Nobody likes to admit it but everybody loves lists, so here’s a fresh revision of our “top 10 best cars for beginners and youthful drivers” rundown. Whether you’re a parent looking for a safe ride for your kid, or you’re a kid convincing your parents that a Subaru WRX is a safe car, we’re here to tell you the truth. Onwards to our best suggestions.
1. 2012-present Honda Civic
The Honda Civic represents the greatest combination of traits in a cheap compact car. Spacious, fun to drive, economical, reliable, and well-made, the Civic does it all for any kind of buyer. With the added bonus of being available with modern safety tech like blind spot monitoring and forward collision warning in the 2016 and up models, the previous and current generation Civic fills any need at any budget, ranging from $9,000-$15,000 for great used examples.
Also, for you aspiring hoons out there, the Civic drives very sweet and will satisfy even the most discerning cornering enthusiast out there. It’s the perfect car to grow into!
2. 2013-2019 Toyota Corolla
The previous generation of Toyota Corolla presents an interesting value proposition for the amount of refinement and quietness that it is capable of. While not an exciting performer, the Corolla punches above its weight in standard features, coming with excellent LED projector headlights.
Generally, used examples hover around $10,000, while newer ones fetch a few thousand more bucks. Don’t expect to be a steely-eyed corner carver in this car, the Toyota favors isolation over driver involvement. Still, a fabulously safe option.
3. 2007-2012 Honda Accord
For those of you looking for a machine with a larger form factor, you don’t need to look much farther than the Honda Accord, specifically the eighth generation model. Available with a fuel-sipping 2.4-liter four-cylinder or a smooth and powerful 3.5-liter V6, there are options for all buyers, though you should definitely keep young people away from the V6 models.
This generation of Accord can be had for as little as $8,000 or as much as $13,000, and does suffer from being on the old side, lacking modern safety tech of the newer offerings. Strong resale and still safe in an accident, the Accord is a great option for anyone looking for more space without much penalty.
The Accord also drives surprisingly nice, with alert, direct steering and excellent suspension.
4. 2012-present Mazda 6
The sportier and more comfortable alternative to the Honda Accord, the Mazda 6 isn’t as sharp as the Honda, but has a unique-to-the-segment combination of fabulous ride quality and responsive handling that isn’t matched this side of a BMW.
Excellent refinement and quietness back up the 6 well, and it returns excellent fuel economy with it’s 2.5-liter Skyactiv-G inline-four engine. Power is lacking, but the real-world economy backs everything up. Unfortunately, no other engine option exists unless you’re willing to fork over $30k+ for a new turbo model.
Being in the same size class as the Accord, the 6 does not leave you wanting for space. It is cavernously big, and one of the most comfortable four-passenger cars in the segment. Best of all, they can be had for reasonable prices, starting around $10,000 at the low end.
5. 2011-2019 Toyota Camry
Rounding off the full-size car segment of our list, the Toyota Camry is the long undisputed king of sedans in America. Though it isn’t our favorite here at Car Autance, it is an option that you cannot go wrong with. It’s safe, reliable, quiet, and perfectly adequate for most lifestyles.
The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine gets its job done admirably, and smoothly. It’s easy to drive and has options for popular safety features like blind spot monitoring. It’s build robustly well, and will never let you down.
Though it isn’t exciting or inspiring, the Camry remains respectable and responsible. Perfect for that troublesome kid that you’re worried about. This is a rolling sleeping pill.
6. 2013-present Honda Fit
To kick off our true small car segment of the list, we have the Honda Fit. The gold standard of the small car segment, losing out in performance and fun to the Ford Fiesta, but coming out ahead for its reliability and build quality.
The Fit is a small hatchback with decent interior space, though it is a decidedly small car for most people’s expectations. For your sacrifice, you get excellent fuel economy and easy parking, while still living comfortably on most road situations. Great handling and decent refinement make the Fit a solid choice, while having segment-leading reliability will make it the most reasonable choice. They can be had for around $10,000-$12,000 for a really nice example.
7. 2011-2019 Ford Fiesta
The second winner in our small car section is the Ford Fiesta, best paired with a manual transmission. We can’t ignore the problematic dual-clutch automatic gearbox that has plagued Ford compact cars since its inception, so we recommend that you go with a manual for the best, most reliable ownership experience.
The Fiesta is a standout performer, with great steering and excellent refinement and comfort. Road noise is surprisingly low, while still feeling light, airy, and small. It’s a delightful small hatchback that can be had for less than $9,000. The high-strung Fiesta ST is more money (and more dangerous for a newbie) but there’s a lot of info on it in our Fiesta ST Car Autance if you’re curious about that one.
8. 2010-2014 Volkswagen Golf
Now we move into our final section of cars, but our favorite one: semi-premium compacts. The Volkswagen Golf presents the most well rounded car of this segment, and perhaps the entire list. The 2010-2014 models have two engine options in the TDI turbo-diesel and the 2.5-liter inline-five gasoline engine. The 2.5s come with lesser equipment, while TDIs come loaded with extras.
Limo-like refinement and exquisite (for a cheap car) build quality are the hallmarks of any good Volkswagen, the Golf is no exception. It will never fail to impress, will always be safe and secure, and make you feel safe. This car was the world first to have knee airbags, and achieved excellent safety ratings in crash testing.
To boot, it’s spacious for all four passengers and their luggage, returns excellent fuel economy and power for both engines, and is more reliable than people will lead you to believe. This generation of VW will serve you faithfully without breaking the bank. They can be had for as low as $7,000, and as high as $12,000.
If you end up getting one of these or want to look into them further, check out our comprehensive VW Golf Car Autance!
9. 2010-2018 Volkswagen Jetta
The Jetta may be mistaken as a Golf clone, but don’t be fooled. The Jetta is even more spacious, more quiet, and has more powertrain options, adding a 1.8-liter and 1.4-liter TSI direct injection turbo engine to the mix.
The Jetta is for the people who don’t want the hatchback shape and want something more traditionally fashionable. The car is smaller than a full-size sedan like the Camry, but competes for luggage space and passenger space with the big ones.
Excellent fuel economy and reliability make the Jetta a great option, at the penalty of being slightly cheapened and decontented compared to the Golf.
10. 2012-2016 Subaru Impreza
Rounding off our list with the final offering in the premium compact segment, the Subaru Impreza. It distinguishes itself with standard full-time All Wheel Drive, and excellent optional equipment and safety features.
The Impreza comes with a 2.0-liter flat-four cylinder engine, citing superior smoothness and refinement coming from the flat layout. All Subarus feature this layout and AWD, save for the BRZ. Gifted with a competent chassis and suspension, the Impreza impresses with refinement and handling, but returns somewhat mediocre fuel economy.
Save for that, the Impreza is the most versatile car on this list, and it’s able to get anywhere, anytime, in all-weather, while in comfort and safety. It’s the safest and best option for any young driver that drives somewhere where weather is a true factor.
That does it for the list! I hope we found some good cars some new homes.