Looking for a car that’s affordable enough for your pocketbook but still manages to be cool? Kelley Blue Book can help you out with that. It’s released its Top 10 Coolest Cars under $18,000. The catch? KBB says they all start under $18,000, but by our calculations, most of them don’t when you add in destination charges. But they’re still great bargains
1. 2017 Mazda3
The Mazda3 takes the number one prize with an actual starting price of $18,720 for manual only. (KBB got so caught up in the cool factor that it fails to take into account the standard destination cost that bumps the price over the line.) If you want automatic, it bumps up to $19,770.
The above starting prices are also for the base Sport trim 4-door model. If you’re shopping the Mazda3 hatchback/5-door you’re going to have to go up into the $20k range. Don’t discount this winner yet though. It gets a fuel rating of 37-highway and 28-city mpg from a SkyActiv 2.0-liter DOHC engine that’s good for 155-hp.
It also achieves an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ score.
2. 2017 Honda Civic
Again, the Civic fails to start below the line. Manual transmission alone starts at $19,615 and adding an extra $800 for automatic pushes it into the $20k range.
Like the Mazda3, it comes standard with a 2.0-liter engine. It’s normally-aspirated with 158-horsepower and a 28-city and 40-highway mpg rating.
Aside from winning the red ribbon of coolness, it takes the cake as KBB’s Over All Best Buy. It’s also both an IIHS Top Safety Pick and an NHTSA Overall 5-Star Safety Rating.
3. 2017 Jeep Renegade
Love it that the Renegade makes number three on the list. KBB calls it both practical and parkable. It’s also a great option for city-dwellers who like to go off-roading now and then.
It starts at $18,090. Note that that is the price for the manual transmission with FWD only. If you want automatic throw on $2,825 covering both the transmission and the requirement of the bigger 2.4-liter engine. Four wheel drive sets you back another
Four wheel drive sets you back another $2K but majorly ups the cool off-roading factor.
4. 2017 Kia Soul
The Soul definitely taking home the funk factor award on this list. It offers iconic styling and a great starting price.
It’s one model that actually starts well below the list’s cut-off line with manual transmission, starting at $16,995 and only adding $1,600 for an automatic. The functional interior is also a plus, too, according to KBB editors.
Considering its SUV height from behind the wheel, fuel economy is a respectable 24-city and 30-highway from the base trim’s 1.6-liter engine with 130-horsepower. That’s not a lot of power, but the Soul is more about image than sportiness. If you do want a bigger boost, the higher trims come with more power with the top Turbo trim getting 201-horses.
5. 2017 Hyundai Veloster
Complete with a suicide door, you don’t get more straight up cool than that.
The Hyundai Veloster starts at $18,935 for manual and adds $1,100 for automatic putting it just above the $20k line. It offers 132-horsepower from a 1.6-liter DOHC engine. It gets a 28-city and 35-highway mpg rating.
The only thing detracting from its cool factor is its proportionally large rear bumper. It also has fallen over the years from taking the number one slot back in 2013. But KBB editors remain fans of its long warranty and low pricing.
6. 2017 Volkswagen Jetta
The most aloof of the cool kids, the Jetta is every inch a Volkswagen. The model makes the list as a mini-me of the more luxurious Passat. The two models are nearly identical at first glance at the exterior and often the average Joe needs to check the badging.
It starts at $18,715 for manual and $19,815 only $1,100 more for automatic transmission. For those base prices, you get a comparably high 150-horsepower from the 1.4-liter turbocharged TSI engine. Fuel economy keeps up with the other similar models on this list with a 28-city and 40-highway mpg rating.
Our note: the simple, now classic, Volkswagen lines on the model means it will age well.
7. 2017 Toyota Corolla iM
The newest model on the list is the Toyota Corolla iM. The former Scion now falls under the Toyota badge. It starts at $19,705 for manual and $20,445 with automatic transmission.
Power comes from a standard 1.8-liter 4-cylinder with 137-horsepower. It’s the same engine on the Corolla sedan. Mileage rates 27-city and 35-highway mpg. Inside goes Corolla with the same cabin including the central media stack.
The other great thing to remember about this model; it comes standard with Toyota’s Safety Sense-C (TSS-C). Not as expensive as the new TSS-P, but still includes Pre-Collision System, Lane Departure Alert, brake assist, and Smart Stop.
8. 2017 Subaru Impreza
Personally, this model should be higher up on the list. It’s Subaru for crying out loud and it also got a total redesign for 2017.
Impreza stickers in at $19,215 for manual transmission, again not below $18k. Automatic tacks on $1,000 more landing you at $21,215.
Subaru does give a pretty big bang for the Impreza buck. It comes standard with Subaru’s Boxter 2.0-liter engine good for 152-horsepower. It’s also the only model on the list to come standard with AWD. It suffers only slightly at the pump for the extra power with a 32-highway and 24-city mpg.
It gets the top IIHS Safety Pick+ rating. The redesign also adds new tech with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capabilities.
9. 2017 Honda Fit
Yay for actually starting under $18k. The Honda Fit starts with a $16,965 with a manual and it’s only $800 more for automatic, meaning it also starts under the mark at $17,765.
KBB thinks it’s pretty snazzy for its big rear seat and plenty of storage options with its hatchback styling and what Honda calls 2nd-Row Magic Seat. The seats do the standard 60/40 split and arrange in the four modes of Utility, Long, Tall, and Refresh. Meaning they fold flat, the front passenger seat folds flat, they fold up, and the passenger seat reclines into a lounge for the rear seat.
So basically, it’s bigger on the inside.
It carries a 1.5-liter engine with 130-horsepower. Not a lot of power, true, but it also gets a 33-city and 40-highway mpg with automatic CVT. That’s where the Fit name fits in.
10. 2017 Chevrolet Sonic
The last and least, in terms of cost. The Chevrolet Sonic is the second model to actually qualify as starting under $18k. It’s the most affordable with its $15,520 sticker for manual and $16,770 for the automatic transmission.
It keeps it fresh with sporty upgrades for 2017.
A standard with a 1.8-liter EcoTec engine good for 138-horsepower and 25-city/33-highway mpg.