Bankrate's 7 Best Cars for Teenagers


If you're a nervous parent, this list can serve as a starting point for choosing a first car for your freshly minted young driver.

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Convinced the more sheet metal surrounding your teen, the better, Bankrate didn't include any subcompacts. In fact, four of the choices are mid-size or bigger by Environmental Protection Agency standards.

Because of their high center of gravity and their greater potential for roof-strength accidents, SUVs weren't considered either.

Every car had to earn the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's highest rating of "good" in its crash tests. All of these cars are also IIHS Top Safety Picks.

Bankrate established a price ceiling of $23,000 for cars, having automatic transmissions but before delivery charges are added.

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Each car must have EPA-estimated fuel economy of at least 20 miles per gallon in city and highway driving.

Finally, power windows, door locks, outboard mirrors and six air bags are standard in every car.

Your teen may not think some of these cars are cool, but we think safety and cost to own are cool. This is Bankrate's list of the best cars for teenagers.

2013 Toyota Corolla LE

Price: $18,180    Gas mileage: 26 mpg city/34 mpg highway

It may not turn heads or have your teenager's friends green with envy, but for what the Corolla lacks in excitement, it's one of the best cars for teenagers. It's safe, relatively inexpensive and should get your teen through college and into that first job.

With its 132-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a four-speed automatic transmission as priced here, Corolla isn't the quickest on this list. And, a five- or six-speed automatic transmission would noticeably improve fuel economy. However, the engine is nearly bulletproof and will run for years.

There is a less expensive model, but the LE adds Bluetooth connectivity, iPod interface and two additional speakers to the base model's keyless entry, trip computer and four-speaker audio system.

2013 Kia Forte EX 5-Door

Price: $18,300    Gas mileage: 26 mpg city/36 mpg highway

Value pricing and solid fuel economy put the Forte on this list. More than basic transportation, it is economical and fun to drive. Furthermore, it sports some decent exterior lines, so your teen won't feel like putting a paper bag over his head when behind the wheel.

Under the hood is a 156-horsepower 2-liter four-cylinder engine that sends its production to the front wheels via a six-speed, driver-shiftable automatic transmission.

It has more cargo-carrying space behind the second-row seat than trunk space in the Honda Accord Sedan.

Among the long list of standard features are Bluetooth connectivity, keyless entry, trip computer and a six-speaker audio system with iPod interface.

2013 Ford Focus SE Sedan

Price: $19,295    Gas mileage: 27 mpg city/38 mpg highway

It may not be a Mustang, but "thoroughly modern" describes the Ford Focus SE. Your teen will like that. Redesigned last year, its styling is up-to-date. Also earning it points as one of the best cars for teenagers is a healthy amount of technology as well as a cabin that is both well-made and comfortable.

As priced here, a 2-liter four-cylinder engine delivers 160 horsepower to the front wheels by way of a six-speed driver-shiftable automatic transmission.

A lot of stuff comes packed into the Focus SE model, such as keyless entry, trip computer, automatic headlamps, Bluetooth connectivity, Ford Sync voice-activated cellphone and audio controls, and a six-speaker audio system with iPod interface and satellite radio.

2013 Volkswagen Golf 2.5

Price: $21,095    Gas mileage: 24 mpg city/31 mpg highway

Available as either a two-door or four-door hatchback, the Golf described here is the four-door with Volkswagen's convenience package. Arguably the most fun to drive on this list, its German engineering is evident after only a few minutes behind the wheel.

As priced here, it comes with a six-speed driver-shiftable automatic transmission and the convenience package that, in addition to heated front seats, includes Bluetooth connectivity.

A 170-horsepower 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine percolates under the hood.

Sadly, even with the convenience package, the eight-speaker audio system doesn't offer iPod interface; although it has an auxiliary input jack. Standard equipment does include keyless entry, trip computer and heated outboard mirrors.

2013 Hyundai Sonata GLS

Price: $20,995    Gas mileage: 24 mpg city/35 mpg highway

Rated a "large" car by the EPA, Sonata provides some extra bulk that may help keep your teen safe in a crash, making it one of our choices as one of the best cars for teenagers. Moreover, a grocery list of standard features belies its remarkably affordable price.

Sonata's 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine develops the most horsepower on this list: 198. A driver-shiftable six-speed automatic transmission ushers power to the front wheels.

Your teenager may feel like he's driving around in Mom's errand-runner, but he'll warm up to such features as Bluetooth connectivity and a six-speaker audio system with iPod interface and satellite radio.

Also standard are a trip computer and heated outboard mirrors.

2013 Subaru Legacy 2.5i Premium

Price: $22,495    Gas mileage: 24 mpg city/32 mpg highway

Despite being one of the larger cars on this list with the extra weight of all-wheel drive, the Legacy 2.5i falls right into the middle of the pack for fuel economy.

Not only helpful in snow, but also on rain-soaked and muddy roads, all-wheel drive is almost a must-have for teenagers in the snow belt. It's standard on Legacy.

A continuously variable automatic transmission ushers production from the 173-horsepower horizontally opposed 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine to the wheels.

The 2.5 Premium is priced here, but the entry-level 2.5i costs $2,200 less and includes such goodies as auto headlights, keyless entry, Bluetooth connectivity, and a four-speaker audio system with iPod interface. Stepping up to the Legacy Premium adds a power-adjustable driver's seat and an enhanced six-speaker audio system.

2013 Chevrolet Malibu LS    Price: $21,995    Gas mileage: 22 mpg city/34 mpg highway

One of the mid-size cars on this list, the Malibu sacrifices a little fuel economy for some mass and enough horsepower to move it around effectively.

LS is the base version, yet it has a fair amount of the technology teens want such as Bluetooth connectivity and a touch-screen interface. Oddly, there is no iPod connection of any sort available even as an option.

Other standard equipment includes keyless entry, auto headlights and satellite radio.

Running just behind the Sonata in offering the most oomph on this list, the Malibu gets its go from a 197-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. Changing the gears falls to a driver-shiftable six-speed automatic transmission.