10 Coolest Cars for Less Than $18,000
The Mazda3 has all the fun of a feature-filled subcompact with a bit more kick. A 2.5-liter engine gives this little hatch 167 horsepower, which basically dusts most vehicles in its class. As for options, it joins the Fit and Versa in offering an engine-immobilizing anti-theft device, along with eight cupholders, six-speaker CD/MP3 player and front and side airbags. The options range from upgrades as simple as foglights, a rear spoiler and dual exhausts to automatic xenon headlights, heated mirrors, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, leather upholstery and a power driver's seat with driver memory functions. Tacked-on tech toys include sunroofs and Bose 10-speaker sound systems with a six-CD changer, keyless ignition and entry, satellite radio, iPod interface and a navigation system with steering wheel controls.
3. 2012 Fiat 500
The cinquecento is giving the remaining misogynists at Chrysler a quick tutorial in what qualifies as "cool" during the 21st century. The 500 measures a scant 140 inches long and 64 inches wide, gives parallel parkers a 30.6-inch turning radius for squeezing into tight spots and finds room for 10 cubic feet of trunk space -- nearly double that of the Mini. The retractable, pool-cover-style sunroof, power outlets, five cupholders, cruise control, power windows and 38 miles-per-gallon highway mileage are a whole lot cooler to the post-bailout buyer base than gas-guzzling reincarnations of Dodge Charger and Challenger muscle cars. Unless testosterone becomes the biofuel of the future, expect more of Chrysler's lineup to take its cues from corporate parent Fiat and its zippy little 500.
2. 2012 Hyundai Veloster