Way back when, when you wanted a bare-bones car that epitomized “A-to-B” transportation, that’s exactly what you got — aside from some seats, a steering wheel, four tires and an engine, there wasn’t a whole lot more added on top. But my, how times have changed. Even the most affordable cars on the market now come with a slurry of functions that one would have paid top-dollar for back in the day.
“Entry-priced new cars have never been so desirable. As even the mass-appeal, bread-and-butter small cars become increasingly stylish and tech-savvy, their more fun-focused counterparts are getting even cooler,” the Kelley Blue Book explains.
The KBB decided to analyze the vehicles that could be had for below $18,000 on the sticker (though tax and destination may put that up somewhat). While that’s not cheap for many, it’s definitely the lower tier of the automotive price scale, and it’s usually the area inhabited by first-time new car buyers. The KBB then decided which cars it believed were the coolest within that price range, and here are the results.
10. Nissan Versa Note
In terms of fuel efficiency and economic viability, the Nissan Versa Note should be right near the top of the shopping list. The Note is a hatchback variant of the popular Versa sedan, and has become popular with car shoppers due to its high efficiency and low price. Specifically, the price for the base model comes in at an very low $14,000. Of course, it’s not exactly a workhorse that’s built to take on the mountain roads, with a mere 109 horsepower churning out from a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. But for those looking for a cool, efficient car to cruise the city streets in, the Versa Note shouldn’t be overlooked.
9. Chevrolet Sonic
Chevy’s sporty compact car isn’t just quick and efficient, it’s pretty darn cool as well. The Sonic uses a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine to produce 138 horsepower, good enough to tackle any freeway or navigate the trickiest traffic situation. The Sonic has a more aggressive stance than some of its competitors, like the Nissan, giving it an added edge in the ‘coolness’ factor. The Sonic comes with a starting price of under $15,000, along with some turbo engine options. For a cool, sporty and possibly trubo-charged compact car, the Sonic lives up to its name.
8. Ford Fiesta
There’s nothing cooler than a party, and the aptly-named Ford Fiesta really brings the spirit of a party to the streets. The Fiesta, recently re-released into the Ford lineup after a lengthy hiatus, brings the fun to every drive with a 120 horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. And since its true strengths lie in its high level of efficiency, the party can last all day long. The Fiesta’s starting price lands at under $14,000, and with added extras, prices can range up to above $20,000.
7. Dodge Dart
Another model that is seeing new life is the Dodge Dart. Originally seeing production back in the 1960s and 70s, the Dart has hit the scene once again with an aerodynamic exterior, and an economical price point. The Dart houses a four-cylinder, 2.0-liter Flex Fuel engine under the hood, which produces 160 horsepower. Of course, power was never the Dart’s most famous quality. It does have a little quickness to it, giving the name ‘Dart’ a little extra meaning. The Dart starts at a price of roughly $16,500, a bargain by any measure.
6. Fiat 500
Some people are surprised to learn that there are Fiat models available for a considerably low price, and alas, the Fiat 500 fits the bill. The 500, although the most basic of Fiat models, checks in with a starting price of around $16,500. The 500 delivers a lot more in aesthetics than it does in performance, as it only produces 101 horsepower from a 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine. But that European styling is more than enough to win over many people, as it can provide a compact yet comfortable driving experience. Another car that’s perfect for city life, the Fiat 500 may be the most stylish, or dare you say ‘cute’, of all the models available for under $18,000.
5. Volkswagen Jetta
Few cars have become more popular over the past decade or so than the Volkswagen Jetta. The Jetta has become a mainstay in transportation for many American consumers, and they can be found all over cafe parking lots and college campuses across the country. The reason is that the Jetta is economical and reliable, and comes with a low price of around $17,000. To propel itself around, the Jetta uses a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that produces 115 horsepower. It also achieves impressive fuel economy of around 29 miles per gallon combined.
4. Honda Civic Coupe
It’s hard to rival Honda’s storied Civic in terms of popularity, and with a starting price of around $18,000, it’s not dificult to see why. The Civic has a reputation for reliability, and that’s one of the reasons you see so many of them cruising around. The newest models come equipped with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder i-VTEC engine, churning out 143 horsepower. Of course, the base model is only the beginning when it comes to many Honda models, and the variations in which the Civic come in are numerous. But for an inexpensive, reliable vehicle, the Honda Civic Coupe is a top-notch choice.
3. Kia Soul
If the neat hamsters from the commercial didn’t get you, the actual vehicle itself should. The Kia Soul, a boxy little compact, brings style and substance to the road in, what Kia calls, an ‘urban hatchback car’. Offering the spaciousness of a small SUV with the economical advantages of a car, the Soul is a pretty versatile little vehicle. The Soul produces 130 horsepower from a 1.6-liter four-cylinder motor, more than enough to attack the block with. Prices start at just under $15,000, making the Soul bot a cool and inexpensive option.
2. Hyundai Veloster
The Veloster isn’t a household name yet, but with the growing popularity of the Hyundai brand worldwide, it’s destined to become one soon. The Veloster takes the hatchback design and builds off of it, applying a more aerodynamic and slim aesthetic. The Veloster certainly has unique styling, and at a starting price of just under $18,000, it’s fairly economical as well. Under the hood, a 138 horsepower four-cylinder motor gets the job done, and proves that the Veloster is more than just good looks at a great price.
Mazda knows what it takes to be cool, and with the Mazda3 sedan, you get that coolness at a bargain. The Mazda3 takes the top spot on the list of the coolest cars available under $18,000, with a price that actually comes in right under $17,000. The Mazda3 can hit the road behind the power of 155 horses, produced by a SKYACTIV-G , 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Essentially, the Mazda3 slightly out-powers the other vehicles on the list, and gets some extra ‘cool’ points as a result. It’s stylish, efficient, and fun, and when added all up, the Mazda3 rightfully can be called the coolest car on the road at its price point.