sports cars for teens

sports cars for teens

What is the best car overall for teenagers?

Deciding on the best car for a teenage driver depends on who is doing the deciding — the teens or their parents.

Teenagers and parents tend to have different objectives and priorities when it comes to cars, although it’s usually not difficult for the two parties to come to a mutually agreeable decision, especially when each party is willing to compromise a little.

To get you answers, we’ll try to look at the subject of teen cars from both points of view.

Teenage guys tend to place importance on a car’s style (sporty), appearance (cool), performance (fast), size (room for friends), features (great sound system), and accessories (customization and mods). Girls like cute cars that reflect their personality and are practical — usually smaller and fun to drive. They usually place less importance on performance and accessories than the guys.

Parents want safe and dependable cars for their teens. They also place importance on reliability and economy — low purchase cost, low operational cost, low maintenance cost, and low insurance cost. Parents like to feel comfortable knowing how and where a teen’s car is being driven. Modern GPS technology provides the solution and is relatively inexpensive and simple to install.

The first issue that most young drivers and their parents usually struggle with when deciding on a first car is that of cost, which typically leads to the issue of “used-versus-new”.

A used car is generally going to be cheaper than a new model due to the fact that new cars suffer high value depreciation during their first few years. However, older cars will generally be less reliable, may develop unexpected repair expenses, be less fuel efficient, have fewer safety features, and may not be as attractive as a newer model.

Cheap old cars with lots of miles should be considered with considerable caution and care. On the other hand, insurance cost, routine maintenance, repairs, and taxes can be less for older cars. Used cars are generally sold “as-is” without warranties which makes it important to get pre-sale inspections by a qualified mechanic. The older the car, the more important the inspection. Look for late model “certified” used cars which are a bit more expensive but typically have better reliability, and come with guarantees, and limited warranties.

A brand new car can be more expensive — although not necessarily so (see explanation below) — but will have the latest electronic features and safety equipment, be under manufacturer’s warranty for 3-5 years, be protected by lemon laws, and will have new-car reliability — plus that wonderful new-car smell. A new car may also get better gas mileage than a used car of the same make/model, especially a new hybrid model. Insurance cost may not be significantly more than a similar used car, especially if the new model has improved safety features, such as stability control. Stability control should be a high priority on cars for teens, as should 4-wheel drive (4WD) or all-wheel drive (AWD) in regions with bad winter weather.

Best First Cars for Teenagers – Top Recommendations

Because of the variations in availability and characteristics of used cars, we’ll stick to a discussion of new cars. However, used cars tend to have many of the same characteristics as new cars of the same make and model. Just keep in mind that newer cars tend to have better safety equipment, better reliability, improved gas mileage, and, in some cases, lower insurance rates – because of improved safety and reliability.

Some older cars have high insurance rates because they are more often stolen (for parts) than new models. Honda Accords from the early 1990s are a good example. Although most of the following recommendations are for smaller, less expensive vehicles — which most teens (and their parents) prefer — some teenagers like to drive larger vehicles such as SUVs and trucks. However, we don’t recommend SUVs for teens due to the higher skill level and experience required to control them in emergency situations and the higher cost of operation. Even small SUVs such as the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, and the Nissan Xterra are much less stable than a conventional sedan or coupe.

We’ll list some of our top first-car recommendations below, listed in no particular order. These are certainly not all the cars that might meet the needs of teenage drivers and their parents, but are some of the most popular. We have avoided suggesting vehicles with a history of poor reliability.

Honda Civic – This is the one of the most popular cars among teens — and parents. This car has almost all of the qualities desired by both teens and parents: economy, style, safety, reliability, performance, low insurance rates, good size for passengers, and driving comfort. There are tons of accessories, custom appearance products, and performance options for the Honda Civic. Honda also produces a fuel-efficient hybrid version of this vehicle, at a slightly higher cost. Used models of the Honda Civic are readily available, reliable, and hold their value very well. For a car with similar qualities, but larger with more interior room, consider the Honda Accord.

Honda Fit – This small 4-door hatchback is a winning combination of Honda reliability, comfort, interior space, features, and tons of air bags and safety equipment — and a whopping 35 miles per gallon of gas on the highway. It’s a fun car that also will haul a teenager’s stuff — and lots of it. It is also safe and relatively cheap to insure and maintain.

