Upon graduating from college, my first new car was a teal-green Ford Aspire. While it did the job of getting me from Texas to Arizona, and served me well in the years after, it was far from inspiring to drive. Today’s “first cars,” suitable for the high school or college grad, pack more style, performance and driving excitement, at an affordable price point, than I could have ever expected 20 years ago.
2014 Scion FR-S
It’s a bargain priced sports car that doesn’t sacrifice on fun or performance. It’s not about all-out horsepower, but with 200 horses driving this lightweight, well-balanced vehicle, you’ll agree that the FR-S fulfills Toyota Akio Toyoda’s goal to inject more passion into the lineup. It’s track-ready and sports heavily bolstered suede-esque seats, with a smaller yet substantial leather-wrapped steering wheel for optimal grip. Set your graduate up in a sporty ride without breaking the bank; it feels like a steal at $24,700.
2014 Ford Fiesta ST
Looking for more room paired with great performance? The Fiesta ST “hot hatch” gets a class leading 197-horsepower from the 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine and achieves 26 mpg city, 35 highway, and 29 combined. It performs nimbly, with a unique suspension that improves handling over the base Fiesta models, while offering generous cargo and passenger room. A Sound Symposer amplifies engine sounds, feeding it directly into the passenger cabin to provided an enhanced soundtrack for feedback quality and response. It looks and sounds like a performance car because it is, and boasts the practicality needed for the journey into the next life stage. Fiesta ST has a base price of $21,400.
2014 Toyota Corolla
With more than 40 million units sold since its debut in 1966, Corolla is the world’s best selling nameplate. It was redesigned for 2014, despite strong sales of the previous model, and has seen a four percent increase in sales. It’s a solid performer with a sleeker style and a model all tastes: the new LE Eco for the green crowd and S for those wanting sportier performance. All models are lower, wider and longer, and come well equipped with high-end features like LED headlamps, more legroom, and excellent safety ratings. Pricing starts at $18,300 for the most popular LE model, and $21,300 for the top-line S Plus with the six-speed manual transmission.
2014 Kia Soul +
Hamsters drove the Soul into our cultural consciousness. Slimmed down around the curves for 2014, but bolstered up in interior quality, the Soul is still the hip choice for a grad’s first new car. Chief designer Tom Kearns wanted to up the ante with premium features, while maintaining the iconic design and the fun factor. “If you think about droplets falling into a still pond, you begin to visualize the inspiration for the all-new Soul’s interior design,” said Kearns. “The design is organic, like the human body, and we feel it makes the interior that much more appealing to the driver and passengers.” It comes in three levels: Base, Plus (+) and Exclaim (!), integrated with Pandora radio and other cool features. Go with the + for increased horsepower, and a bargain price of $18,400. The top-line ! starts at $20,500.
2015 Audi A3
Maybe you’re a college grad who landed a sweet gig with a fat new paycheck. Looking for some entry-level luxury? The new sub-$30k Audi A3 fits the bill. Stylish, practical, with the panache and character Audi is famous for, with a price tag that will get you more than you might expect, the A3 comes will certainly get some attention. The interior is classy, and well appointed, with much better quality materials than some competitors. It sports real leather-trimmed seats and soft-touch materials throughout, making it much like more a slimmed down A8 than a souped-up Volkswagen. The base model starts at $29,900, with a more powerful engine retailing for $32,900.