I like the styling, I've sat in one at the auto show and liked the interior and I trust Gary over at The Garage's opinion. So this box on wheels makes sense. And speaking of boxes on wheels, the other boxes on the list are the Scion XB ( dull and not the miser it was originally) the Nissan Cube ( which I must be the only one to think is ugly as sin) and the near box Honda Fit ( which I actually like.)
The non boxes on the list continue with what I consider one of the best values on wheels, the Mazda 3. Of course I'm biased, I have an 06, but mine cost more than $18k. There's also another of my favorite hatches, the VW Rabbit, soon to be Golf again, but with it's 2.5 L 175 hp I-5 isn't really the fuel sipper some of the others are. I was surprised to see the Subaru Imprezza, I didn't realize it could be had for under $20k, and with the AWD I'm sure it's in the VW's camp of economy. The Suzuki SX4 is on the list and I can't fault that, it's frugal and not too ugly.
I guess the only car I just don't see as being "cool" is the Smart. Not that it's not fun or cool, but more that in my mind it's not a car. It's a golf cart that you can drive on the street. And even though it's half the size of a Focus and has one less cylinder it's MGP is not stellar compared to the Focus. I know they are trendy, but when I drive by one in my Mazda I feel like I'm driving a 76 Cadillac by comparison. It's not a CAR, it's a Vespa with 2 extra wheels.
I take issue with the Caliber not being on the list. I cross shopped the Caliber and was very close to buying it. It may not compare well to the Mazda 3, but it does have a certain fun factore and some "cool" options. The "cooler" for drinks, the lit cup holders, the Boston Acoustics tailgate speakers Economy with the smaller 1.8 I-4 isn't too shabby either. And I'm fairly certain you can get one for under $18k.
Ok, the Cobalt isn't "cool" but it's a good value. We shopped it against the Civic back in 05 and it drove better than the Civic, we bought the Civic because of it's quality perception. We bought it over my objections to be honest. But that's another surprise, the Civic isn't on the list either?
Here's KBB's criteria for the test "In choosing the 10 Coolest New Cars Under $18,000, we use the same set of criteria that consumers use in examining such vehicles. Safety, fuel economy, interior size, comfort, technology and fun-to-drive are all considered, as is the decidedly subjective cool factor." I guess the Cobalt doesn't have the Technology or interior size.
The "cool factor" must be what got the Smart on the list, cause it's got little else going for it.
That's just my take, I haven't driven some of these cars, the Soul, XB, Cube, SX4 or Smart, but I have a sense of value just like many consumers. I know my "cool factor" personally isn't very high, so I guess I'm lucky that my Mazda can make up for some of that.