Buying Guides

5 Best 2021 Vehicles Under $25,000

Far from basic transportation

Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief

In 2021, the average price of a new car has climbed to $40,857 as of January. That has probably even changed since shortages of certain vehicles due to the computer chip crisis driving up the price of sticker or above. So, what's a shopper to do? Well, you don't have to spend $40k+ to get a great vehicle. Here are five of our favorites for a base MSRP of less than $25,000.

These five vehicles look, feel, and drive better than their asking price, and we wouldn't hesitate to put any one of these in our own garages. They're attractive, safe, practical, and rife with features.

2021 Hyundai Elantra


for the style conscious

  • PROS: Truly unique and attractive design, spacious interior, excellent infotainment system, a solid buy even in base trim, great safety scores, sporty N-Line trim still comes in under $25k.
  • CONS: Some cheap interior materials, base engine lacks gusto.

The newly redesigned Elantra blows the affordable sedan segment out of the water in terms of style. In fact, nothing can hold a candle to its angular body and its aggressive front and rear fascias. Frankly, it looks way more expensive than its $19,650 base MSRP would indicate. Upgrade to the sportier N-Line, and the price is only $24,100, and you get some great standard features like a wireless charging pad, heated front seats, power sunroof, and Hyundai's convenient Digital Key. Did we also happen to mention it's a Top Safety Pick by the IIHS?

2021 Honda Civic Sedan

  • PROS: Steers and brakes like a sports car, sedan styling is less polarizing than the hatchback, roomy back seat, Top Safety Pick from the IIHS.
  • CONS: Infotainment system lags behind the rest of the set here, interior styling could be improved.

The new Civic is on its way for 2022, but you can still get a 2021 that's great to drive. In fact, in terms of driving dynamics, it's almost as good as the Mazda3 on this list (but the Mazda looks better). The Civic's steering is taut and precise, and the sedan looks more mature than its hatchback sibling. In mid-pack EX trim, the Civic still comes in under $25k at $24,400 and comes with features such as a power moonroof, Honda LaneWatch, the full suite of Honda Sensing safety features like Forward Collision Warning and Collision Mitigation Braking, as well as dual zone automatic climate control, and the more powerful 174 horsepower engine.

2021 Mazda CX-30

  • PROS: Body sculpting is some of the best in the crossover segment, interior styling looks and feels premium, new 2.5-liter turbo engine is potent, crisp infotainment look and control.
  • CONS: A little tight in row two, more powerful engine pushes the price up.

We dare you to find a sexier affordable crossover than the CX-30. Not only is it so good that Mazda is killing off the CX-3 crossover, the CX-30 looks at least a couple of rungs up on the price scale, despite its sub-$25k price. The biggest news is the more powerful 2.5-liter turbo mill that's also found in the Mazda3 hatch and sedan, now available in the CX-30, but that mill is only found on higher trims. Even the 2.5-liter Select trim is worth your dollars because it's just so good to drive. Smooth, precise, and very refined, the CX-30 is a pleasure to helm. It's also beautiful to look at with its sculpted doors and stylish front and rear. It comes standard with LED headlights, a pre-collision safety system, an 8-speaker sound system, hands-free entry, and leatherette seating. AWD is available for a smidge more, and it's worth it.

2021 Hyundai Kona


for City dwellers

  • PROS: A real blast to drive, razor-sharp steering, improved exterior design is less busy than before, available AWD.
  • CONS: Tight back seat, undesirable pushbutton gearshift.

The refreshed Kona looks better than before, and it also gets a ton of improvements inside and out. The styling is much improved along with a slimmer and simpler front end. Shockingly, it's also wider and longer than before. The $22,750 base MSRP for the mid-pack SEL is the one we'd pick. Inside, the Kona gets a new optional 10.25-inch digital cluster and 10.25-inch navigation center stack display, and available wireless charging. Standard features include automatic headlights, heated exterior mirrors with turn signals, a dual-level cargo floor, and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, too.

2021 Mazda Mazda3 Hatchback


for Grown up enthusiasts

  • Looks a class above the competition bordering on exotic, hot hatch performance with the 2.5-liter turbo engine, beautifully designed interior, easy infotainment system, available all-wheel drive, excellent safety scores.PROS: Enter car pros here
  • CONS: Cramped leg and headroom in the back, no more manual transmission.

We confess this is our favorite hatchback and one of our favorite vehicles made today, regardless of the segment. At $22,650 base MSRP, it's hard to believe something this good costs so little. Even in base 2.5 S trim, it's awesome to behold. The sinewy lines, the near-flawless interior, and the top-notch handling bring a smile to the enthusiast. It might be a tad tight in the back seat, but this isn't a family car. Standard features include Blind Spot and Lane Departure Warning, Accident Avoidance, Emergency Braking Assist, leather steering wheel, LED headlights, dual-zone climate control, pushbutton start, and tire pressure monitoring. The 186 hp base engine is more powerful than the sedan's 155-hp 2.0-liter version.

What makes a great affordable vehicle?

  • A solid set of standard features that keep the price down.
  • Practical space and easy infotainment.
  • Above average safety scores.
  • Great reliability ratings.
  • Good styling that doesn't look bargain basement.