Celebrating graduation from college may also be an occasion to venture into the new car market. With about-to-be college grads, and perhaps some of their parents, looking for that just-right and affordable vehicle to fit the bill, Total Car Score’s list of the top cars for college grads might come in handy.
Total Car Score, a car comparison website and comprehensive auto rating system, assigns a Total Car Score (or TCS) to each vehicle in the market. The TCS score is an overall industry assessment combining quantitative car reviews from all the major automotive authorities (including The Car Connection).
According to Karl Brauer, editor-in-chief of Total Car Score, “College grads are looking to make an investment in a car that is reliable and cost conscious.” The following list of cars for college grads comprises the top-rated cars “that offer the best quality while being very affordable.”
How affordable? Each of the cars on the list has a manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) that starts under $25,000. Seven of the ten start under $17,000.
2012 Volkswagen Golf – With an overall TCS of 83.86, the compact 2012 Volkswagen Golf earns the top spot for a number of attributes, including its powerful engines, refined driving dynamics, quick steering response and well-damped ride. Availability of a clean-diesel powertrain is another noted benefit. The Car Connection review of the Golf says it “has a premium feel that’s pervasive and superior to most of the competitors, but it’s also expensive compared to the likes of the Ford Focus, Mazda3 and Kia Forte/Soul…” Prices range from $17,995 to $24,695.
2012 Volkswagen GTI
2012 Volkswagen GTI – Among the strengths of the sixth-generation 2012 Volkswagen GTI, available in two- and four-door hatchback body styles, are a robust turbocharged 2.0-liter engine and sport-tuned suspension. The VW GTI comes in at a strong 82.23 TCS. Meanwhile, The Car Connection review notes that, “It isn’t the fastest or flashiest sporty hatchback around, but the 2012 Volkswagen GTI may well be the most balanced, carrying forward its legacy into the 21st century.” Prices range from $23,695 to $30,535.
2012 Ford FocusEnlarge Photo
2012 Ford Focus - Receiving high marks for its sporty handling, supple and controlled ride, excellent steering feel and relatively high fuel economy, the 2012 Ford Focus earns a 82.01 TCS. The Car Connection, rating the 2012 Ford Focus an 8.8 (out of 10), also named it the 2012 Best Car to Buy winner. Our editors come straight to the point: “With the 2012 Focus, Ford shows that small cars don’t have to feel so banal, with charismatic compacts that are more satisfying to drive, more luxurious, and better equipped.” Prices range from $16,500 to $22,700.
2012 Mazda Mazda3 SkyActivEnlarge Photo
2012 Mazda Mazda3 – Noting that automotive reviewers praised the 2012 Mazda Mazda3 sedan and hatchback for precise and responsive handling, excellent stability, firm but comfortable ride, class-leading steering feel, and all-around fun-to-drive character, Total Car Score rates the compact at 81.10. The Car Connection gives the 2012 Mazda Mazda3 an overall 8.2 (out of 10) rating and remarks, “With its new SkyACTIV powertrains, the 2012 Mazda3 is the eco-conscious choice that sure doesn’t drive like one.” But the SkyACTIV powertrains are only available in the Mazda3i Touring and Grand Touring models. Prices for the 2012 Mazda3 range from $15,200 to $23,400.