AWD Toyota, but need a hatchback, you’ll need to check out the Corolla Cross. It comes with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder making 169 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque and is paired with a CVT. It’s a bit coarse, but has adequate acceleration and returns a solid 30 mpg combined. Like the Corolla Hybrid, it has a good blend of comfort and responsiveness in regards to ride and handling. The interior isn’t too flashy, but is plenty usable, and the Cross is quite a bit more accommodating for passengers and cargo than the sedan or hatchback Corollas. A hybrid version is going on sale soon with 196 horsepower and 42 mpg combined, but it’s just shy of $30,000.
9. 2024 Subaru Crosstrek Base
And for the third time in this list, we present a Subaru. It’s almost the same Subaru as what started this list, as the 2024 Crosstrek is basically the same as the Impreza. It has the same engine, transmission, and more or less the same body and interior. The main difference is that the Crosstrek is more off-road capable with 8.7 inches of ground clearance and an off-road drive mode called X-Mode. It has a more rugged appearance as well with chunky plastic fender flares and different interior colors. It still feels sluggish with that 2.0-liter engine (it’s slightly less efficient than Impreza at 29 mpg, too), and it’s not exactly exciting to drive, but it’s far and away the most capable machine on this list. And if you have a bigger budget, the more powerful 2.5-liter engine is available as an option, as well as an even more off-road-ready Wilderness trim.
10. 2024 Chevrolet Trailblazer LS
Finally, we come to the only American entry in the list, the Chevy Trailblazer. The Trailblazer has two powertrain options, but AWD means you get the higher-output version: a turbocharged 1.3-liter three-cylinder making 155 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque. It also gets the nine-speed automatic instead of the CVT that the front-drive version gets. It’s not particularly quick or fun, but the Trailblazer is very quiet, comfortable and generally refined compared to many other subcompacts. It also has a roomy interior, which has also been given a much needed makeover for the new model year. Fuel economy is a bit disappointing at 27 mpg combined.
And there you have it, the 10 cheapest vehicles with AWD on the market. By our count, we’ve got two sedans, a hatchback and seven different SUVs to pick from. But if none of them quite suit your needs, be sure to keep looking around. There are in fact quite a few more cars and SUVs that offer AWD that still slide under the $30,000. Feel free to try out some of our car shopping tools to check them out, too, perhaps using our Car Finder.