The top ten cars for teens

Written by katherine mitt
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The top ten cars for teens
Always buy a safe car for a teenager. (car image by Warren Millar from

When purchasing a car for a teenager, it is important to place a heavy priority on safety. Teenagers are inexperienced drivers, so added safety features and solid safety ratings should take precedence over the style and 'cool factor' of the car. Various outlets compile a list each year of the best cars for teenagers, with rankings determined based on safety ratings, fuel efficiency, and annual maintenance cost estimates; the ten cars included in this article frequently appear on multiple of these yearly lists.

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Honda Civic

The Honda Civic is almost always included on lists of recommended cars for teens. Available in a 2-door coupe or a 4-door sedan, the Honda Civic comes standard with several important safety features, including front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags, and anti-lock brakes. Other standard features include rear window defroster, tinted windows, maintenance reminder system, power side mirrors, cruise control, and MP3 compatibility. For a slightly higher cost, the Civic can be purchased in an extra fuel-efficient hybrid model. Additional features, such as electronic safety control and a navigation system, are available on the hybrid, for an added fee.

Ford Focus

The 2010 Ford Focus received four-star ratings for both driver- and passenger-seat crash tests, making it a safe, and popular, choice for teenagers. In addition to high safety rating scores, the Ford Focus comes with stability control, anti-lock breaks, front- and side-impact airbags, overhead airbags, and a security system that only allows the ignition to start when the original factory-manufactured key is used. Available in a coupe or a sedan, the Ford Focus offers a slightly more sporty look than many other vehicles in its class. An additional feature available on the car is a SYNC system, which allows drivers to control an iPod or cellphone with verbal commands. The SYNC system can also read text messages aloud; this feature is particularly beneficial for teenagers, who tend to ignore safety precautions about using cellphones while driving.


The Honda-CRV is a small, manageable SUV, perfect for new drivers who want to drive something a little larger than a standard sedan. Stability control, which is an added expense on many vehicles of the same class as the CRV, comes standard on all CRV models. Three basic models are available, the LX, the EX, and the EX-L, each of which includes a different variety of features. The LX is the most basic model, while the EX-L, the most extravagant option, includes features such as satellite radio, a subwoofer and a USB audio jack. For an added cost, a touchscreen navigation system can be added to any Honda-CRV.

Scion tC

The Scion tc is an extremely spacious sedan that comes with a wide variety of standard features. Standard features include iPod- and MP3-compatible sound system, complete with six speakers, sunroof, power side mirrors, front and rear side curtain airbags, driver's seat knee airbags, and front seat-mounted side airbags. Scion is a spin-off brand from Toyota, so the mechanics are similar to those of a basic Toyota; the car is expected to run smoothly with minimum maintenance needed.

Toyota Corolla

The Toyota Corolla comes with a high estimated gas mileage; in a 2008 report, the estimated miles per gallon was 30. Standard features on the Corolla include driver and passenger front-side and curtain airbags, a tilt steering wheel, driver's seat vertical height adjustment, and daytime running lights. Cruise control and a six-speaker sound system are available on some models, for an additional cost. The Corolla is consistently reported by various car-ranking outlets as being a reliable performer.

Volkswagen Jetta

The Volkswagen Jetta consistently scores well in crash tests, and is available in several different model options, including station wagon-style. The Jetta is somewhat more expensive than many other basic sedans recommended for teens but is still relatively affordable. In addition, gas mileage is impressive, with estimated miles per gallon for the 2010 model of 30 city and 41 highway.

Nissan Versa

The Nissan Versa, equipped with many standard features, offers added-cost extras such as a hands-free Bluetooth cellphone operating system and steering wheel-mounted audio controls. These features help add to the Versa's safety by removing the temptation to fiddle with cellphones and audio controls while driving. Standard features on the sedan include roof and side-impact airbags, adjustable driver and passenger seats, and a split-folding rear seat, to accommodate the transportation of long items. The Nissan Versa is a relatively basic sedan, but its estimated five-year maintenance needs are low, and it is a reliable car option.

Toyota Tacoma

If your teen insists on having a hefty pickup truck for his or her first vehicle, consider the Toyota Tacoma. Anti-lock brakes come standard on all Tacoma models, as do front-impact airbags, height-adjustable front seat belts, and side impact bars. Daytime running lights are optional and may cost extra. Features inside the car are basic, but the Tacoma is rated highly for its reliability, as well as standard crash test performance. In 2008, the Toyota Tacoma earned 5 stars for three out of four crash tests, and was given 4 stars for the fourth test (rollover resistance).

Ford Escape

A midsized SUV, the Ford Escape is a stylish, sporty and affordable vehicle option. Many important safety features come standard on all models, including anti-lock breaks, Ford's unique Roll Stability Control and AdvanceTrac stability technologies, and side curtain airbags. As of 2008, the Escape was reported as getting a maximum of 28 miles per gallon. For higher gas mileage, a more expensive hybrid model is available.

Honda Fit

The Honda Fit comes with a number of important and attractive standard features, including an iPod-compatible sound system, anti-lock breaks, side curtain airbags, and fully-reclining back seats, for added cargo space. The Fit also boasts high gas mileage of approximately 30 miles per gallon in highway driving conditions (as of 2008). The car has consistently scored well in crash tests.

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