Toyota Corolla – This Toyota vehicle shares many of the characteristics of the Honda Civic and is a favorite among teenagers as both a new and used vehicle. It’s reliable, with good performance, has plenty of room inside, and there are many options from after-market companies for styling and performance improvements. Buyers of this vehicle, and others in our list, should consider getting the stability control option when available. It’s one of the most effective safety features being offered on cars today. If the Corolla is not quite large enough, look at the Toyota Camry, the best-selling car in America for the last few years. For smaller car at a lower price, with great gas mileage, look at the Toyota Yaris.

Ford Mustang – This is an iconic perennial favorite with teens due to it’s relatively low cost, sporty good looks, and large variety of model and engine options. It’s fun to drive, particularly with manual transmission. The V6 engine provides plenty of performance but we don’t recommend the high-power V8 versions for teens with limited driving experience. Insurance costs are very high for those models. Take caution when buying used Mustangs that may have been driven hard and not properly maintained.

Chevrolet Camaro – This is the latest version of a classic muscle car and is a competitor to the Ford Mustang, with similar cost, good looks, and plenty of styles and engine choices. The manual transmission is popular with teens. Like our recommendation of the Mustang, we suggest the V6 engine instead of the high powered V8 models for teen drivers.

Nissan Sentra -This is a sensible car for teens, having many of the attributes of the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, but a little less style. It’s comfortable, but with a harsh ride and little room in the rear seat. However, it gets good gas mileage, is reliable, enjoys relatively low insurance rates. Used models can be found at good prices. Go even smaller and cheaper with the Nissan Versa or move up to the larger Nissan Maxima.

Mitsubishi Lancer – This is a very popular sporty vehicle with teens, especially the turbo-charged Evolution, although it might not be the first choice of parents. It’s stylish and looks cool, besides being a super performer. There are lots of add-ons and custom equipment for this vehicle. It even has its own magazine aimed at young drivers of this vehicle. Watch out for possible reliability issues and higher insurance costs.

Ford Focus – This is a fun and sporty car that teenagers like. It has a firm but comfortable ride and a number of engine options. Interior material quality appears cheap but functional. There are no less than 12 different variations of this model that should allow almost any teen to be satisfied. Ford’s reliability and styling have improved dramatically in the last few years. You can’t go wrong with this nice little car.

Mazda3 – This vehicle is an excellent small car with good interior space, good performance, good gas mileage, and good quality. It comes in both a hatchback and sedan and is very affordable. New models are very stylish and youth-oriented.

Some teens, or their families, are fortunate enough to have the money to consider luxury or near-luxury car models for a first car. Some of our recommendations for cars in this category are the following:

BMW 3-Series – This is one of the most popular of all sporty luxury cars, for a good reason. They are fun to drive, are great driver’s cars, and fuel economy is good — and they look good, as a “bimmer” should. They’re available as a coupe, sedan, or a convertible, with or without 4-wheel drive. Used models are available for good prices. Also consider the more economical BMW 1-Series.

Mercedes C-Class – This is a popular small sports sedan with young people who like a car that’s fun to drive and exudes luxury and class. It’s comfortable, roomy, and handles well on the street or highway. It also enjoys a good safety rating and is relatively economical to own. Move upscale a bit to the Mercedes E-Class.

Acura TLX – This car is consistently rated very high as having the best blend of all characteristics that one would want in a car. It mixes luxury features with comfort, performance, handling, and sportiness. It’s one of the most reliable models on the road. It’s popular with many teens. Also consider the smaller Acura ILX.

Audi A4 – This vehicle is available as a sedan and convertible. It is luxurious and stylish with excellent driving characteristics. A wide range of features, options, and transmission choices are available. Crash-test results are impressive. Reliability is average and insurance can be a bit expensive. Also consider the smaller, less-expensive Audi A3.

Lexus IS – It’s a Lexus with all the quality and luxury that Lexus offers, but it’s not the Lexus that grandfather drives. It is a small safe sports sedan that has the performance, looks, and comfort that young people enjoy. A high-performance V8 version is available but watch out for high insurance rates on that model. Look at the Lexus GS if you want something a bit larger and even more sporty, especially the F-Sport version.

Important Safety Features for Teen Cars

Safety features such as seat belts, anti-lock brakes, and surround air bags are common in all modern new cars. However, these features only help when an accident occurs. It’s better to avoid accidents altogether. A newer and increasingly common feature, electronic stability control (ESC), helps prevent accidents and is expected to significantly reduce highway deaths. It particularly helps teens, who are understandably inexperienced in handling emergency maneuvers. Smart teens and parents will look for cars with an ESC system. Car makers use different names for this system. Other worthwhile features available on newer cars are collision avoidance system, blind-spot monitor, backup camera, heads-up displays, and more.

