As students go back to high school and college, they may find themselves in need of a safe and reliable set of wheels to get around, and a few new and used cars stand out as top options.
U.S. News & World Report’s list of Best Cars for Teens features cars and SUVs that do well in crash tests and on reliability scores, and come with driver assistance technologies along with tech that can monitor and regulate teen drivers.
“You’re going to see a lot of Hyundais on here,” said Frank Nieto, assistant managing editor for autos features and advice for U.S. News.
Indeed, the Hyundai Elantra Hybrid and Sonata Hybrid sedans, as well as the Kona and Tucson SUVs from the 2022 model year, make the list.
The Elantra Hybrid took the honor as the best car for teens in the $20,000 to $25,000 price range.
“Not only does it get great gas mileage, but it also has a ton of safety features and gets good crash test ratings and very solid reliability ratings from J.D. Power,” Nieto said.
The Kona was selected as the best SUV for teens in the $20,000 to $25,000 price range.
The Sonata Hybrid and Tucson won as the best car and SUV, respectively, in the $25,000 to $30,000 price range.
The best SUV for teens in the $30,000 to $35,000 range is the 2022 Subaru Forester.
“The nice thing about this one is it comes standard with all-wheel drive,” said Nieto. “So if you live in inclement weather areas where you get a lot of snow and rain, the Forester would be a great pick.”
Subaru also scored the best SUV for teens in the $35,000 to $40,000 range with its 2022 Ascent. While the vehicle gets a solid reliability score from J.D. Power, it has not been without its issues.
“You can certainly find some other ones in that class that have a higher predicted reliability rating, but the Subaru has a ton of safety features, gets great safety scores, and, again, it comes with standard all-wheel drive as well,” Nieto said.
Also in the $35,000 to $40,000 range, the soon-to-depart Nissan Maxima gets the nod as best car for teens. The Maxima “has just a ton of safety equipment that you don’t get in other cars,” said Nieto. “Sedans seem to be on their way out, but the Maxima’s still a great pick.”
In the used car category, U.S. News selected the 2018 Toyota Corolla as the best small car, the 2019 Nissan Rogue Hybrid as the best small SUV, the 2019 Kia Optima as the best mid-size car, the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe as the best mid-size SUV and the 2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid as the best large car.
U.S. News says all the cars it chose are available with forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking, as well as lane-departure warning and lane-keep assist. All winners have teen driver controls or available smartphone apps that send parents alerts when the car goes over a certain speed or is driven outside a set time period or geographic area.
So why did no fully electric cars make the list?
“It’s not that they’re not good vehicles,” Nieto said. “One of the issues is they may not have the safety scores or the reliability scores in, and so we can’t quite rank them. Or, if they do have them, they may not have scored as highly as the cars that we’ve highlighted here.”
Of course, there’s the matter of actually locating one of these winning cars amid the ongoing shortage.
“It really all depends on putting your nose to the grindstone to try to find what’s out there,” said Nieto. “But you can usually find something if you’re just willing to have some patience.”