Buying Guides

The 5 Best Used Sports Sedans Under $30,000

The family man no longer has to settle

Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief

Who says you have to pay through the nose for an everyday driver that can also get your pulse racing? In a great used sports sedan, you get the best of practically everything. Room for four or five, excellent performance, a comfortable interior, good technology and perhaps even the envy of your neighbors. What a good sports sedan does for you is keep your drive truly practical with a real trunk and seats, as well as scratch that itch to make the commute more fun than it has a right to be. Buying a well-cared for used version saves you a ton of money over new, but be mindful of potential repair costs. Just plan well, and you should be very happy, indeed.

2012 Audi S4

  • PROS: V6 is faster than the V8 mill, luxurious interior digs, subtle exterior confuses cops, fantastic all-wheel drive system keeps you upright in winter.
  • CONS: No more V8 muscle, artificial steering feel, dated infotainment system, can be less noticeable than other German sport steeds.

To call the S4 civilized isn't an insult. In fact, it's one of the best sports sedans that melds the worlds of comfort and real performance so well. The 333 hp and 325 lb-ft supercharged V6 is smooth and powerful, and all of it stays planted with the quattro all-wheel drive system. Step inside, and you'll find yourself awash in one of the best cabins of its time. Standard equipment for the Premium Plus (base) trim level include 18-inch wheels with summer tires, sunroof, automatic xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights and taillights, foglamps, automatic wipers, tri-zone automatic climate control, heated 12-way power sport seats with driver memory, leather and faux-suede upholstery, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat, auto-dimming mirrors, Bluetooth, a dash-mounted MMI electronics controller and a 10-speaker stereo with single-CD player, iPod interface, satellite radio and an auxiliary audio jack.

2013 BMW 335i

  • PROS: Virtually no turbo lag, can't get into as much trouble as an M3, potent in its own right, sexiest 3-Series since the ultra-handsome E46.
  • CONS: Steering is on the numb side, back seat is cramped.

No need to get the mad M3 here when the 335i's twin turbocharged inline-6 is one of sweetest engines in existence with its linear torque band and powerful acceleration. But it's not all about ballistic power. The 335i gets great mileage, almost approaching the 320i's 4-cylinder efficiency. The exterior is way sexier than the 5-Series from the same year, and the interior is luxurious and slick. The 335i comes standard a sport-tuned suspension, 18-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, auto-dimming rearview mirror, ten-way power-adjustable front seats, adaptive and auto-leveling xenon headlights, automatic high beams, sunroof, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat, driver memory functions and a rearview camera., leatherette premium vinyl upholstery, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a trip computer, Bluetooth, the iDrive electronics interface with a 6.5-inch display, and a premium sound system with a CD player, HD radio, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface.

2008 Lexus IS F

  • PROS: Monster power, ready for track days with zero modifications, well-built interior, different from ubiquitous Audis, BMWs and Mercs.
  • CONS: Too hard core for some with its jarring ride and thermonuclear power, angry exterior looks ready to swallow innocent bystanders, no manual transmission option, small back seat is only good for two.

The IS F isn't shy about its robust V8 power. The massive hood bulge and dramatic body work are external displays of the 416 hp and 371 lb-ft of torque under the hood. Lexus's first attempt at going after the Germans might seem like a bit of overkill, but the results are undeniable. It's ready to crush any apex and go toe-to-toe with muscle cars with its serious thrust. The interior is sporty and luxurious at the same time, and the quality can be felt by all occupants. There are sports sedans that are more comfy on the daily commute but few are this thrilling. Standard features include 19-inch alloy wheels with high-performance tires, Brembo brakes, xenon headlights, heated and leather-trimmed 10-way power-adjustable front sport seats, driver and front passenger memory settings, dual-zone automatic climate control, a 13-speaker audio system with six-CD changer and auxiliary audio jack, keyless ignition/entry and a moonroof.

2015 Subaru WRX

  • PROS: Razor sharp handling, crispy sheet metal, improved and roomier interior, excellent all-wheel drive traction.
  • CONS: Interior still has some cheap bits, exterior design still looks a bit boy-racer, too much wind noise at highway speeds.

For the 2015 model year, Subaru totally reworked the WRX, making it more civilized, less polarizing in its styling and losing the venerable hatchback with only the four-door remaining. The increased power from the turbocharged 4-cylinder is ample with 268 horses and a 0-60 time under six seconds. The chassis is stiff for heroic turns, but the suspension can be a bit jarring at times. It's a great all-seasons car that will thrill its driver to no end, and comfort compromises aren't significant enough to dissuade potential buyers. Standard WRX equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels with summer tires, cruise control, full power accessories, automatic climate control, sport front seats, a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, 60/40-split-folding rear seats, a leather-wrapped shift knob and steering wheel, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a 4.3-inch central display, a rearview camera, a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, HD radio and a USB/iPod interface.

2015 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 4Matic

  • PROS: Handles like it's on rails, all-seasons traction, stunning exterior belies its price, high end interior feels rich.
  • CONS: Cramped rear seat accommodations, noisy engine, bumpy ride with the sport suspension, compromised visibility out the back and sides.

Like a shrunken S-Class, the CLA is beautiful to behold. Rarely does a smaller version of a luxury flagship look this good. Though it can get pricey when optioned out, the CLA still looks more expensive than its asking price, both inside and out. The sinewy and sleek exterior is complimented by one of the nicest luxury interiors in the industry. It's a blast to drive, and it handles wonderfully in spite of a bit of a harsh ride with the sport suspension. The CLA 250 4Matic comes standard with all-wheel drive, 17-inch alloy wheels, rain-sensing wipers, keyless ignition, eight-way power driver seats, driver memory settings, leatherette premium vinyl upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, ambient interior lighting and a 60/40-split-folding rear seat. Electronics features include a 7-inch central display, the COMAND interface, mbrace2 telematics/smartphone integration, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, USB and auxiliary audio jacks, and a CD player.

What is a sports sedan?

  • Typically, a four-door car with performance leanings.
  • A front engine, rear-wheel or all-wheel drive layout.
  • Handling, steering and power with some sacrifice in room.
  • Even used versions are still fantastic to drive in both spirited and daily environments.

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