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10 cars for going back to school

By Tara Baukus Mello ·
Saturday, August 25, 2012
Posted: 6 am ET

It's back-to-school time for millions of U.S. families, and many teens and college-age students will be driving their own cars to and from school. Auto information website Kelley Blue Book culled its data and developed a list of the top 10 back-to-school cars for students, providing a variety of styles that can all be had for less than $16,000, according to Kelley's Fair Purchase Price, which shows the average price paid for the car based on actual transaction data. That amounts to a monthly payment of $354.08, at the current national average of 4.25 percent for a 48-month new-car loan, according to the latest data from

The company's top pick was the funky-looking, boxy Kia Soul , which comes with a five-year, 60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and roadside assistance as well as a 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty -- key features for making it a good value for students.

With a starting price of $13,900, the Kia Soul was refined for 2012 with subtle styling changes to its exterior and new engines that are more powerful and more fuel efficient, getting up to 35 miles per gallon on the highway. Other changes include an optional seven-speaker Infinity audio system, a voice-activated infotainment system with a 4.3-inch color touch screen with a backup camera as well as a new premium package that includes heated front seats, automatic climate control, navigation and a push-button start.

Kelley Blue Book's complete top 10 back-to-school cars of 2012:

  1. Kia Soul.
  2. Hyundai Accent.
  3. Chevrolet Sonic.
  4. Ford Fiesta.
  5. Honda Fit.
  6. Mazda 3.
  7. Fiat 500.
  8. Volkswagen Jetta.
  9. Toyota Yaris.
  10. Nissan Versa.

Tara Baukus Mello writes the cars blog as well as the weekly Driving for Dollars column, providing both practical financial advice for consumers as well as insight into the latest developments in the automotive world. Follow her on Facebook here or on Twitter @SheDrives.

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August 28, 2012 at 7:55 am

The college students in your article must be from much better off families than my son. I don't even drive a new car. I found a well maintain '98 Ford Contour for my son to take to school, and he doesn't owe a cent on it.

August 27, 2012 at 1:48 pm

I take it from the lack of model years in the list that these are all NEW cars. Anything less than 4 years old is overpriced for a student with little or no income.