US Automakers Offer Few 'Cool' Cheap Cars -- for Now

Given the popularity of pickups and sport utility vehicles in the United States since the price of gasoline dropped sharply, along with the price of oil, a few years ago, it is little wonder that U.S. automakers are not well represented on Kelley Blue Book’s latest list of the 10 coolest cars under $20,000 for 2018.

Those that made the list are the cars that the firm considers the most fun to drive and fun to own among the most affordable options, and again the Mazda 3 takes the top spot. The only ones on this year’s list from U.S. automakers are the Jeep Renegade from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. (NYSE: FCAU) and the Chevrolet Sonic from General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM).

Below are the latest Kelley Blue Book picks for the 10 coolest new cars under $20,000, along with what the firm had to say about each one.

  1. Mazda 3: “Available in both sedan and hatchback form, the Mazda3 offers practicality that appeals to compact car buyers, with sportiness that makes even daily chores more fun.”
  2. Honda Civic: “Kelley Blue Book’s Small Car Best Buy of 2018, the Civic is a well-rounded car offered as a sedan or coupe that’s comfortable, roomy, practical, efficient, packed with cool tech, and a blast to drive.”
  3. Hyundai Kona: “The Kona was given a healthy dose of modern style, and the clean, crisp cabin is filled with a bevy of connectivity and advanced safety features.”
  4. Volkswagen Golf: “Euro-tuned handling and a sporty attitude are only part of what makes the Golf such an appealing car.”
  5. Kia Soul: “Few vehicles match the Kia Soul’s alluring combination of bold style, SUV-like versatility, and practicality, with a roster of standard and available features that add to the Soul’s value.”
  6. Jeep Renegade: “Of all the vehicles on this list, the Renegade is the one that can get you the furthest beyond where the pavement ends.”
  7. Subaru Impreza: “Already earning extra credit for its standard all-wheel drive, a recent redesign gives the Impreza sedan and hatchback sharper looks, more refinement and a larger palette of tech and convenience features, all while retaining the strong value proposition and reliability for which Subaru is known.”
  8. Honda Fit: “This diminutive hatchback has a feature called the Magic Seat that gives the interior space and versatility that rivals that of a small SUV. The combination of practicality and pep at an affordable price makes the Fit a hard car to resist.”
  9. Hyundai Elantra: “The all-new Elantra GT hatchback expands the Elantra lineup, adding a dose of likable style and five-door versatility to the mix.”
  10. Chevrolet Sonic: “The Sonic’s starting price of $16,170 makes it the most affordable car on this list. But what keeps Chevrolet’s subcompact sedan and hatch on our list of coolest cars is its compelling combination of tech, comfort and a fun attitude, all wrapped in redesigned sheet metal.”

For quite a while, the best-selling vehicle sold in the United States has been the Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) F-150 pickup, with its 2018 base price of well over $27,000. Fully loaded, they can top out at more than $70,000.

Pickups and SUVs are so popular in America that Ford recently decided to stop production of its Taurus, Fusion, C-Max and Fiesta sedans. But as oil prices creep up, taking gasoline prices with them, will American consumer tastes shift again, forcing U.S. carmakers to come up with more of their own “cool” but affordable cars?