"Teens are safest in a 4-cylinder, mid-sized sedan," says LeeAnn Shattuck of owner of TheCarChick.com and an instructor for Teen Driving Solutions School. "These 'boring' cars are very safe in a wreck, are easier to control for a new driver and are easier on the insurance. You also can't cram a ton of friends into a sedan (like you can a van or SUV), which minimizes distractions."
Jack R. Nerad is the executive editorial director and executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Book's KBB.com. Nerad and his fellow experts at KBB.com rank the best cars for students as those that "score high marks for being both practical and affordable, while also giving extra credit for style, features and personality."
On its 10 Best Back-to-School Cars 2014, KBB.com gives the highest rank to the Honda Fit. The fun-to-drive entry-level economy car boasts a spacious interior and a more grownup (less cutesy) exterior. "Driving satisfaction comes from the Fit's great outward visibility and upright seating position coupled with precise steering, good brake feel and predictable road manners," say the KBB.com experts.
The super-popular Kia Soul cruises in at No. 2. The latest model features a fresh-looking exterior and an expanded array of standard and optional equipment. "Kia's competitive price, cheerful styling and radically improved interior make it a standout in the cute, cheap, compact-box family of vehicles," reports KBB.com.
"The Kia Soul is very easy to maneuver and driver around town, and it's especially convenient when it comes to parking, which is what many teenagers usually have a problem with," says Jordan Perch, transportation analyst at DMV.com.
With a starting price of $12,780, the Nisssan Versa Sedan is the least-expensive new car in its class. But it’s the new 5-door hatchback Versa Note that has really caught the attention of the KBB.com experts. Teen drivers will love the Note's light steering, tight turning radius and driver's seat visibility. And it's a safe car, too.
The Mazda3 is not just popular for teen drivers, it's a favorite among drivers of all ages. The best-selling of all Mazda models, the Madza3 made KBB.com's 10 Best Sedans Under $25,000 for 2014 as well. The hatchback styling gives the efficient car a sporty look, while the sedan offers a roomy alternative. It is considered one of the most affordable cars to own.
A well-equipped hybrid that gets 53 miles to the gallon? We'll take it! The Prius C is by far the least expensive plug-in yet holds its value for years. This budget-friendly car can accommodate five passengers plus cargo. "The Prius C can be driven solely on electric power for short distances," reports KBB.com, "making it the greenest of the subcompact set."
"The Prius C will keep your kid safe while on the road and will not add a significant strain on your budget, thanks to low fuel expenses," says Perch.
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