With gas prices and environmental concerns reaching record highs at a time of moderate economic uncertainty, the vehicles that made our 2008 list of 10 Coolest New Cars Under $18,000 — typically a gas-sipping bunch — are cooler than they've ever been.
2008 Ford Focus
"Cool" might not be the first word that pops into your head upon seeing the new Ford Focus, but don't judge this book by its cover. The Focus sedan
are the most affordable cars in which you can get the SYNC music and phone integration system that allows you, for instance, to play any song in your digital library simply by saying its name. That's cool.
2008 Honda Fit
With gas prices on the rise, small cars like the Honda Fit are gaining in popularity. The Fit sips gasoline and offers the sportiest driving experience available in an econo-car. Plus, the seats can be configured in multiple arrangements, so it can easily hold things like your friends, your gear or a medium-sized alpaca (according to a photo on Honda's Web site, anyway).
2008 Jeep Patriot
The Jeep Patriot has a classic look reminiscent of the departed Jeep Cherokee plus a functional interior and a sub-$18,000 price tag -- even when equipped with four-wheel drive. Combined with highway fuel economy up to 28 miles per gallon, the Patriot delivers a cool mix of SUV-like versatility and car-like efficiency for buyers on a budget.
2008 Mazda MAZDA3
On our list for the fifth year in a row and still in its first generation, the Mazda3 is the current elder statesman of cool compact cars. Available in four- and five-door layouts, the dynamic Mazda3 is responsive, quick and stylish, but also comfortable, efficient and practical.
2008 Mitsubishi Lancer
The Mitsubishi Lancer's aggressive, rally-inspired looks belie a starting price of less than $15,000. The low cost of entry will leave many buyers with enough extra cash to add cool options like a hard-drive navigation system, an impressive premium audio system or perhaps a stylish spoiler.
2009 Pontiac Vibe
The hot-looking Pontiac Vibe has always delivered a very cool combination of affordability, versatility and fuel economy. Compared with its predecessor, the new-for-'09, second-generation Vibe boasts a sportier look inside and out, more powerful engines and even a lower starting price.
2008 Scion xB
The original "box on wheels" grew rounder, larger and more powerful for 2008, but the xB remains a distinctively styled non-conformist. Cool standard features include steering-wheel mounted audio controls, iPod integration and a choice of three wheel designs for instant customization at the dealership.
2008 Subaru Impreza
With 170 horsepower, all-wheel drive and a double-wishbone rear suspension, the Subaru Impreza sedan adds a sporty and capable touch to our cool car selections. The five-door variant has a similar base price and suits those in need of more cargo room for their active lifestyles.
2008 Suzuki SX4
This is the second year in a row that Suzuki's small crossover
has made our list of cool new cars
under $18,000. In addition to a sporty exterior and roomy, stylish interior, the SX4 still has the distinction of being the least expensive all-wheel-drive vehicle sold in America.
2008 Volkswagen Rabbit
The versatile and affordable Volkswagen Rabbit hopped its way onto our list with its perky 2.5-liter engine, comfortable ride, sharp handling and a level of interior refinement rivaling that of some much pricier vehicles.