Top 10 Cars for Teens

Putting your teen on wheels is a tough decision, but I think it's a good idea: A car can expand a student's educational horizons, allowing her to take advantage of opportunities like off-site classes and internships. And it's a great lesson in responsibility: Kids who pay their car's running costs have good incentive to drive carefully (if they break it or crash it, they walk).

Safety was a top criteria for cars on this list -- car crashes kill about thousand of teen drivers every year.
Looked for cars that are reliable, affordable, and easy to drive.
Here, in alphabetical order, are my top picks. ;)

1. Ford Fiesta

Young'uns will like the Fiesta because it's
cute, cheeky, and fun to drive; parents will like it because it comes with a long list of standard safety equipment, including electronic stability control and a driver's knee airbag, and has excellent crash-test scores (including an IIHS Top Safety Pick award) despite its diminutive size. And whoever is paying the bills will like the Fiesta's low price and outstanding fuel economy, especially when equipped with an automatic transmission. Other parent-friendly features include SYNC, which allows voice control of cell phones and iPods and helps keep young drivers' attention focused on the road, not their portable gadgets.

2. Honda Insight

Car crashes are the number one killer of teens in America, so it's refreshing to see a car that encourages drivers to take it slow and easy. The Insight's video-game-like dash provides positive feedback for going easy on the gas and easy on the brakes. It's designed to coach drivers into getting better fuel economy -- the Insight is, after all, a hybrid -- but it also reinforces good habits for young and inexperienced drivers. Despite its high-MPG mission, the Insight is good fun to drive; it's also safe, easy to park, and reasonably practical. And at $20,520, it's the least-expensive hybrid you can buy -- although I'd recommend the $22,010 Insight EX for teen drivers, as the lower-priced LX lacks electronic stability control.

3. Kia Forte

You're probably thinking the Kia Forte is on this list because it's cheap -- and yes, that's half the reason, but the other half is that it's a really great car, probably the best Kia has ever made. Young folks will like the Forte's style, space and spunk, but it's also a safe bet, what with six airbags, antilock brakes and electronic stability control all standard, and an IIHS Top Safety Pick award to show for it. Good visibility, simple controls and clearly-marked instruments make it a great match for inexperienced drivers. Fortes start under $14,500, and you can get a Forge EX with power everything, air conditioning, and an automatic transmission for under $17,500 -- much less than a comparably-equipped Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla.

4. Kia Soul

Pretty much everything I've said about the Kia Forte applies to the Kia Soul, except that it's even less expensive and even more cool. The Soul's box-car body provides lots of back-seat space and a cargo bay that's well suited to bulky cargo. Like the Forte, the Soul comes with a full complement of safety equipment and an IIHS Top Safety Pick award. The Soul is offered with both 1.6 and 2.0 liter engines; both are good, but I'd probably stick with the 2-liter, if only to make highway merges a little less dramatic.

5. Mazda2

When I was a teen, we gravitated towards small, simple hatchbacks that were cheap to run and good fun to drive. The new-for-2011 Mazda2 is exactly that sort of car: Small, simple and affordable, with prices starting at $14,370 including air conditioning and electronic stability control. A 100 horsepower engine provides adequate acceleration and decent fuel economy with little drag-racing potential, while straightforward controls help teen drivers keep their eyes on the road and off the stereo.

6. Mitsubishi Lancer

Mitsubishi's compact sedan is often overlooked by buyers, probably because its interior feels a bit cheap and tinny compared to front-runners like the Honda Civic. But what few buyers realize is that the Lancer has a safety resume that puts the Civic to shame, with standard electronic stability control and a driver's knee airbag -- the former only available on top-of-the-line Civics, the latter not at all -- along with an IIHS Top Safety Pick award. The Lancer has aggressive, racy styling, but a modest 2-liter engine in DE and ES models. NOTE: Don't let your hormone-charged teenage son talk you into the Lancer Ralliart or Evolution -- both are turbocharged, high-performance models that can be dangerous in inexperienced hands.

7. Smart Fortwo

Research shows that the number of teen passengers in a car increases the chances of an accident -- so a two-seater like the Smart Fortwo makes sense. Statistics aside, the Fortwo is a smart choice (pun intended) -- it's inexpensive, good on gas, easy to drive, and comes packed with standard safety features, including front and side airbags, antilock brakes, and electronic stability control. Its 70 hp engine has enough power for merging onto the freeway but not enough to get young drivers into serious trouble. And it's so unique (and cute) that it's bound to do wonders for your kid's popularity. NOTE: If you live where it's windy, the Smart Fortwo isn't the best choice, as it gets blown around by crosswinds more than most small cars.

8. Subaru Impreza 2.5i

Another IIHS Top Saftey winner, the Impreza 2.5i is the car I most often recommend for young and inexperienced drivers due to its combination of all-wheel-drive (AWD) and electronic stability control (ESC). AWD is an oft-overlooked safety feature that gives the car a better grip on the pavement in fair weather or foul, while ESC is an electronic safety net that steps in to help recover from skids and slides. The Impreza is the only small car to offer this dynamic duo of safety, and together they drastically reducing your teen driver's chance of losing control in an emergency. NOTE: The Impreza 2.5i should not be confused with the Impreza WRX, STI, and 2.5 GT; these are fast, high-performance cars designed for experienced drivers.

9. Toyota Corolla

Buying your teen a Corolla is a bit like hiring a full-time babysitter. The Corolla may be a bit dull to drive -- okay, it's very dull to drive -- but it's roomy, simple and very safe, especially now that Toyota provides electronic stability control as standard equipment (a change that, in combination with its excellent crash-test scores, nabbed the Corolla an IIHS Top Safety Pick award). The Corolla's legendary build quality means it will last well beyond the teen years; a well-maintained and carefully driven Corolla should last through high school, college, and those lean years of paying off student loans, right up until your kid is earning good money and can afford something newer and nicer.

10. Volkswagen Jetta S

The all-new 2011 Volkswagen Jetta is not one of my favorite cars -- not by a long shot. But despite the things I dislike about it, the base-model Jetta S is a great choice for teen drivers. Its modest 115 horsepower engine has enough power for safe highway merging, but not enough for reckless drag-racing. (SE and SEL models get a more powerful engine; stick with the S.) The control layout is simple, which makes for distraction-free driving, while all-round visibility is excellent and blind spots are minimal. The handling is safe and predictable, electronic stability control comes standard, and it's even got a reasonable price tag: $17,865 with an automatic transmission. Overall, it's a great set of automotive training wheels.

Don't think i can afford those branded cars .....
only in my dreams !!!  ;)


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