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Back To School: The Car Connection Picks Eight For Your Teen


2013 Dodge Dart SXT

2013 Dodge Dart SXT

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While you may be out new-car shopping for yourself this coming weekend, it's just as likely you'll be looking for something to give to your teen driver. It's a fact of modern life for many families: to get to all the day's duties--everything between work and school--sometimes, you need a second, or even a third, set of wheels.

Buying a car for your son or daughter to drive to and from high school takes some thought. You might pick something sporty for yourself--but you want something different for your kids. It has to be safe. It has to be great on gas, and easy on repairs. It has to be affordable in price and for insurance--and it needs some basic features that protect the passengers and resale value at the same time.

We've scanned the list of new 2013 cars and set a base price target of around $18,000, and mandated some standard features, including power features, an automatic transmission, air conditioning, Bluetooth, and a decent base sound system with a USB port. From all those choices, these new cars make the best case for teen drivers:

2013 Chevrolet Cruze

2013 Chevrolet Cruze

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2013 Chevrolet Cruze LS

  • Base price: about $19,000
  • Standard safety features: 10 airbags, OnStar, tire pressure monitor, daytime running lights
  • NHTSA safety ratings: five stars overall
  • Best highway gas mileage: 38 mpg (with six-speed automatic transmission)
  • Standout features: Available Chevrolet MyLink mobile-app connectivity

The Cruze is a smart pick for anyone wanting safety, comfort and practicality in a compact sedan, but it is missing the fun-to-drive edge of some other compact models in the market.

2013 Chevrolet Sonic hatchback

2013 Chevrolet Sonic hatchback

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2013 Chevrolet Sonic LS

  • Base price: about $16,000
  • Standard safety features: 10 airbags, OnStar
  • NHTSA safety ratings: five stars overall
  • Best highway gas mileage: 35 mpg (Sonic LS manual or automatic)
  • Standout features: Chevrolet MyLink system and mobile-app connectivity

With a quiet, smooth ride, well-weighted steering and comfortable seats, the Sonic subcompact offers a lot of safety and refinement in a sporty-looking and sporty-driving package.

2013 Dodge Dart SXT

2013 Dodge Dart SXT

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2013 Dodge Dart SE

  • Base price: about $18,000
  • Standard safety features: 10 airbags, hill-start assist
  • NHTSA safety ratings: not yet available
  • Best highway gas mileage: 34 mpg
  • Standout features: available Uconnect 8.4 touchscreen with AM/FM/CD/MP3 and available Sirius XM satellite radio; 14 interior combinations, 12 exterior colors, six wheel choices, and the ability to add over 150 Mopar accessories

The new Dart is instantly distinctive on the road with its attitude and rakish design, and is one of the roomiest in the market. With all the personalization available, there probably won’t be two identical Darts in your neighborhood – sure to appeal to style-conscious young drivers.

2013 Ford Fiesta

2013 Ford Fiesta

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2013 Ford Fiesta SE

  • Base price: about $18,000
  • Standard safety features: Seven airbags
  • NHTSA safety ratings: four stars overall
  • Best highway gas mileage: 39 mpg
  • Standout features: AM/FM/CD/MP3 six-speaker audio system, voice-activated SYNC, available power moonroof, remote start, numerous accessories for customization

The Fiesta is a fun-to-drive small car with sharp styling (especially the five-door hatchback), with well-coordinated colors and textures inside.

2013 Ford Focus

2013 Ford Focus

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2013 Ford Focus S

  • Base price: around $18,0000
  • Standard safety features: Six airbags, torque vectoring control system
  • NHTSA safety ratings: not yet rated for overall, frontal or side, but four stars in rollover testing
  • Best highway gas mileage: 38 mpg
  • Standout features: available SYNC with MyFord Touch, MyKey technology, active park assist, eight unique wheel styles, available graphic package

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