2015 Chevrolet Cruze ・ Photo by Chevrolet
It's a lucky teenager who gets a brand new car early in life, but if you and your kid can afford a trip to the dealership, there's one significant advantage: safety. You're taking a chance that a young, inexperienced driver might mess up this expensive investment, but new cars' modern safety equipment helps increase the chances they'll survive the teenage years unscathed.
It's worth noting that some 2016 models haven't yet completed the United States federal safety tests at the time of this publication. In such cases, we considered the ratings for the 2015 model, as long as there were no significant design or engineering changes to the vehicle between 2015 and 2016. Here are the best safe cars for teens we found, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and National Highway Traffic Safety Institute (NHTSA).
The 2016 Chevrolet Trax is only in its second year, yet this compact sport utility vehicle has already been established as a great option for the youngest drivers in the family. Chevy designed the Trax to meet the needs of city dwellers and commuters, combining maneuverability and versatility to get a lot into (and out of) a small package. It’s powered by a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 138 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque, and a six-speed automatic transmission completes the package. The Chevy Trax gets fuel mileage of 26 mpg city and 34 mpg highway when front-wheel drive; all-wheel drive drops the numbers to 24 and 31, respectively. Most important, the 2016 Chevrolet Trax earned a Top Safety Pick rating from the IIHS and a 5-star overall rating from the NHTSA.
Redesigned for 2016, the Audi A6 mid-size sedan has earned top scores in the IIHS crash tests and a 5-star overall rating from the NHTSA. The A6 aced the NHTSA’s individual tests for frontal crash, side crash, and rollover impacts, and even nailed the IIHS’ tricky small overlap tests, in which the institute tests crumple zones at the car’s corners. These ratings rocketed the 2016 A6 near the top of our list, even though this luxury sedan is out of reach of many newly minted drivers. The A6 is known for good power and responsive handling. It features Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive system, which is optional, but practically compulsory on an Audi vehicle. Three drivetrains are available: a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, a 3.0-liter supercharged V-6, and a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6.
The redesigned 2016 Sorento is one of the latest models to help solidify Kia’s reputation as a brand that provides a great value for the money. This mid-size SUV seats five or seven passengers, thanks to its optional third row, and offers a choice between two engines. The base Sorento comes with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that yields 185 horsepower and solid fuel economy, but buyers can upgrade to a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder or a 3.3-liter V-6 for a reasonable premium. Despite the Sorento’s low const of entry, it provides a comfortable, spacious interior and plenty of safety equipment, both of which help bolster the vehicle’s teen-worthiness. In crash tests, the 2016 Kia Sorento earned a Good rating from the IIHS and a 5-star overall rating from the NHTSA.
The 2016 Chrysler 200 is an affordable midsize sedan with seating for five, intended to feel like an entry-level luxury car. To that end, the 200 boasts lots of high-end features, including plenty of safety equipment. The 200 comes in four trim levels and offers two different drivetrains. Standard is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that produces 184 horsepower and 173 lb-ft of torque. The 3.6-liter V-6 makes 295 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque, and comes with standard all-wheel drive (optional on the base). Both come with a nine-speed automatic transmission. The Chrysler 200 was just redesigned for the 2015 model year, and there are few changes for 2016. The 2015 version scored the IIHS Top Safety Pick rating and a 5-star overall rating from the NHTSA.
The 2016 Buick Encore is another small sport utility vehicle that’s related to the Chevrolet Trax. Like the Trax, the 2015 version of the Encore aced government crash tests, scoring the IIHS Top Safety Pick rating and a 5-star overall rating from the NHTSA. Since there are no structural changes from the 2015 to 2016 model year, the 2016 Encore is likely to receive similar scores once testing is complete. The base 2016 Encore features a 138-horsepower 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that’s shared with the Trax. The new-for-2016 Encore Sport Touring trim also gets a 1.4-liter turbo four-cylinder engine, but this unit is new and produces 153 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque. Both versions of the 2016 Buick Encore are available in front-wheel or all-wheel drive.
The 2016 Honda Fit is a subcompact hatchback that offers great versatility and plenty of standard equipment at an affordable price. The Fit offers a deceptive amount of interior space considering its small footprint, squeezing in up to 52.7 cubic feet of cargo, which is perfect for a teenager heading off to college. The Fit’s thrifty 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine offers 130 horsepower, perfectly sufficient to move the vehicle and great for fuel mileage, but without any unnecessary temptation. A six-speed manual transmission comes standard, and a continuously variable automatic transmission is optional. The 2016 Honda Fit scored a 5-star overall rating from the NHTSA, with top scores in frontal and side crash individual tests. The identical 2015 Fit earned a Top Safety Pick rating from the IIHS, which is likely to carry over this year.
Photo by Honda
Though the 2016 Volvo S60 is a luxury sedan (so, not really an ideal new car for most teenagers) it's definitely worth the price if it fits the budget, thanks to its solid and reliable design and well-established safety pedigree. Five passengers can sit comfortably in the S60, which is powered by a choice of four different efficient engines, all paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission and available with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive to help increase the car's handling and stability. The current generation of the Volvo S60 has been available since 2011, and it's spent the past years just racking up the safety accolades and adding new, top-notch features. The 2015 model, which is structurally identical to the 2016 model, earned a 5-star overall rating from the NHTSA, and is an IIHS Top Safety Pick.
Based on the Honda Civic Si, the 2016 Acura ILX is a small entry-level luxury car. This compact sedan seats five passengers and comes powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 201 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque, paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission. As one would expect from a luxury class car, the Acura ILX offers plenty of high-end standard equipment (although the Honda sibling is no slouch in that department, either). Suffice it to say, the slightly refreshed 2016 Acura ILX is pretty nice, and Acura is invested in keeping its occupants safe. It’s earned good ratings from the IIHS, and a 5-star overall rating from the NHTSA. Standard and optional safety features include a a rear-view camera, rear cross traffic alert system, and lane keep assist.
Photo by Acura
The 2016 Chevrolet Cruze boasts great efficiency in an attractive compact sedan, helping Chevrolet regain a spot in the hot, highly competitive entry-level car market. The 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine provided with the base model Cruze generates the same 138 horsepower as the 1.4-liter four-cylinder also available with the car’s upper trim levels, but the latter returns better fuel mileage (up to 42 mpg highway) and more torque (148 lb-ft) thanks to the efficiency of a turbocharger. The Cruze is still riding high on the 2015 model’s exterior freshening, and it’s got an athletic profile that should appeal to younger drivers. Crash testing hasn’t been completed for the 2016 Cruze, but the 2015 version earned a 5-star overall rating from the NHTSA, and earned Good scores from most of the IIHS tests.
Photo by Chevrolet Media
The 2016 Audi A3 is a luxury compact car that is available as a sedan or a convertible (and for teenagers, we’d suggest the sturdy sedan version). The A3 sedan seats five and is known for its athletic, responsive handling, thanks in large part to Audi’s optional quattro all-wheel drive system. Three engines are available: a 170-horsepower 1.8-liter turbo four-cylinder, a 220-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder, and a 150-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel. And why would a teenager need an imported luxury car? Well, the Audi A3 has a good reputation for safety, and offers lots of safety equipment. The 2016 A3 earned a 5-star overall rating from the NHTSA, and the 2015 model (structurally identical to the 2016 model) has a Top Safety Pick+ designation from the IIHS.
Photo by Audi Media Services