It’s a difficult question to answer: What is the best car for my teen? There’s too much diversity to pick one car, which is why I have come up with the five best cars for teens so you can see if one fits your teen’s needs.
The criteria are fairly simple: new cars costing less than $20,000 that are fun to drive but not too powerful. Teens have to get some experience under their belt before we’re willing to recommend a Subaru WRX. Also, we picked $20,000 as the cutoff because we don’t want to bankrupt mom and dad.
The first piece of advice, regardless of what you buy a teen, is make him or her learn how to drive a manual transmission. It’s imperative that they are ready to drive any consumer vehicle on the road. It could be a lifesaver. Scion iM: The 2016 Scion iM (above image) because it’s a lightweight hatch that is fun to drive when equipped with the six-speed manual. Sure, the clutch point is a little high but your teen can have fun driving this car, throw stuff in the back, and still get decent fuel economy for $19,255 including destination. Ford Focus: I recommend the 2015 Ford Focus SE (top image) hatchback just because we think you can save some money over the 2016 model. It has a peppy 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine mated to a five-speed manual. Plus fuel economy is good at an estimated 26-mpg city and 36-mpg highway. You should be able to get into one for about $19,000 with a little wheeling and dealing.
Kia Forte: Road trip: that’s the reason for picking the Kia Forte hatchback (above image). My family and I took it on a six-hour drive and found it incredibly comfortable. It got good fuel economy and swallowed up a weekend’s worth of stuff. Plus, it was just so darn easy to park in Washington, D.C. Pricing starts at $19,690. Volkswagen Golf: You’ll notice we recommend the Volkswagen Golf with the 1.8-liter, 170-horsepower four-cylinder turbo engine and not the TDI version. The best feature of the Golf? It’s not going to hold a lot of people. It has a small passenger compartment, which is always a good way for the teens not to pile in. Pricing starts from $18,495.
Mazda Mazda3: Our final pick is going to be the Mazda Mazda3 Sport 5-Door (above image) with the manual transmission. Again, you can’t beat the functionality of a hatchback when you’re a teen and it’s a good looking, great handling car. Pricing starts at $18,545.