2011 Ford FiestaEnlarge Photo
Along with new clothes, books, iPhones, iPads and other de rigueur gear for back to school, what right-minded teen wouldn’t jump at the chance to have a cool new car to drive? Hey, school may already be in session, but that doesn’t mean parents can’t still snag some great new car deals on the dealership lots. In fact, dealers are hungry and want to move inventory. All the better. If you can stretch the family budget to buy a fuel-efficient, safe small car to handle all your responsible teen’s driving needs, why not go for it?
While there are all kinds of lists touting the best cars for back to school, what matters most are two things. Teens want something they – and their friends – think is cool. Parents want a car that’s safe and affordable. The two are not mutually exclusive.
Kelley Blue Book singled out 10 cars recently as the best for back to school. Among them are a few used ones. But let’s stick with the new models, since this is, after all, about the cool cars. And the manufacturers suggested retail prices (MSRPs) for this group of five ranges from $13,995 to $16,995. So, they’re family wallet-friendly as well.
Ford’s marketing tag for the all-new 2011 Fiesta (above) is “It’s a pretty big deal.” It’s easy to see why. At a starting MSRP of $13,320 (for the S sedan), the five-passenger small car is a virtual steal on price alone – but its snazzy good looks and kid-cool features really make Fiesta a winner. Reviewers are also high on Fiesta’s virtues, calling it a new benchmark in the small car class and KBB lists Fiesta as #1 on its list of best back-to-school cars. Fiesta is a fun-to-drive four-door sedan or five-door hatchback with an upscale quality interior for the price, available SYNC system, airbag for the driver’s knees, and many other features not commonly found in the small/subcompact car class. Best of all, Fiesta achieves near-hybrid fuel economy estimated at 29 mpg city/40 mpg highway for some models, and it’s a 2010 IIHS Top Safety Pick.
2012 Holden Cruze hatchbackEnlarge Photo
It’s number 10 on the KBB list, but the all-new 2011 Chevrolet Cruze may be number one for some families checking out wheels for their driving teen – although the high-mileage Cruze Eco (estimated 40 mpg highway) isn’t expected to go on sale until the end of 2010. The Cruze may be worth the wait. Christmas present, anyone? This compact sedan is anything but boring. The interior is spacious and comfortable, seats five, and offers plenty of cargo space. There are 10 airbags, plus Turn-by-Turn Navigation from OnStar free for the first six months. MSRP for the least-expensive Cruze LS begins at $16,275. Add in $720 destination charge and you’re looking at $16,995 for the base Cruze.