If you want to be the coolest driver around, and you want to enjoy the driving experience, while also not spending an arm and a leg, you might want to check out the list of 10 Coolest Cars Under $18,000 from Kelley Blue Book.

The criteria for vehicle consideration on this annual listing is simple: fun-to-drive and fun-to-own. That’s what makes each of these cool. But they also are available for less than $18,000, making them affordable, fun-to-drive and fun-to-own cool vehicles.

Here’s the list, along with our comments on each. Frankly, we’re very impressed with each of the top 10.

2016 Mazda Mazda3

2016 Mazda Mazda3 – In a press release announcing this year’s 10 coolest cars under $18,000, KBB highlights the fact that the Mazda3 has been on the list for 13 years. It’s also snagged the top spot for the last three years in a row. Mazda definitely has the whole zoom-zoom thing going for it with the 2016 Mazda3. The spirited driving is courtesy of the 155-horsepower 2.0-liter SKYACTIV-G four-cylinder engine. Fuel economy is stellar at 30 mpg city/41 mpg highway. Our take: If you’ve got a multi-car family, the Mazda3 should be in your driveway. Someone in the household will love to grab the keys and go.

2016 Honda Civic – Mention the Honda name and already you think of quality and reliability, main Honda attributes for decades. With the 2016 Honda Civic compact car, you also get a car that’s roomy, comfortable, efficient, feature-laden and fun to drive. Power comes from the 158-horsepower 2.0-liter i-VTEC four-cylinder engine. Fuel economy is an excellent 31 mpg city/41 mpg highway. Our take: No wonder the Civic is number two on the KBB list.

2016 Jeep Renegade

2016 Jeep Renegade – Boasting the highest horsepower rating of any vehicle on the KBB 10 coolest list, and the only SUV, the 2016 Jeep Renegade cranks out 180 horsepower and also gets 24 mpg city/31 mpg highway fuel economy from the 1.4-liter MultiAir turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Our take: The Renegade is a terrific choice for fun-to-drive and affordable small SUV.

2016 Volkswagen Golf – With all the hubbub over the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal, many buyers may have steered clear of the German automaker’s products. That would be a huge mistake, particularly in the case of the 2016 Volkswagen Golf. This excellent small hatchback car boasts a 170-horsepower 1.8-liter turbocharged PZEV four-cylinder engine. Fuel economy is EPA rated at 25 mpg city/37 mpg highway. Our take: The 2016 Volkswagen Golf gets the nod in our book.

2016 Kia Soul – Whether you think of the Kia Soul as an urban runabout, a small car, or a tall hatchback, the fact is that Kia has had a solid winner with the Soul since it first came out. The fact that it shouldered past other boxy cube-like vehicles (edging them out, really) is a testament to its continually evolving dynamic that puts fun-to-drive and fun-to-own at the top of the list. The 2016 Kia Soul is powered by a 130-horsepower 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. Fuel economy is 24 mpg city/30 mpg highway. Our take: The Soul absolutely deserves to be on this list of coolest cars.

2016 Hyundai Veloster

2016 Hyundai Veloster – It’s a three-door car with a great deal of pizzazz. The 2016 Hyundai Veloster is also high on styling, very practical and quite affordable. With a 132-horsepower 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, the Veloster achieves EPA-rated fuel economy of 28 mpg city and 36 mpg on the highway. Our take: The Veloster is a natural for a cool vehicle. There’s nothing else like it in this price category.

2016 Fiat 500 – The only two-door in the bunch, the 2016 Fiat 500 boasts a ton of personality in a small package. The subcompact 500 gets around quite nicely thanks to a 101-horsepower, 1.4-liter MultiAir four-cylinder engine. Our take: It’s cute, nimble and unique. Parking is a snap, too. But tall occupants might have a hard time with limited headroom.

2016 Honda Fit – KBB editors hail the 2016 Honda Fit as being “loaded with personality,” as well as noting it’s a class leader in reliability, resale value and practicality. The subcompact Fit is top-notch in fuel economy, achieving 33 mpg city/41 mpg highway from the 130-horsepower 1.5-liter i-VTEC four-cylinder engine. Our take: It’s a Honda, and we notice there are two on this year’s coolest cars list. We could say more, but we don’t really need to, do we?

2016 Ford Fiesta – Good looks are only part of the appeal of the 2016 Ford Fiesta. This subcompact car gives as good as it gets, with fun-to-drive appeal that only gets better the longer you drive. Power comes from a 120-horsepower 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. You won’t be making too many stops for gas as the Fiesta gets 28 mpg city and 37 mpg highway. Our take: Get the Fiesta in red. It really stands out.

2016 Chevrolet Sonic

2016 Chevrolet Sonic – The final entry on KBB’s list of 10 Coolest Cars Under $18,000 is the 2016 Chevrolet Sonic subcompact. The publication’s editors call out the Sonic’s driving manners for always being well-rounded. With the 138-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, the Sonic achieves 26 mpg city/35 mpg highway fuel economy. Our take: The Sonic sounds like a rocket and the name reminds us of a burger, but we have to agree with the KBB editors that this is a really cool car, so it’s great that it’s one of the 10 coolest.

 

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