Published June 27, 2012
Seven Hip Hatchbacks to Tempt Your Teen Drive
Fretting over the first car you buy for your teen is an unavoidable part of that new-license, first-car rite of passage. To help with this decision, Bankrate has found seven hatchbacks that you can feel good about your teenager driving.
To qualify for this list, a hatchback had to score the highest grade in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's, or IIHS', front-offset and side-impact crash tests. That's a score of "good." They also had to earn an Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, mileage rating of at least 30 miles per gallon on the highway. Finally, their suggested retail price can't exceed $20,000 before taxes and delivery charges.
Four of them also enjoy "recommended" ratings from Consumer Reports.
All prices and EPA fuel-economy numbers are based on versions with an automatic transmission.
Fiat 500 Sport: Hip Hatchback for Teens?
Hatchback 2012 Fiat 500 Sport
Gas mileage: 27 mpg city/34 mpg highway
A concerned parent might overlook the 2012 Fiat 500 because of its tidy package. It is small -- smaller than a Mini Cooper -- but it held up well in IIHS crash tests. Its standard equipment includes stability control and seven air bags.
Its 101-horsepower, 1.4-liter, four-cylinder engine requires nearly 11 seconds to pull it to 60 miles per hour from a standstill via the six-speed, driver-shiftable automatic transmission.
You can buy the entry-level 500 Pop for $2,000 less, but the Sport hatchback comes with some extras such as a Bose-infused audio system, Bluetooth connectivity and full iPod integration. Other convenience features, such as full power accessories, air conditioning, cruise control and a trip computer, are standard on every 500.
Your teenager will probably also like that the 500 has literally hundreds of paint, interior and graphic customizing combinations.
Ford Fiesta SES: Hip Hatchback for Teens?
Hatchback: 2012 Ford Fiesta SES
Gas mileage: 29 mpg city/39 mpg highway
A fun car to drive, the 2012 Ford Fiesta puts some real pizzazz into the small hatchback segment. It uses a 120-horsepower, 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine, funneling power through a six-speed automatic tranny to turn its front wheels.
You can spend about $2,000 less for the Fiesta SE, but in addition to the SE's tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, power mirrors, air conditioning and trip computer, the SES adds full power accessories, an upgraded audio system and Ford's voice-controlled SYNC system with Bluetooth.
Among Fiesta's safety features are seven air bags and stability control.
Fiesta's cabin is comfortable and upscale. With less cargo room than some on this list, hauling gobs of stuff is better accomplished by others. However, driver and passengers should get a kick out of its athletic handling.
Honda Fit: Hip Hatchback for Teens?
Hatchback: 2012 Honda Fit
Gas mileage: 28 mpg city/35 mpg highway
Well-equipped with six air bags, full power accessories, remote keyless entry, air conditioning, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, stability control and a four-speaker audio system with CD player and iPod interface, the 2012 Honda Fit hatchback priced here is the base version and the most affordable car on this list.
You can pony up another $1,785 for the Sport trim to add bigger wheels, available Bluetooth connectivity, two more audio speakers and some other goodies your teenager thinks are must-haves. But the difference can buy more than a year's worth of gasoline.
It uses a 117-horsepower, 1.5-liter four-cylinder for its go. Included in the listed price is a five-speed, driver-shiftable automatic transmission.
Roomy, comfortable and fun to drive, Fit also earns high marks with its recommended rating by Consumer Reports.
Kia Forte EX: Hip Hatchback for Teens?
Hatchback: 2012 Kia Forte EX
Gas mileage: 26 mpg city/36 mpg highway
A recommended rating from Consumer Reports reinforces our placement of the 2012 Kia Forte on this list of top-pick hatchbacks for teenagers.
Forte is large enough inside for the government to classify it as midsize, yet it still gets better highway fuel economy than all but two of the compacts on this list.
A 156-horsepower, 2-liter, four-cylinder engine sends its output to the front wheels via a six-speed, driver-shiftable automatic transmission. Standard safety features include six air bags and stability control.
Despite being the entry-level Forte, the EX has full power accessories, air conditioning, cruise control, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with redundant audio controls, center console with padded armrest, Bluetooth connectivity, and a six-speaker audio system with CD player and iPod integration.
Nissan Juke S: Hip Hatchback for Teens?
Hatchback: 2012 Nissan Juke S
Gas mileage: 27 mpg city/32 mpg highway
Some might argue the 2012 Nissan Juke is really a crossover. Its available all-wheel drive would seem to support that position, but its hatchback-like fuel economy and convenient lift-gate earned it a spot on this list. That it snagged a recommended rating from Consumer Reports didn't hurt either.
Juke's quirky styling appeals to those wishing to avoid the same old cookie-cutter hatchback.
The only turbocharged entry on this list, its 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine pushes out 188 horsepower to the wheels by way of a continuously variable automatic transmission, or CVT. It will zip from zero to 60 mph in just over seven seconds.
Safety equipment includes six air bags and stability control.
Its list of standard features include full power accessories, air conditioning, remote keyless entry, steering-wheel mounted cruise control, trip computer, Bluetooth connectivity, and a six-speaker audio system with CD player and iPod integration.
Scion tC: Hip Hatchback for Teens?
Hatchback: 2012 Scion tC
Gas mileage: 23 mpg city/31 mpg highway
One of the highest sticker prices combined with the least impressive fuel economy numbers on this list might lead you to discount the 2012 Scion tC as a top-choice hatchback for a teenage driver, but not so fast. Its reliability, long list of standard features and good crash-test performance helped put it in the hunt.
A spacious and truly inviting cabin features plenty of cargo space and rear-seat legroom.
Among its standard features are full power accessories, a power sunroof, reclining 60/40 split rear seat, remote keyless entry, air conditioning, cruise control, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with redundant audio controls, eight air bags, stability control, 18-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth connectivity, and a Pioneer-infused eight-speaker audio system with CD player and iPod interface.
Delivering the giddyap is a 180-horsepower, 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine mated with a six-speed, driver-shiftable automatic tranny.
VW Golf 2.5L: Hip Hatchback for Teens?
Hatchback: 2012 Volkswagen Golf 2.5L
Gas mileage: 24 mpg city/31 mpg highway
Armed with its recommended rating from Consumer Reports, the 2012 Volkswagen Golf delivers high-end German engineering and athletic handling in a compact package.
Its 2.5-liter, five-cylinder engine sends 170 horsepower to the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. Six air bags and stability control are standard.
Nicely appointed and well-constructed, the cabin is equipped with full power accessories, remote keyless entry, height-adjustable driver's seat, air conditioning, cruise control, heated outboard mirrors, trip computer, and an eight-speaker audio system with CD player and auxiliary input jack.
If you have another $600 to spend, you can add the convenience package with front-center armrest and heated front seats.