KBB’s 10 Coolest Cars Under $18,000

The 2014 Mazda3 topped the list of the 10 Coolest Cars Under $18,000 from Kelley Blue Book. (Photo courtesy of Mazda North American Operations)
IRVINE, Calif. - 

Along with making its projection for this month’s new-vehicle sales total, Kelley Blue Book revealed this year’s list of what editors believe are the 10 Coolest Cars Under $18,000.

Headlining this year’s group, along with being featured on KBB’s annual affordable “cool cars” list every year of the vehicle’s 11-year existence, was the redesigned Mazda3.

Two criteria — fun to drive and fun to own — are critical among the deciding factors of what the editors freely admit is a very subjective “cool factor.” Editors indicated that “cool factor” is the over-arching No. 1 criterion for a vehicle to place on this list. 

Each vehicle is available for purchase at $18,000 or less, according to Kelley Blue Book's exclusive Fair Purchase Price as the yardstick. 

“Low-priced new cars are getting cooler with each passing year and the mass-appeal, bread-and-butter small cars are becoming increasingly stylish and tech-savvy,” said Jack Nerad, executive editorial director and executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Book.

“On the strength of a well-received redesign for 2014, the Mazda3, which could be called king of the Coolest Cars Under $18,000, reclaims its spot at the top of our annual list,” Nerad continued. “Stylish and fun from day one, the Mazda3’s engineering innovation that results in great benefits like high fuel efficiency and fun to drive make it cooler than ever.” 

Here is the complete list of KBB’s 10 Coolest New Cars Under $18,000

1. Mazda3
2. Hyundai Veloster
3. Kia Soul
4. Honda Civic Coupe
5. Volkswagen Jetta
6. Fiat 500
7. Dodge Dart
8. Ford Fiesta
9. Chevrolet Sonic
10. Nissan Versa Note

June New-Car Sales to Soften

KBB indicated new-vehicle sales for June are expected to fall 2.7 percent year-over-year to a total of 1.36 million units, resulting in an estimated 16.3 million seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR). 

That projected SAAR level is up from 15.8 million in June of last year but down from 16.7 million last month.

Kelley Blue Book senior analyst Alec Gutierrez also noted retail sales are expected to account for 83 percent of volume in June.

“A total of 1.36 million units sold this month will bring the number of units for the first half of 2014 to 8.1 million units, a 3.5 percent increase from last year,” Gutierrez said.

“Following a slow start to the year, second-quarter totals will hit nearly 4.36 million, a 5.5 percent increase from the second quarter of 2013 and also the best second quarter since 2006,” he continued. “At this rate, the 16.3 million SAAR expected in June will be the third month above 16 million SAAR in the past four months, showing strong momentum heading into the second half of the year.” 

While sales are expected to slow in June, Kelley Blue Book continues to see positive growth for Chrysler and Nissan. 

Gutierrez pointed out that both automakers have experienced strong sales this year, and the two combined have driven more than half of the industry’s year-to-date sales growth. 

“One of the greatest sales declines may come from Ford, which is preparing to restructure its F-Series factories in preparation for the new aluminum-bodied truck later this year,” Gutierrez said.

“By implementing changes to its factories, Ford will need to ensure it has enough inventory to last through the transition, potentially pushing sales down in the near-term,” he added.

KBB also highlighted the fastest-growing segment in June continues to be the compact SUV/crossover segment, which may pass full-size pickup trucks this year to become the third-largest segment in the industry. 

Helped by models such as the Nissan Rogue and Subaru Forester, analysts noted vehicles in this segment are spending an average of 47 days in inventory, compared to the industry average of 66 days. 

KBB also expects full-size pickup trucks to report the largest decline of all major vehicle segments, which could be driven by Ford’s upcoming F-Series redesign and the manufacturer’s need to maintain inventory during the factory retooling. 

“While Ram sales have been strong (up 21 percent for the year), sales of the new Chevrolet Silverado have been tepid (down 1 percent),” analysts said.

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