Where to Find Good Used Cars Cheap

Teens often can only afford inexpensive (“cheap”) cars due to having only limited funds. See How to Find Cheap Cars for tips on where to find affordable used cars. Some good sources of used cars are consignment lots, car auctions, and online car sale sites, such as Craigslist, Autotrader, and eBay Motors. An excellent source of used cars online is Car Deal Finder a well-respected car buying service that has already worked out discounted prices with dealers across the country. You can search their listings by price and area code, as well as make, model, mileage, and other criteria. Prices are already discounted but you can probably do better with a little haggling. Also see our popular web sites, Used Car Advisor and First Car Guide, for more good advice and tips on how to buy good used cars and getting the best deals.

New Cars Can be Bargains in Tough Economy

With the depressed economy comes great prices and deals on brand new cars. In some cases, manufacturers are offering rebates, discounts, and other incentives that make certain new-car models cheaper than similar used cars. If you are considering the purchase of a relatively new used car because you think the cost will be lower, do yourself a favor and check new-car prices before making a decision. For more about current new-car incentives from car manufacturers, see Best Car Deals.

Get Discounted Prices on New Cars from the Internet

If you don’t like haggling with dealers for new car prices, Online Pricing Services such as Edmunds and Car Deal Finder make it easy to get free discounted price quotes from dealers in your area. If you get multiple quotes, you can compare and select the best deal. Since dealers know customers are comparing prices, they offer their best prices right up front. All quotes will automatically include any available manufacturer incentives, including rebates, low interest rates, and factory-to-dealer cash.

What to Watch For in a Used Car

Used cars are sold “as-is,” meaning that there are no guarantees or warranties. If problems develop after the purchase, the car can’t be returned. That’s why pre-purchase inspections by a qualified mechanic are so important. Inexperienced buyers often naively take the word of a used-car seller or dealer salesman about the condition of a car. An inspection costs about $75-$100 but can prevent a multi-thousand dollar mistake. If you prefer to do your own inspection, here’s a 50-point Used Car Inspection Checklist. Look for cars that have no more than average mileage. Fifteen thousand miles a year is considered average. A three year-old car with 45,000 miles would be average. Higher mileage cars pose a higher risk of problems. However, a car’s actual condition, as determined by a mechanic’s inspection, is more important than mileage numbers. Some cars with high mileage can be in great condition — and be great bargains.

Teen drivers have a limited number of options as to how to finance the purchase of an automobile. if under 18 years old there are only two options: 1) cash, or 2) have someone (family member) buy the car for them. If 18 or over, credit history and source of income become important to getting approved for a car loan. Since someone just turning 18 has had no time to establish credit, the solution is usually having someone (family member) co-sign on a loan. See Car Financing for Teens for more details.

Leasing is often not a good solution for teens, for a number of reasons. Although monthly payments are much lower than buying with a loan, the requirements and restrictions of leasing are not always compatible with teenager drivers. See Car Leasing for Teens for more details..

Car insurance for teenage drivers is very expensive because teens represent a high risk to insurance companies. Adding a teen driver to a family’s auto insurance policy can mean a 50 percent to 100 percent increase in parent’s insurance premium costs. Taking a separate policy for a teenager is even more expensive.

Therefore it is important to shop for the best rates while still getting coverage that is needed or legally required. Insurance rates vary widely between insurance companies. Many teens attempt to cut insurance expenses by buying only minimum state-required liability coverage, which normally means low limits.

This may not be wise, given the risk of being responsible for very expensive medical and property damage in an at-fault accident. Policyholders can easily become subjects of lawsuits to recover expenses beyond those covered by minimum insurance. Most state auto insurance minimums are outdated and much too low. See Auto Insurance for Teens for more details.

Choose the Right Company and the Right Rates

Learn how to shop for companies that have the best discounts for teens. For example, some companies discount for good grades and driver’s education courses, and others do not. There is no such thing as a “cheapest” car insurance company. Rates vary by state, by city, by car, by driver, and by a variety of other factors. Cheapest rates from one company won’t be the cheapest for another driver and another car.

Find out how to select the right insurance company for teenagers in our article, Auto Insurance Companies – Best and Worst.

Best Cars for Teens: New and Used, Ranked

List Rules: The best cars for teens to own and drive.

