What if your high school student needs her car to be a truck? In that case, we recommend the 2018 Nissan Frontier. Among compact and mid-size trucks, it’s one of the oldest designs out there, but it’s also one of the safest, with good crash test scores compared to other pickups. It’s also very affordable; in fact, the Frontier is the least-expensive pickup truck you can buy. Now, we must caution you that pickup trucks are not as safe as cars, especially rear-wheel-drive trucks driven in rain or snow. But we also understand that trucks are a way of life for some families, and the Nissan Frontier makes a fantastic first truck.
Should you put your teen driver in a new or a used car? new cars meet all of the latest safety standards, but they can get very expensive and that’s what gives the 2018 Nissan Versa its appeal. The Nissan Versa is the least-expensive car sold in America, with prices starting just under $12,000 and well-equipped models priced under $16k. And the Versa is a great car-a bit homely-looking, perhaps, but it’s fuel-efficient, decent to drive, and surprisingly roomy, with a spacious back seat and a big trunk. A well-cared-for Versa will see your student through all of her high school, college and grad school years, long past the point where a used car might have to be replaced.
2017 Subaru Impreza
The 2018 Subaru Impreza is our number-one choice for high school students who live where it rains or snows. Why? Because, like all Subarus, the Impreza comes standard with all-wheel-drive, which makes it extra-sure-footed when the weather turns bad (and on dry roads as well). If you’ve been to New England or the Pacific Northwest, you’ve probably seen tons of Subarus on the road, and with good reason: Those people know all about bad weather. Now, there’s one caveat: If you have a speed-obsessed teen, don’t let them talk you into the WRX or STI models these are high-performance versions of the Impreza intended for skilled and experienced drivers. Look for the basic 2.0-liter models, and rest assured that your teen is equipped to do battle with Mother Nature.
2017 Toyota 86
There aren’t many sports cars we would recommend for high-school-age drivers, but the 2017 Toyota 86 is one of them. While most sports cars have massively powerful engines, the Toyota 86’s powertrain is relatively modest. The 86 is more about handlng it uses rear-wheel-drive (not a great choice for rain and snow, by the way) and exploits the inherent balance that lightweight, rear-drive cars have. If your teen has an interest in performance driving, the 86 is a natural fit for autocrossing a type of low-speed racing on courses set up in parking lots, where the emphasis is on car control rather than speed.
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