By G. Chambers Williams III
San Antonio (Texas) Express-News
There is hope of getting a cool new car even if you can't afford something expensive, such as a $70,000 Porsche, or a fairly reasonably priced model like a Chevrolet Camaro or Ford Mustang.
The editors of the Kelley Blue Book have compiled their list of the Top 10 Coolest New Cars Under $18,000 for this year, and there are some fun choices on it that won't wipe out even some of the tightest budgets.
Of course, none of those on the list is quite as cool as a Porsche, Camaro or Mustang, but hey, you get what you pay for, and the cars on this list do offer a measure of fun that you might not have expected at these prices.
I'm not sure that I agree with some of the choices, though, or more precisely, the order in which they're ranked. Kelley (through its website kbb.com) puts the 2011 Ford Fiesta at the top of the list. Sure, it's a nice new econobox, ready to take on the Mazda3 (sixth place), Honda Fit (third), Hyundai Elantra Touring (fourth) and Suzuki SX4 Crossover (10th), similar hatchbacks that also made the Kelley honor roll.
But the Mazda3 is the best of these hatchbacks, and the SX4 is a close second - with those other three on down my list.
The coolest car on the Kelley list, however, and the one that gets my vote as one of the coolest cars at any price, is the Nissan Cube, which is in the eighth spot according to the Kelley editors.
I'm in agreement with Kelley that the Kia Soul (fifth) and Scion xB (ninth) belong on the list, as do the Honda Civic (second) and Mitsubishi Lancer (seventh). But I would knock the Civic, Fit, Fiesta and Elantra down a few notches to make room for the Cube, Mazda3, Soul, SX4 and xB in my Top Five (in that order).
My second five (going by Kelley's 10 choices) would be the Civic, Fit, Fiesta, Lancer and Elantra (in order).
But surely the Volkswagen Golf and Subaru Impreza are more deserving than the Lancer and Elantra, so I'd probably add them and bump the Mitsubishi and Hyundai from the list. I'd give them honorable mention along with a couple of others that didn't make the Kelley Top 10, such as the Toyota Corolla, Jeep Patriot and the Scion tC.
Also, how can the Fit make the Top 10 and the Nissan Versa be left out? Not a chance. The Versa is every bit as fun, if not more so, than the Fit - and the Elantra.
But this is all opinion, and I have mine, as do the Kelley editors. The cool thing is that there are so many relatively cool cars to choose from in that under-$18,000 class.
Said Kelley: "More fun, more practical and more amenity-laden than ever before, today's entry-level vehicles deliver more than simply affordable and efficient transportation."
I remember the days when buying an inexpensive car meant buying something bordering on junk, such as the Hyundai Excel, Renault Alliance and Yugo of the mid 1980s. Now, there's really no junk out there. Even the least expensive cars are excellent buys.
Here's what Kelley had to say about its top choice, the all-new Fiesta:
"Dear Honda Fit: We still really, really like you ... but we've met someone better looking, nicer inside and even more fun. The 2011 Ford Fiesta isn't just the best domestic subcompact of all time (which isn't saying much, frankly), the new kid is already the coolest car in its class."
The Top 10
Editors of the Kelley Blue Book and its kbb.com consumer website have compiled this list of affordable-but-cool new vehicles for less than $18,000. All are 2010 models except for the Ford Fiesta, which is an early 2011. The winners, with their base prices (excluding freight), are:
1. Ford Fiesta, $13,320.
2. Honda Civic, $15,455.
3. Honda Fit, $14,900.
4. Hyundai Elantra Touring, $15,995.
5. Kia Soul, $13,300.
6. Mazda3, $15,345.
7. Mitsubishi Lancer, $14,790.
8. Nissan Cube, $13,990.
9. Scion xB, $15,850.
10. Suzuki SX4 Crossover, $15,849.