5 Cool Cars for Back to School

Back to school season is upon us. If you’re like me, you’ll remember pulling into the parking lot with a beat-up hand-me-down vehicle, about a decade older than the year on the calendar. To help your student avoid a similar fate, we’ve put together a list of the best new cars for back to school.

When buying a vehicle for a new or any young driver, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has a few recommendations:

  • Stay away from high horsepower. While that cool Mustang or WRX will most surely be on their want list, even the most responsible drivers are tempted to test the limits of more powerful engines.
  • Bigger, heavier vehicles are safer.
  • Electronic stability control is a must.
  • Vehicles should have the highest possible safety ratings. Both the IIHS and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have vehicle ratings available online.

Sure, those specifications apply to tried and true models like Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Ford Focus and Nissan Sentra, which are all solid choices. But there are a few vehicles that have not only substance, but distinctive styling that will stand out on campus.


2016 Kia Soul

IIHS Top Safety Pick

The fun and funky Soul, with its boxy shape and bright colors, gets some upgrades for this model year, including a new Designer Collection with a two-tone paint scheme. It is available in three trim levels and has been named one of the 10 Coolest Cars Under $18,000 by Kelley Blue Book, Best Cars for Families by U.S. News & World Report, and Best Urban Vehicle in the Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year competition, held annually here in Arizona.

2016 Fiat 500X Trekking Plus2016 Fiat 500X

IIHS Top Safety Pick +

Combining iconic Italian style with functionality, one of the best things about the 500X crossover is that it can be customized to suit your needs and personality. It offers up to 70 safety and security features, including standard electronic stability control on all models. Fiat states that their brand stands for “discovery through passionate self-expression,” making the 500X the perfect vehicle for cruising campus.

2016_Mazda_CX-3_-41-wpcf_1024x6832016 Mazda CX-3

IIHS Top Safety Pick +

The subcompact crossover segment is packed with worthy choices, but we like the CX-3’s style and function. Looks-wise, it could be the result of the mating of a Subaru and a Volvo, with its plastic wheel cladding and long nose. It’s punchy but not dangerously powerful, beautifully proportioned and generously equipped. Its interior is among the richest and most luxurious in its class.

2016_Toyota_Prius_Three_04_7DCD76DC68BC4CC3B0C95910EEF6F013964333C2_low2016 Toyota Prius

IIHS Top Safety Pick +

For the eco-minded, there’s really no better choice than the Toyota Prius. And for the 2016 model year, the fourth generation Prius gets a striking redesign that puts to rest the “boring hybrid” trope. The new hybrid system is more quiet and efficient, yet returns a higher quality drive feel than previous models.

cq5dam.web.1550.31002016 Mini Cooper

IIHS Top Safety Pick +

So, the Mini Cooper breaks the rule that bigger and heavier are better for young drivers. But, the hardtop Mini two-door is really too adorable to resist, gets excellent marks in terms of safety, and returns great fuel economy. Suitable for more experienced, college-aged drivers rather than new licensees, the Cooper may be mini, but it’s always the big man on campus.

More information on choosing the best vehicle for your student, suggestions for the best used cars, and more can be found on the IIHS website.

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