It's a great feeling when you get your driver's license at age 16, but it's also a great responsibility. When it is time for new drivers to pick out their first car, parents and the teens themselves have to look for maximum reliability, safety, and make sure that the vehicle is cheap to insure. So out of all the options out there, what is the best car for new drivers?

Below are some of the best, safest cars for new drivers, according to people that voted. Don't agree with the list? Then join the discussing by voting for what you think are the best cars for teens. If you don't see a particular model listed, be sure to add it yourself.

Generally, the best cars for teens aren't muscle cars, sports cars, or giant trucks. They have enough power to get them from point A to point B but not so much to be dangerous. So what cars fall under that criteria? See what people think are the best cars for teens below.

Check out these safe and reliable models well-suited to new or inexperienced drivers

When choosing a car for a teen driver, it’s important to look further than just today’s budget limitations to ensure that you buy a good, reliable model that can safely transport your child for years to come.

Selecting the best used car for a young driver will usually involve compromises, from practical considerations to the wants of an image-conscious teen. Simply put: The best bet is to buy the newest, most reliable model loaded with the best safety equipment you can afford.

Make sure the vehicle you buy has key safety features such as electronic stability control and curtain airbags. The lifesaving assistance those systems can provide is worth every penny they cost in an emergency situation, and they can be especially beneficial for an inexperienced driver. If possible, stretch for a model with forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking, both of which CR strongly recommends.

Finding a used car equipped with ESC has become simpler because the federal government mandated it as a standard feature starting with the 2012 model year. ESC is readily available in models after 2010, but you need to check the specific car you’re considering because it may have been offered only as an option.

Safety equipment carries lots of promise, but to fully assess the overall safety of the car, consider how it performed in crash tests conducted by the federal government and by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. All this information, and much more, can be found on the model pages linked below.

Large pickups and SUVs aren’t recommended for young, inexperienced drivers because these vehicles are more difficult to handle than cars are and because they invite the possibility of teen passengers, which can be a distraction to the driver. Because sports cars increase the risk of speeding and have a higher rate of accidents, they carry higher insurance premiums and are not on our list.

Reliability is key when choosing a used car, because any warranty protection has likely expired. In addition, you may be planning for your teen to drive this first car for years to come, so you’ll want a car that lasts.

To provide insight on car reliability, Consumer Reports surveys its subscribers and shares their experiences. Our model pages feature reliability ratings based on data from more than 500,000 vehicles, and they provide an invaluable look at how cars hold up over time.

Keep in mind that every used car has been treated differently by a previous owner. The older a car is, the more its care and maintenance history will affect its overall performance and reliability. Once you’ve narrowed your shopping list to cars that are likely to be smart choices, have the specific car you’re considering thoroughly inspected by a qualified mechanic before you sign the deal.

Consumer Reports' Used-Car Marketplace

Search listings near you with CR reliability ratings.

There are many factors to consider in selecting the right car for your teen. To make it easier, we have created the following list of the best used cars that meet our criteria for being safe and reliable, and each has performed well in Consumer Reports’ tests. Some used cars below are differentiated by the model years to look for depending on when ESC became standard, or on the vehicle’s reliability performance.

Click on the model links below to access the complete reliability, safety, pricing, and other key data.

The Top 5: Best Cheap Sports Cars for Teenagers

Buying your first car can be an exhilarating experience, but it can also be a bit frustrating. Young driving enthusiasts often have a great deal of difficulty finding cars that are both affordable and fun to drive. On top of your budget and the car's cool-factor, its practicality and reliability have to be considered. For example, you can buy a Porsche 944 for less than 10 grand, but insuring and keeping the car running will more often than not push the cost of ownership out of range for the average student.

I've prepared the following list based on these factors, with priority given to performance and affordability. Based on what someone might earn from a summer job during school, I'm working with a budget of roughly $5,000. I originally compiled this list when I was shopping for my first car with a similar budget.

Toyota started building the first Celica in 1970, but the cars that will appeal to the young prospective buyer are models of the sixth (1993-1999) and seventh (1999-2006) generations. These are the newest Celicas, so they are the most common on the used car market and will have fewer miles on them.

Between these two, the 7th generation is much better looking and obviously newer. The one you'll want is the GT-S, which has a wing! More importantly, it has Toyota's 2ZZ-GE engine. Yamaha contributed to the engine design, which means that this 1.8 L inline 4 behaves much like a sports bike engine—it revs to 8,000 rpm and pushes out 180 hp in this application. This is the same engine that Lotus used in the Series 2 Elise, albeit with different software that manages to drag an extra 10 horses out of the engine.

