Monday, January 30, 2012

The 12 Smartest Cars for College Students

That beater you’ve been driving around in high school is on its last legs, and you need a new ride to take you to college. Because the funds you’re working with are the result of your job in the fast-food industry, it needs to be a cheap car. And your parents will make a bunch of noise unless you get something that scores well on safety tests. Fortunately, carmakers have plenty of offerings for you to choose from. Although smart cars have pretty much reached the end of their 15 minutes of fame, here are a dozen cars, including some used options, that are smart choices for college students.

  1. Volkswagen Jetta

    At a base of price of $16,850, the Jetta hits on all cylinders in the areas you’ll need it to. It’s got a huge trunk for hauling luggage on your weekend trips, a roomy backseat for carting your friends around, and a diesel engine for a nice 29 miles per gallon highway. It’s also a top safety pick thanks to its six airbags in the front, side, and rear, and highest possible marks on roof strength and rear collision tests.

  2. Kia Forte

    People tend to think of Kias as cheap, and not in a good way. However, in recent years they’ve made strides in performance while maintaining the low sticker price. The Forte runs about $15,000 and boasts 25 city/34 highway mileage. Kia stands by this car, offering a 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty. It comes in coupe, sedan, and four-door hatchback, so you can pick the body that suits your lifestyle best. Standard anti-lock brakes and traction control help make the Forte a safe bet.

  3. Ford Fiesta

    Finally, American cars are worth buying again. At a base of just over $13,000, Ford’s Fiesta is a sedan (or hatchback) with style that’s hard to find in this price range. Fuel economy rocks at 29 city/38 highway. Reviewers say it is a blast to drive, with terrific steering and handling. It’s not the most spacious of small cars, but it doesn’t miss out on any key features cars in this class sometimes do. As for safety, your parents can rest easy; the Fiesta got top scores on top, side, rear, and roof crash tests.

  4. Chevrolet Equinox

    Don’t worry Chevy fans, we didn’t forget you. Try going up a car size to the compact SUV class with an Equinox. U.S. News rates it their #1 affordable car in the category. If you get in a wreck, it helps to be bigger than the other car; the Equinox is a Top Safety Pick according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). It does cost quite a bit more than a small car like a Fiesta, but you get more seating room, more cargo room, and more horses without sacrificing much in fuel economy.

  5. 2002 Toyota Prius

    Sure, you could get a new Prius, but it will cost four times as much as one from 2002, which can be had for around $7,000. Obviously the sale price is smart, but since it’s a Prius you’ll be getting up to 52 miles on a gallon of gas…in the city. It’s spacious for a hybrid, with lots of head and leg room. With great warranties and excellent scores in reliability, a used Prius is a brainy buy.

  6. Kia Soul

    The new, redesigned Kia Soul packs more horsepower (138), more torque (123 lbs.), and better mpg (27 city/35 highway), but keeps the sticker price pretty much the same. The base model MSRP comes in under $14,000. The Soul has a slew of cool features, some of which are standard, like the telescoping steering wheel, folding rear seat, and USB and auxiliary outlets on the dash. The Soul scores highly on safety, with front and side airbags and antilock brakes with brake assist. It’s an especially good choice for taller people that need extra headroom.

  7. Chevrolet Cruze

    The Chevy Cruze is hard to beat for college drivers. It’s got a roomy interior, sharp styling, and its mpg rating of 25/36 is up there with the best of ‘em in the compact, non-hybrid bracket. You’ll also appreciate the features Chevy has now made standard on the Cruze, including audio controls mounted on the steering wheel, Bluetooth connectivity, and a USB port on the head unit. And it’s safety first with the Cruze, with its 10(!) airbags, including knee airbags that keep you from sliding down in your seat in a crash.

  8. Toyota Tacoma

    Just try getting a sofa into a Prius. The Tacoma won’t knock you over with its amazing fuel savings, but 21/25 is respectable enough when the payoff is a truck bed. The Tacoma is the #1-rated compact pickup and costs an affordable $17,000 base MSRP. It’s at the head of the class in standard features, with a six-speaker stereo, rearview camera, tilt and telescope wheel, and comfortable, supportive front seats. On top of the standard safety features, driver and passenger whiplash protection systems earned the Tacoma five stars on front, side, and rear crash tests.

  9. Hyundai Elantra

    The 2011 Elantra won rave reviews, and the success continues with the 2012. If you want 40 mpg-efficiency but think the Prius leaves something to be desired in the looks department, the Elantra’s for you. It’s got nice looks, a fat trunk, and a handy 10-year, 100,000-mile warranty from Hyundai. The cabin is roomy and spooky-quiet. And, last but not least, the Elantra earns a ridiculous 9.8/10 safety rating from U.S. News.

  10. Kia Optima

    If you like Kias and you’ve got a little more scratch to work with, the Optima is another good option from this automaker. Fuel economy, handling, crash scores, and engine performance are all very solid with this ride. If you squint, it almost looks like a Mercedes from the side. It gets good grades in all the crash test categories and throws in features like tire pressure monitors and electronic brakeforce distribution.

  11. 2001 Honda Civic

    OK, going this far back might be approaching the boundaries of your comfort zone. But if you’re familiar with Hondas, you know they last forever. And the ’01 Civic was a champ: it has a larger cabin and trunk than previous models, runs quieter and smoother, gets 28/35 mpg, and has strong crash-test ratings. Get one that’s been taken care of for $6k, and you should be able to get at least another 100,000 miles out of it.

  12. Honda Fit

    If you prefer to be an original owner, try a 2012 Honda Fit. The Fit has been a hot item with college kids for several years because of its cavernous interior, snappy engine, and sweet gas mileage, all for a reasonable price. What helps make the Fit so roomy is the Magic Seat that folds to give you space to haul a surfboard or a giant science project. And to top it off, the Fit is an IIHS Top Safety Pick.

Taken From Best Colleges Online

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