There's an old joke that the best cars for teenagers are those that get terrible gas mileage (so they can't afford to drive too far from home), are built like tanks (for safety reasons), and seat just one person (to keep distractions to a minimum). In reality, there are plenty of thrifty vehicles out there that are good starter cars for teenagers and perfect for first-time car buyers - especially those who are lucky enough to be able to afford a brand new automobile instead of the family's older clunker. Let's take a look at 10 of the best cars for teenagers and examine what exactly makes them a strong choice for the younger set.
10 Best Cars For Teenagers
Photo Credit: Volkswagen
1) 2016 Volkswagen Golf
The Volkswagen Golf is so popular amongst first-time drivers that in some parts of the country it's almost like a uniform. The 2016 Volkswagen Golf is an affordable compact hatchback that can be had in two-door and four-door editions, and despite its small size, it offers good practicality due to its 46 cubic feet of total cargo space - perfect for hauling hockey gear to the rink, for example. The Golf is also relatively easy on gas in base form, providing 37 mpg highway when ordered with its 1.8-liter, 170-horsepower four-cylinder turbo engine, making it one of the best first cars for teenagers.
Photo Credit: Scion
2) 2016 Scion iA
Completely new for the 2016 model year, the Scion iA is the brand's first sedan. It's actually a thinly-disguised Mazda Mazda2, which was sold in the United States as a hatchback until last year, and previously occupied a spot on Autobytel's list of the best teen cars. The Scion iA features a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that provides just 106 horsepower and 103 lb-ft of torque, not quite enough to get into trouble. Transmission choices are a six-speed manual and a six-speed automatic. The modest power also comes with a great tradeoff: some of the best fuel economy ratings in the class, up to 33 mpg city and 42 mpg highway. Five passengers can fit in the 2016 Scion iA, and it's earned a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the IIHS.
Photo Credit: Honda
3) 2016 Honda Fit
The 2016 Honda Fit is subcompact hatchback answer to the question of how, exactly, to squeeze all of a teenager's possessions in the back of a vehicle on his or her way to college. The Honda Fit's Magic Seat feature makes it a snap to rearrange the passenger compartment and unleash the vehicle's 52.7 cubic feet of storage space, made even more usable by its flat load floor. The Fit is also one of the best cars for teenagers because it will also keep the fuel bill low during the journey thanks to the 32 combined mpg offered by its 1.5-liter, 130-horsepower four-cylinder engine.
4) 2016 Subaru Impreza
The 2016 Subaru Impreza is one of the best cars for teenagers learning the low-friction lessons taught by those first few encounters with snowy roads in a winter climate. Ice and low temperatures don't have to be scary for new drivers when piloting the Subaru Impreza thanks to its standard all-wheel drive, which provides class-leading levels of grip. Available in both sedan and wagon editions, the Impreza comes with a 2.0-liter boxer four-cylinder engine that delivers 148 horsepower and 34 mpg on the highway - proving that one no longer has to give up efficiency in order to benefit from the added security of all-wheel drive, making the Impreza one of the safest and best first cars for teenagers out there.
Photo Credit: Mazda
5) 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata
The fully redesigned 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata might seem like an unusual addition on a list of the best cars for teenagers, but hear us out. The Mazda MX-5 Miata only offers two seats, which means that teens won't be carting around a huge number of friends or being asked to give someone a ride every five minutes. Yes, the Miata is a sports car, but one that prizes excellent cornering and a 50/50 weight balance over high horsepower - with just 155 horsepower on tap from a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine, no one is going to be racing for pink slips. Throw in 36 mpg on the highway and the fact that the top goes down, and this is one affordable roadster that provides a compelling argument as one of the best first cars for teenagers.
Photo Credit: Honda
6) 2016 Honda Civic
The Honda Civic has been a popular teenager’s car, whether used or new, for decades, and the all new 2016 version is no exception. Let’s look at the benefits: sub-$20k MSRP, both coupe and sedan body style (with a hatchback to come), reasonably thrifty, good crash test scores, decent looks, and a reputation for steadfast reliability. The base trim 2016 Civic is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 158 horsepower and 138 lb-ft of torque. This can be paired to a six-speed manual gearbox, which earns 40 mpg on the highway, or a continuously variable transmission, which boosts highway mileage to 41. It’s basic, sure, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good.
Photo Credit: Ford
7) 2016 Ford Focus
The 2016 Ford Focus features sophisticated styling in both its sedan and hatchback guises, helping it stand out amongst other compacts in the field. The Focus delivers great handling for its sub-$20k price point, along with the availability of features like the Ford SYNC vehicle interface. It also offers a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that develops 160 horses and 146 lb-ft of twist on its way to posting fuel mileage numbers of 26 mpg in stop-and-go driving and 38 mpg on the highway.
8) 2016 Volkswagen Beetle
The 2016 Volkswagen Beetle is aimed squarely at style mavens on a budget. The Volkswagen Beetle's retro looks have been thoroughly modernized in its latest incarnation, and the hatchback's sub-$20k price means that it just might squeeze into the financial plans of a teenage driver. Based on the same general platform as the VW Golf, the Beetle offers the same base motor (170 horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder) but adds the twist of an available 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder unit that delivers 210 horses. The latter also provides near-equivalent highway fuel mileage (33 mpg vs. 31 mpg), while increasing the Beetle's performance substantially.
9) 2016 Chevrolet Sonic
The 2016 Chevrolet Sonic is another good-looking affordable car. Found in either sedan or hatchback body styles, the Chevrolet Sonic provides subcompact shoppers with an inexpensive entry point into new vehicle ownership. The Sonic's attractive lines are backed up by available features such as Bluetooth connectivity, the OnStar telematics system, and imitation leather upholstery, and it features 10 standard airbags. Standard on the Sonic is a 1.8-liter, 138-horsepower four-cylinder engine, with the option of a turbocharged, 1.4-liter four-cylinder motor that produces the same number of ponies but boosts torque and fuel economy (up to 37 mpg on the highway).
Photo Credit: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
10) 2016 Dodge Dart
The 2016 Dodge Dart provides aggressive and athletic styling in a compact sedan package that appeals to younger buyers looking for a pleasing mix of look-at-me design and attractive pricing. The Dodge Caliber seats up to five passengers, can haul 13 cubic feet of cargo, and offers plenty of standard features. The base model Dart is motivated by a 160-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers fuel mileage of 36 mpg during highway cruising.