Need a New, Truly Budget-Friendly Car? Chevy Has You Covered!

Sub-$30K Chevys 20 photos
Photo: Chevrolet / autoevolution edit
2024 Chevrolet Malibu2024 Chevrolet Malibu2024 Chevrolet Malibu2024 Chevrolet Malibu2024 Chevrolet Malibu2024 Chevrolet Malibu2024 Chevrolet Trailblazer2024 Chevrolet Trailblazer2024 Chevrolet Trailblazer2024 Chevrolet Trailblazer2024 Chevrolet Trailblazer2024 Chevrolet Trailblazer2024 Chevrolet Trax2024 Chevrolet Trax2024 Chevrolet Trax2024 Chevrolet Trax2024 Chevrolet Trax2024 Chevrolet TraxChevrolet Logo
There has been quite a lot of chit-chatter lately about how expensive cars have gotten. But you don't need a Tesla Model Y or a Ford Mustang Mach-E yet. Automakers like Chevrolet still have some rejuvenated models in their portfolio that cost less than $30,000 even when fully loaded. Let's explore a couple of them. Stay with us because one could end up in your garage!
America loves cars. Not necessarily because it wants to, but due to public transportation being a mess in most parts of the country. Moreover, there's somewhat of a consensus that vehicles equal freedom. As such, not only do you need wheels, but you might also want to own some nice ones.

We're lucky to have a strong car culture embedded into the national conscience and economy, where known brands compete to take our money and hearts. The last two years have been kind of hectic and brought us absurdly high prices and long waiting times for new model-year units, but that's slowly ending.

Tesla set the tone by dropping prices and making last year's buyers become this year's remorseful customers. Ford did the same but only discounted 50% of all the previous price hikes for the F-150 Lightning.

But if you're not interested in pricy all-electric vehicles that may force you into a lifestyle change and unnecessarily high monthly payments, then get ready to smile. There are a couple of great gas-powered options out there! You should allow yourself to explore them because there's still quite some time left before driving a fossil fuel-powered car becomes seriously frowned upon.

Chevrolet Logo
Photo: Chevrolet
So, let's look at what Chevrolet is tempting us with.

The 2024 Chevrolet Malibu

First off, a sedan! Everyone and their dog seem to want a crossover or SUV today, but a simple four-door car would suffice for many Americans. So, if you're into being practical and spending little on a brand-new vehicle or insurance, the front-wheel-drive Malibu might soon join your garage. Just keep an open mind about it.

At the time of writing, the car is available in four trims – LS, RS, 1LT, and 2LT. The LS version has a pre-tax starting price of $26,195, while the Malibu RS costs $27,095. The 1LT will set you back $29,195, and we're ignoring the 2LT because the MSRP goes above the $30,000 limit. All the prices include the destination fee.

Our favorite is the Malibu RS because it comes with dual outlet exhaust tips, standard 18-inch wheels, and a couple of cosmetic enhancements that make it more attractive. But if you're willing to spend a little more, the 1LT allows you to add a dual-pane power sunroof.

2024 Chevrolet Malibu
Photo: Chevrolet
Mechanically, all the Malibu trims are the same. The vehicle hides a modest 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine under the hood that's mated to a Continuous Variable Transmission (CVT) gearbox. Some people claim that CVT transmission and spirited driving cannot coexist. But if we're being honest with ourselves, nobody's buying a new 160-hp car with a bumper-to-bumper limited warranty to drive it like they stole it.

As such, the CVT will work just fine, and you most likely won't even notice that it isn't a geared transmission. Just make sure you're taking the Malibu in for maintenance occasionally. Treat it as your commuting friend; it might not disappoint you.

The 2024 Chevrolet Trailblazer

But let's assume that you prefer a higher driving position and improved ground clearance. The brand-new Trailblazer might be the perfect fit for your driveway.

The subcompact crossover SUV competes with the alleged Ferrari Purosangue muse – the Mazda CX-30. It must also face the Subaru Crosstrek, the Kia Seltos, the Jeep Renegade, and the Hyundai Kona. But out of the five direct rivals, only the CX-30 and the Kona are priced somewhat similarly to the cheapest Trailblazer trim - the $24,395 front-wheel-drive LS.

