Great Cars for Any Teen Driver

May 4th, 2016
auto repair in Westerville, OHFor teenagers and young drivers, learning to drive is a rite of passage, but it’s also a big, big responsibility…and as everyone knows, responsibility isn’t always something that’s at the front of a teenager’s mind. 
There are several considerations to keep in mind when shopping for a car for a young driver. Reliability and low auto repair bills are important, but safety is even more of a priority – and that doesn’t mean just crash protection. It means finding a vehicle that has stable, predictable handling and control, and doesn’t have so much power that a teenager will be tempted to stomp the gas pedal and get into trouble (or have the car get away from him/her). 
While getting behind the wheel and driving to or from work might seem automatic to adults, the truth is that it’s a complex skill and requires a great deal of practice. Nighttime driving, distractions from passengers and friends and failing to use seatbelts are among the things that multiply the risk for teenage drivers. You don’t have to dig very deep into statistics to know that the first year of driving is the most dangerous, and to see what the numbers are like for crashes and fatalities for driver ages 16 through 19. 
With all that in mind, we were able to put together a short list of vehicles that are a safe bet for young drivers. Despite their bulk and substantial sheet metal, the rollover risk and sometimes-squirrelly handling of SUVs was enough to cut them out of our rankings. Similarly, the poor fuel economy of pickup trucks was sufficient for us to ignore them for this list. Instead, we zeroed in on modest, economical, affordable and, above all, safe vehicles for young drivers:
  • Toyota Corolla LE: Toyotas have a reputation for long service, infrequent auto repair and bulletproof reliability, and the Corolla has been the standard for that reputation for almost 50 years. The latest-generation Corolla LE features a 132-horsepower 1.8 liter four-cylinder engine and four-speed automatic transmission, and squeezes 42 miles out of a gallon of gas on the highway (30 in town). The LE model is a less-expensive trim level, but still features niceties like keyless entry, an iPod interface and Bluetooth connectivity.
  • Kia Forte EX: The value-priced Forte is a good-looking 5-door sedan with a 156-horsepower 2 liter four-cylinder and six-speed automatic transmission. It’s fun to drive and economical, rated at 26 mpg in town and 36 on the highway, and boasts more room for cargo than a Honda Accord.
  • Ford Fiesta: The Fiesta is a great choice; it’s scored high numbers in crash tests from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, thanks to features like a driver’s knee airbag. The Fiesta helps keep young drivers’ attention on the road with voice control of cell phones and iPods. The Fiesta ST, on the other hand, is a turbocharged road burner with a suspension tuned for performance…and possibly not a great choice for an inexperienced driver. 
  • Chevrolet Spark: Despite its rather goofy styling, the tiny Spark gets high safety ratings and gets a respectable 30 mpg in town and 39 on the highway. Even at its base trim, the Spark features amenities like power windows, air conditioning, cupholders and a trip computer. While the Spark only cranks out 84 horsepower from its 1.2 liter four-cylinder, its curb weight of barely over a ton means it can still deliver decent performance.
  • Subaru Impreza: The Impreza is a longtime favorite, having been around in one iteration or another since the early 90s. Along with Subaru’s dead-solid reliability, the Impreza offers the stability and safety of all-wheel-drive. That’s great not just for all-weather traction, but for control and surefootedness in a panic stop or sudden maneuver. Note that the WRX and STI models are much more performance-oriented and likely not a good choice for teens.
  • Nissan Versa: With a starting price of under $12,000, the Versa is the least-expensive car in America, with plenty of interior room, a simple navigation system and the usual set of amenities one would expect in a new car. You can expect 30 mpg in town and 40 mpg on the highway with the Versa, and Nissan-standard build quality means that, with proper maintenance and auto repair, a Versa can last through college and probably for years after.
  • Kia Soul: The boxy styling and funky aesthetics of the Soul have made it a popular choice for under-25 drivers, and its Top Safety Pick from the IIHS make it a great pick with parents of teen drivers as well. The Soul is budget-friendly, albeit a little harder on gas (24 mpg city, 31 mpg highway), and its 130-horsepower engine and 2700-pound curb weight add up to adequate performance. Note that the Soul comes standard with a 6-speed manual, and an automatic transmission is a fairly pricey option; it can be a great way to learn the important skill of driving a stick shift!

Parents of teenagers and young drivers have enough to worry about as it is, and their vehicle shouldn’t be another concern to keep moms and dads up at night. We hope you get some value out of this roundup of good picks for teen drivers…at Boyd’s Tire & Service in Westerville, OH, we want to keep you safe. If you’ve got any auto repair or tires concerns or would like for us to give that teenager’s car a once-over, be sure to give us a call and set up an appointment

  Posted in: Auto Repair 101