Between getting to and from school, as well as various extracurricular activities, teens are behind the wheel from early morning to late evening. These increasingly long days and busy schedules can lead to distracted and dangerous driving. Not only do 50 percent of teen drivers admit to texting while driving in the past 30 days, but according to a new study, nearly one in 10 teens have admitted to completely falling asleep while driving.
Distracted driving, in fact, is the leading cause of crashes involving teens. Whether they are talking with their friends, texting on their phone, or using the infotainment system, teens often look everywhere but the road. Additionally, even when teens are trying to focus on driving, they can often be drowsy or too tired to be alert. This, coupled with teens’ inexperience, can have dangerous and potentially fatal consequences.
We’ve identified the Best Cars for Teens to help keep your teen, and other drivers, safe. Each car has a long list of accident-avoidance technologies such as blind spot monitoring, forward collision alert, lane departure warning, and automatic precollision braking, as well as top-rated crash test performance, so occupants will be well-protected should an accident occur. Plus, new technology in some vehicles allows parents to set speed and audio volume restrictions when their teen is behind the wheel, while other systems can send parents updates on their teen’s driving behavior.
We’ve analyzed the data and determined a list of vehicles that have the best combination of overall quality, high safety ratings, and countless accident-avoidance technologies across seven price brackets. The more money you spend, the most safety features are available. Some of the more expensive vehicles on this list have the space and features to keep your whole family comfortable and safe.
Chevrolet Sonic: Best Car for Teens Under $20K
Subcompact cars are easy on your bank account, but you’ll typically sacrifice some safety technologies that could help your teen avoid an accident. The Chevy Sonic, however, is available with forward collision warning and lane departure warning, both of which are rare for the class. A rearview camera is also optional.
If you opt for all these features, the Sonic will cost you only around $18,000, which could allow you to put away some more money for the college fund.
Small, light cars like the Sonic provide less protection in crashes than larger, heavier vehicles, but the Sonic’s excellent crash test scores should give you some peace of mind. It received the best rating of Good in all five Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) evaluations, and a perfect five-star overall rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
On the road, the Sonic’s 138-horsepower four-cylinder engine provides sufficient power. Handling through turns is stable and poised, which will give your young driver some confidence behind the wheel. It’ll also be easy for them to find a comfortable driving position thanks to the tilt and telescopic steering wheel, a feature that’s often not available in this class. All the dashboard controls are easy to use and the available MyLink infotainment system operates intuitively and responsively, which helps minimize distractions for the driver.
If you’re interested in buying a Sonic, use our Best Price Program to find the dealer near you with the lowest price. Also, check out the Chevy deals page for all the best financing and lease offers this month.
Honda Fit: Best Car for Teens Under $20K
If your teen needs a lot of space for gear, but you want something that’ll fit a tight budget, the Honda Fit is a great choice. The rear seat folds down flat to accommodate 52.7 cubic feet of cargo, which is comparable to several subcompact SUVs.
Despite having SUV-like cargo space, the Fit doesn’t have an SUV-like price tag. It starts at only $16,690 with an automatic transmission. A rearview camera is standard, but you’ll have to pay $18,650 to get the available Honda LaneWatch blind spot monitor, a useful aid for new drivers.
Piloting the Fit is an uneventful experience, as the engine pumps out adequate power, the ride is smooth, and cornering is composed. Whoever is paying the gas bills will appreciate the Fit’s 33 mpg in the city and 41 on the highway – excellent estimates for a subcompact car. Parents will also be happy that the Fit boasts strong crash test scores, earning a Good rating in four of five tests conducted by IIHS, and a perfect five-star overall rating from NHTSA.
Due to its combination of positive expert reviews, good safety and reliability ratings, and low cost, the 2016 Fit was named the Best Subcompact Car for the Money as well as the Best Hatchback for the Money.
Kia Soul: Best Car for Teens $20K to $25K
Even if your teenage driver is responsible and conscientious behind the wheel, the thought of them driving alone or with friends can still be nerve-wracking. For concerned parents, the Kia Soul’s available UVO eServices may ease the stress a little bit.
UVO can be synced to your smartphone and send you a text message when the Soul is driven outside a predetermined geographic area, exceeds a preset speed, or is driven after a certain time of night. The UVO system informs you of dangerous driving behaviors so you can discuss them with your teen and help them build good habits.
Kia’s boxy hatchback is available with some technologies that can prevent crashes, like forward collision warning, lane departure warning, and a rearview camera. Opting for UVO and these driver-assistance features brings the Soul’s price up to $22,780. If an accident does occur, know that the Soul received top-notch crash test scores from IIHS and NHTSA.
Like the Honda Fit, the Kia Soul has enough cargo space for all the sports gear your teen will need for practice and games, and by compact car standards, the seats are roomy in front and back. On the road, the Soul rides smoothly and quietly, has stable handling, and its brakes are strong.
Thanks to the 2016 Soul’s high safety ratings, family-friendly space and features, and excellent expert reviews, we named it the Best Compact Car for Families and the Best Hatchback for Families.
Hyundai Sonata: Best Car for Teens $30K to $35K
Currently tied for the top spot in our midsize car rankings, the Hyundai Sonata is available with lots of safety features to protect your teen when they’re behind the wheel.
In addition to blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, automatic braking, rear cross traffic alert, and parking sensors, the Sonata offers Bluelink teen controls. Like Kia’s UVO eServices, Bluelink will send you a text message when the Sonata is driven outside a predetermined geographic area, exceeds a preset speed, or is driven after a certain time of night.
Equipping a Sonata with all of those technologies elevates the price to $34,200, but for all the accident-avoidance and tracking technologies you’ll get, it may be worth it. Should an accident occur, the Sonata provides excellent crash protection, as it received a Top Safety Pick+ award from IIHS and a perfect five-star overall rating from NHTSA.
The Sonata’s cabin technology is easy to use and the trunk is large for the class at 16.3 cubic feet. Seating space is also tough to beat, as taller folks will have plenty of space to get comfortable in both rows. On the road, the Sonata provides responsive handling and a smooth ride. Plus, whoever is paying the gas bills will be thankful for the Sonata’s strong fuel economy rating of 25 mpg in the city and 38 on the highway.
Chevrolet Malibu: Finalist, Best Car for Teens $30K to $35K
Redesigned for 2016, the Chevy Malibu is currently tied with the Sonata for the top spot among midsize cars.
Chevy’s all-new Teen Driver technology is available with the Malibu this year, and it helps new drivers adopt safe driving habits. For example, when Teen Driver is activated, the radio is muted until front-seat occupants are wearing their seat belts. If the driver exceeds a preset speed, audible and visual warnings are triggered, reminding the driver to slow down.
When the car returns home, parents can access some of their child’s driving statistics like distance driven, maximum speed, and the number of times certain accident-avoidance features were activated. Driver-assistance features available in the Malibu include blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, automatic pre-collision braking, rear cross traffic alert, and parking sensors. A Malibu with Teen Driver and the full lineup of safety tech will cost $33,450.
Like the Sonata, the Malibu is a standout in terms of crash test scores, with a Top Safety Pick+ award from IIHS and a perfect five-star overall rating from NHTSA. It also has a very good predicted reliability rating, so it should require fewer trips to the mechanic than some rivals. Plus, gas expenses should be limited with the Malibu’s 27/37 mpg city/highway. Thanks to its excellent safety and reliability scores and family-friendly features and space, we named the 2016 Malibu the Best Midsize Car for Families.
(report via cars.usnews.com)