Four trims are available for both front-wheel-drive (FWD) and all-wheel drive (AWD) 2024 Trailblazer. They include the destination fee and are as follows:
  • LS FWD - $24,395 for the 1.2-liter engine or $24,790 for the 1.3-liter powerplant;
  • LS AWD - $26,395;
  • LT FWD - $25,595 for the 1.2-liter engine or $25,990 for the 1.3-liter powerplant;
  • LT AWD - $27,595;
  • Activ FWD - $28,395 for the 1.3-liter powerplant;
  • Activ AWD - $29,995;
  • RS FWD - $28,395 for the 1.3-liter powerplant;
  • RS AWD - $29,995.

The front-wheel-drive Trailblazer models boast a CVT transmission, while the all-wheel-drive units have a nine-speed automatic gearbox and can be ordered only with the 1.3-liter three-cylinder engine.

2024 Chevrolet Trailblazer
Photo: Chevrolet
Considering the Trailblazer is just a propped-up hatchback made to look a bit more rugged, we chose the LT FWD with the 1.3-liter powerplant as our favorite. It has roof rails and a larger center screen for just $1,595 over the LS FWD.

But more importantly, the engine delivers all the torque 900 rpm sooner than the 1.2-liter engine (1,600 rpm instead of 2,500 rpm). That's what you want from a daily driver.

This vehicle is mainly aimed at city dwellers. Unless you live in a state where winters are harsh, you don't need all-wheel drive. Moreover, you don't want to strain such a tiny powertrain too much.

The 1.3-liter mated to the CVT and sending power to the front wheels only may not sound like the dream drivetrain for many gearheads, but affordable cars that are part of the popular crossover category can't boast V6s or V8s. Plus, let's remember that some of these units were made to lower the fleet emissions of manufacturers. Having a petite engine under the hood just makes sense at this price point.

But let's move on to possibly the best budget-friendly Chevy in production today.

The 2024 Chevrolet Trax

Last but not in any way least, Chevrolet's most appealing offer in the under-$30,000 category right now is undoubtedly the refreshed Trax. It looks good, it's spacious enough, has excellent ground clearance for a grocery getter and family hauler, and doesn't break the bank when you want to add it to your name.

2024 Chevrolet Trax
Photo: Chevrolet
The 137-hp three-cylinder turbocharged engine is mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox, and power is sent only to the front wheels regardless of the chosen trim. Five levels of equipment are available for the Trax, and the most expensive one has an MSRP of under $25,000! These are:
  • LS - $21,495;
  • 1RS - $23,195;
  • LT - $23,395;
  • 2RS - $24,995;
  • Activ - $24,995.

Before you call the dealer to ask about one, remember that the MSRP excludes tax, title, license, dealer fees, and optional equipment.

Our favorite version is the middle option. The LT means the Trax gets 17-inch gray painted machined aluminum wheels, body-color mirror caps, power side mirrors, roof-mounted side rails, stylish daytime-running lights (DRLs), more painted exterior bits, eight-inch driver's display, 11-inch infotainment screen, two more speakers for the audio system, cargo cover, and two modern key fobs (but keyless open is an option).

And with an EPA-rated fuel economy of 30 miles per gallon, the Trax really sides with you and your family as it won't ask you to spend too much on gas.

It's a great vehicle worthy of anyone's consideration unless you own a house with solar panels and can take advantage of the federal EV tax credit and other incentives. Then, spending money on gas might work against your financial goals. But, good news, the Bolt is being resurrected!

However, do keep in mind that sub-$30k EVs often lack the ability to go far on a single charge. Given the current state of fast-charging networks that aren't Superchargers, it would also be a good idea to avoid road-tripping with a zero-tailpipe emission car.

Lastly, it would be a shame not to mention another member of the General Motors family that makes some of the most affordable yet surprisingly stylish vehicles, and that's Buick. The brand-new Envista looks like Honda and Hyundai had a baby crossover and decided to naturalize it in the US. It's a surprising but much-welcomed appearance stateside, considering it has a starting price of $22,400!
If you liked the article, please follow us:  Google News icon Google News Youtube Instagram
About the author: Florin Amariei
Florin Amariei profile photo

Car shows on TV and his father's Fiat Tempra may have been Florin's early influences, but nowadays he favors different things, like the power of an F-150 Raptor. He'll never be able to ignore the shape of a Ferrari though, especially a yellow one.
Full profile


Would you like AUTOEVOLUTION to send you notifications?

You will only receive our top stories