Finding just the right new car for that teen driver is enough to keep any parent awake at night. There is certainly a lot to consider. When most parents go car shopping for their teen driver, these items probably top the list:
In order to give overwhelmed parents a place to begin the hunt, Bankrate put together its picks for the 7 best new cars for teen drivers based on those 4 criteria. It only looked at new cars larger than subcompact with a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of less than $25,000.
Every car had to earn the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s highest rating of “good” in its 5 crash tests.
Additionally, Bankrate only considered cars that Consumer Reports lists as “recommended.” Consumer Reports also had to rate them as better than average for reliability. Finally, at least 60% of owners surveyed by Consumer Reports had to rate their ownership experience as satisfactory.
Every pick had to have earned a government fuel economy rating of at least 25 miles per gallon in combined city and highway driving.
At least 6 air bags.
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Honda Accord LX Sedan
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Fuel economy: 31 mpg
Accord was the first vehicle built by a Japanese carmaker in the U.S., and it remains one of the better-selling sedans. Among the pricier of these picks, it’s classified as midsize. Despite that, its mileage is impressive.
A 185-horsepower, 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder engine drives the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission. It’s packed with standard features, such as dual-zone automatic climate control, touchscreen and 4-speaker audio system with USB interface.
Your teen driver will appreciate its two 12-volt power outlets, as well as its audio system’s Pandora compatibility.
The insurance institute named it a “top safety pick.” For $2,000 more, forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, collision-mitigation braking and lane-departure mitigation are available.
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Hyundai Sonata SE
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Fuel economy: 30 mpg
Built in the U.S., Sonata is another midsize sedan. It provides gobs of interior room and a comfortable cabin. In addition to Consumer Reports grading its reliability as 29% above average, Sonata has one of the best warranties in the industry, with its 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
A 185-horsepower, 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder engine is mated to a driver-shiftable, 6-speed automatic transmission.
Sonata’s air bag count is 7, including a driver-side knee bag. For some extra cash, Hyundai offers additional safety features, such as lane-departure warning, blind-spot detection and forward-collision warning.
Standard features include remote keyless entry, Blue Link Telematics, a 7-inch color touchscreen and 6-speaker audio system with USB port.
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Kia Soul Base
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Fuel economy: 26 mpg
Even adding the $1,500 for the 6-speed, driver-shiftable automatic transmission, as well as $500 for an option package with a color touchscreen and rearview camera, it still costs less than $17,000.
Soul Base is still the most affordable of these picks. Although mileage isn’t quite as impressive as others here, it still meets the requirements.
Don’t let size fool you. It can carry nearly as much cargo behind its front seats as the significantly larger Land Rover Range Rover Sport. A 130-horsepower 1.6-liter engine provides the go. It’s more fun to drive than its smallish engine promises.
In addition to its must-have content, Soul features Kia’s FlexSteer, which is an adjustable steering-assist system, and a 6-speaker audio system with satellite radio and USB port.
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Mazda3 i Sport 5-Door
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Fuel economy: 34 mpg
Sure, the 3 Sedan is $700 less than the 5-Door, but the hatchback is sportier looking. Even in its 5-Door configuration and with the $1,050 6-speed automatic transmission thrown into the mix, the 3 is still a good value.
Benefiting from Mazda’s Skyactiv, fuel-efficiency technology, the Mazda3 delivers the best mileage among these picks. Its 2-liter, 4-cylinder engine generates 155 horsepower and delivers 41 mpg on the highway. Consumer Reports predicts its reliability at 43% above average, the 2nd highest of these picks behind Toyota Camry.
Beyond our convenience-features requirements, this Mazda3 has power-folding exterior mirrors, remote keyless entry, push-button start, Mazda Connect integration and a 6-speaker audio system. Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are available as options.
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Subaru Impreza 2.0i
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Fuel economy: 31 mpg
Not only is the Impreza the one pick with standard all-wheel drive, none of the others even offer it. Still, only 2 others on this list post better fuel-economy numbers and only the Kia Soul is more affordable.
Moreover, Consumer Reports predicted its reliability at 53% above average, the highest on this list. When talking about value, Subaru doesn’t often spring to mind, but the Impreza is a serious value. Even after adding $1,000 for the CVT transmission, Impreza’s price is under $20,000.
A 148-horsepower 2-liter, 4-cylinder engine delivers the thrust. Standard gear includes a driver-side knee air bag, remote keyless entry, two 12-volt power outlets, Subaru Starlink infotainment system with touchscreen, Aha, Pandora, Stitcher and a USB port.
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Toyota Camry LE
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Gas mileage: 28 mpg
Assembled in Kentucky, the midsize Camry is the most expensive and one of the more reliable of these picks, according to Consumer Reports. Your teen may not be wowed by its coolness factor, but 10 air bags and its Insurance Institute rating of top safety pick should overcome the complaints.
Toward the bottom of the list for mileage, Camry’s go comes from a 178-horsepower, 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder engine bolted to a 6-speed automatic transmission. This Camry offers a few goodies not found on some other picks, such as heated outside mirrors and redundant steering wheel-mounted controls for audio and Bluetooth.
It also has keyless remote entry. Its Entune infotainment system provides a 6.1-inch touchscreen, 6 speakers, USB port and Siri Eyes Free.
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Volkswagen Passat 1.8T S
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Gas mileage: 29 mpg
Built in Tennessee, Passat is another midsize sedan on this list. Its highlights include lots of passenger space, solid performance and civilized road manners. At this price, the Passat is armed with a 170-horsepower 1.8-liter, 4-cylinder turbocharged engine. It threads power to the front wheels through a 6-speed automatic transmission.
As with the other midsize picks, Passat provides features not found in the smaller, more-affordable cars, such as three 12-volt power outlets, dual-zone climate control, automatic headlights and integrated turn signals in the outside mirrors.
Its color touchscreen is smaller than most, but it operates with swipes and pinches, oversees smartphone integration, as well as the infotainment system with 6 speakers and a USB port.