10 Cool Cars Under $18,000

DETROIT (TheStreet) -- At a time when automakers are charging more for their products, bargains take on a special appeal.

But vehicles priced under $18,000 continue to be widely available, and now the editors of Kelley Blue Book recently have compiled a list of the top ten coolest new cars in the price range.

"There are great deals to be had on many new cars under $18,000, but only a handful of them really possess that cool, difficult-to-describe 'it' factor," said Jack Nerad, executive editorial director for Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com., in a prepared statement.

The publication listed these criteria: fun-to-drive, fun-to-own, and a Kelley Blue Book fair purchase price of $18,000 or less.

Here are the top ten.

Hyundai Elantra

Ranked as the tenth coolest new car under $18,000 is the 2011 Hyundai Elantra.

"The all-new 2011 Hyundai Elantra is an all-around package of slick design, convenient features and fuel-efficiency," the publication said.

Not only that, but the Elantra gets 40 miles per gallon on the highway.

Nissan Cube

The ninth coolest new car under $18,000 is the 2011 Nissan Cube.

"The Cube's attractiveness is more than skin deep, with features like a sliding and reclining second-row seat, an overabundance of head room and a headliner design that mimics the concentric circles created by a pebble dropped into a pond," said Kelley Blue Book.

As for mileage, the Cube gets 27 city and 31 highway.

Volkswagen Jetta

The 2011 Volkswagen Jetta is the eighth coolest new car under $18,000.

"The latest rendition of VW's Jetta captures much of Germany's quirky-cool spirit while being expressly engineered for an American appetite," said Kelley Blue Book.

The Jetta is a hot car. In May, sales rose 58.5% to 16,671, as Volkswagen mounts its assault on the U.S. market. The car begins at $15,995 with air conditioning, although options can move the total price above $25,000.

Ford Focus

The seventh coolest car under $18,000 is the 2012 Ford ( F) Focus.

"Ford has brought the compact, Euro-sweetened 2012 Focus to America, offering head-turning looks, sporty handling and a healthy standard equipment list in an efficient and affordable package," wrote Kelley Blue Book.

In May, the Focus was the second best-selling small car in U.S. Sales of 22,303 units put it just behind GM's ( GM), Chevrolet Cruze, which did not make this list, despite a $17,102 price tag for a basic model.

"While the kbb.com editors like the Cruze, they thought that the other 10 vehicles on the list had more of the subjective 'cool' factor than the Cruze," said Kelley spokeswoman Joanna Pinkham.

Honda Civic

The 2012 Honda ( HMC) Civic was the sixth coolest car under $18,000.

"Good looking but not flashy, low maintenance and easy-going," said Kelley Blue Book.

No surprise here, since the Honda Civic seems to make every imaginable list of cars that are inexpensive, reliable, fuel efficient and styled to please.

Kia Forte Koup

The 2011 Kia Forte Koup is the fifth coolest car on the list, helped by its status as "an attractive car that others haven't seen."

Kelley Blue Book called it "the sportiest-looking car on our list, plus its standard-equipment list includes a satellite-ready audio system, Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity and USB/iPod integration," which help to make it even cooler.

However, Cars.com recently named "Kia Forte Koup" as one of the ten worst car names. "Kia is asking us to overlook years of schooling and experience to accept their quirky spelling of coupe," the publication said. As writers, we're particularly offended when companies take liberties with the English language in an effort to be cutesy." Kia also makes the Sportage, which sounds like the name of a bra worn during jogging.

Honda Fit

The fourth coolest car under $18,000 is the 2011 Honda Fit.

Kelley Blue Book calls it "Fun, flexible and funky."

The Fit is another car that does well on lists. It was recently the top sub-compact on the J.D. Power car initial car quality list.

Ford Fiesta

Another Ford on this list is the Fiesta, the third coolest car under $18,000.

"Its European looks and well-crafted interior outclass everything else in the category," said Kelley Blue Book.

In May, Fiesta and Focus combined for sales of 29,423 units, up 74% from a year earlier for Ford's best small car month since May 2008.

Mazda3

Kelley Blue Book loves the 2011 Mazda3, the second coolest car under $18,000.

"At some point we're going to have to give the Mazda3 a lifetime achievement award for its unequaled streak of appearances on our annual list of coolest cars," the publication said.

It praised the cars "standout sheet metal, excellent interior and exceptional driving dynamics."

And, No. 1: Fiat 500

At No. 1, we find the 2012 Fiat 500.

It becomes more and more clear that Fiat is not going to blow this chance to make an impression in the U.S., even beyond its brilliant commercials.

"After 28 years out of the U.S. market, Fiat is making huge waves with the new 500 and in our books, it is the leader of the 'Cool Cars' parade," said Kelley Blue Book.

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Ted Reed .

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