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Looking for a cheap all-wheel drive vehicle? The 2023 Subaru Impreza and 2023 Mazda CX-30 are the year’s two most affordable all-wheel drive models. Here’s how they compare.  

What are the cheapest all-wheel drive vehicles?

Side view of a red 2023 Mazda CX-30 with high contrast and windows in the background.
2023 Mazda CX-30 | Mazda

The Mazda CX-30 is the cheapest SUV you can buy with all-wheel drive, while the 2023 Subaru Impreza is the most affordable all-wheel drive car of the year. 

The pair snagged the top two spots in U.S. News and World Report’s ranking of the cheapest vehicles with all-wheel drive in 2023. Here is the top 10 list. 

  1. Subaru Impreza: $19,795
  2. Mazda CX-30: $22,950
  3. Kia Seltos: $23,340
  4. Hyundai Kona: $23,640
  5. Subaru Crosstrek: $23,645
  6. Chevrolet Trailblazer: $24,100
  7. Toyota Corolla Hybrid: $24,200
  8. Toyota Corolla Cross: $24,360
  9. Subaru Legacy: $24,395
  10. Ford Maverick: $24,815

The cheapest AWD car has more cargo space than the cheapest AWD SUV

The Subaru Impreza Hatchback is one of the cheapest all-wheel drive vehicles with great cargo space.
Subaru Impreza Hatchback | Subaru

The Mazda CX-30 is classified as an SUV and has a higher starting price than the Impreza hatchback. Yet surprisingly, the Impreza has substantially more cargo space. 

It all comes down to dimensions. 

The CX-30 may technically be a crossover SUV, but its sloping roofline and compact size keep its cargo space tight. According to Kelley Blue Book, the CX-30 has 45.2 cubic feet of cargo space with its rear seats folded down.

The Impreza hatchback fares much better, with over 55 cubic feet of total cargo space. From the side, the Subaru looks like a small wagon. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that the Impreza has good cargo capacity.  

The Mazda CX-30 has better handling than the Subaru Impreza 

While both models have excellent all-wheel drive systems, the Mazda CX-30 has a more refined driving experience. 

The affordable all-wheel drive Mazda SUV handles like a vehicle twice its price. It corners flat, provides feedback through the chassis, and offers an excellent steering feel. Plus, its cabin is quiet and comfortable. 

By comparison, the all-wheel drive Impreza feels more like its price point. That doesn’t mean it’s terrible to drive, however. Give the Impreza a throttle jab in the middle of a corner, and you can feel its rear end rotate around to roll through the turn easily. And In keeping with its reputation, the Impreza is excellent in snowy conditions. 

The 2023 Impreza is still available with a manual transmission 

The new 2023 Subaru Impreza is one of the few affordable all-wheel drive vehicles still available with a manual transmission. Meanwhile, the Mazda CX-30 only has a six-speed automatic. 

In past years, you could find manual transmissions all over Subaru’s model lineup. Sadly, those days are over. The Impreza, WRX, and BRZ are the only models with stick shift options. And the Impreza is by far the most affordable of the three. 

Whatsmore, Subaru has announced that the redesigned 2024 Impreza will not have a manual transmission. The 2023 model is the final chance for a stick-shift, all-wheel drive Impreza. 

Do you really need an all-wheel drive car or SUV?

All-wheel drive is not necessary for a quality driving experience, but it can help with traction and handling. 

For one, all-wheel drive can be helpful when road conditions are less than ideal. When power reaches all four wheels, you’re more likely to have traction in snow or rain. As a result, drivers often feel more confident with all-wheel drive. However, tires play a more significant role in weather performance than drivelines. 

All-wheel drive can also improve overall handling. Since power reaches the rear wheels, all-wheel drive vehicles like the Impreza and CX-30 aren’t as likely to experience understeer as front-wheel drive cars and SUVs. 

You don’t have to get an all-wheel drive vehicle for a safe, satisfying driving experience. Still, it’s a nice perk if you enjoy driving or live in an area with rough winters. Both the Mazda CX-30 and Subaru Impreza offer exemplary all-wheel drive performance – and with good value, too.   


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