You can expect to spend anywhere from $4,000 to $13,000 on a Toyota Celica, depending on year, miles, and condition. Clearly the 7th generation GT-S is the best, but unfortunately "best" also means "more expensive." Even if you can't find a GT-S in your price range, a regular Celica will provide lots of fun in an economical and practical package.

The Verdict: In addition to the fantastic engine, the Celica has all the practicality of a hatchback. It is also front-wheel drive. Although this is less fun than a RWD sports car, your parents (if you're still in high school) and insurance agent will probably appreciate it! Another thing to keep in mind is the legendary reliability of Toyota cars. You can count on this lasting well past 100k miles without anything more than oil, brake pads, and tires. If something does go wrong, the parts for this car are cheap.

The first Mitsubishi Eclipse was sold in 1990, but, like the Celica, the most appealing Eclipse models will be the second through fourth generations (1995-2012). Obvious benefits of these later generations are that they will be newer and carry fewer miles, but another factor to consider is the major styling upgrades that separated the later generations from the first.

The second generation Eclipse (1995-1999) came with a number of different engines, both naturally aspirated and turbocharged. The RS and GS models came with a 140 hp Chrysler engine, and the GS Spyder came with a slightly larger (2.4 L instead of 2.0 L) Mitsubishi engine. These trim levels, in addition to the GS-T (with a 210 hp 2.0 L Mitsubishi powerplant) came with FWD. The higher-end GSX is powered by the same engine as the GS-T but features an AWD drivetrain that provides better grip under acceleration. All second generation Eclipses came with either a four-speed automatic or a five-speed manual for drivers who prefer to use both feet. Mitsubishi used smaller turbos in the second generation compared to the first in order to reduce turbo lag, so the boost from the turbo will come more quickly. Convertible versions of the GS and GS-T were also built. Expect to spend anywhere from $3,500-$10,00 depending on the trim (it'll be more for the turbo), mileage, and condition.

In 2000, Mitsubishi rolled out the third generation Eclipse. This generation featured more angular styling than the previous generation and did not include any trim levels with a turbocharger or AWD. The suspension was altered to provide a more comfortable ride, and they changed up the engine options. RS/GS Eclipses came with a 2.4 L motor that made 150 hp. The GT came with a 200 hp 3 L V6 while the GTS model carried an improved version of the same V6 that pushed out 210hp. Mitsubishi also made convertible versions of the GS, GT, and GTS trims. You can pick up a third generation Eclipse for anywhere from $4,500-$10,00. Again, pricing will depend on mileage, condition, and the used car market in your area.

The fourth generation Eclipse marked a return to more rounded styling similar to the second generation, but it also shared styling components with other Mitsubishi vehicles of that time span. You can choose between a 162 hp 2.4 L I4 or a 3.8 L V6 packing 263 horses under the hood. All of these will be front-wheel drive, and there are convertibles available as well. Though you can find an old model from a private seller for less, a fourth-generation usually goes for around $9000, so it'll be out of the price range for most young people.

The Verdict: The Mitsubishi Eclipse is a great Japanese sports car with a variety of solid engines, and a number of different body styles to suit different tastes. You can get a coupe or convertible, FWD or AWD. The Eclipse isn't a hardcore "driver's car" like some of the cars that follow in this list, but it'll be a hoot to drive and is not completely impractical.

From 1990-1993, Acura sold the second-generation Integra, perhaps the most popular among enthusiasts. You'll want to find one with the 1.8 L engine producing 130 hp or the top level GS-R Integra which was first introduced in 1992. Featuring Honda's VTEC (Variable valve Timing and lift Electronic Control), the GS-R's engine produced160 hp and proved to be a favorite for tuners and enthusiast drivers alike.

The third-generation Integra featured a major update in styling—you either love it or hate it. The base engine was upgraded to a 142 hp 1.8 L I4, while the GS-R engine got an upgrade to 170 hp and kept the VTEC. In 1997, the Integra Type-R came to the United States with its upgraded version of the GS-R's engine making 195 hp and revving safely up to 8400 rpm—much higher than any other streetcar of the time. It'll be tough to find one, but if you do, go for it! The limited quantity available of the Type-R (750 imported to North America in 1997) is the main reason the Integra isn't higher on the list. It's often considered to be one of the best-handling FWD cars in the world—even compared to modern designs. Expect to pay anywhere from 3-9k—there is a wide range of conditions and levels of modification, so you should be able to find what you're looking for, given time. Obviously, the GS-R and Type-R models will be more expensive and much harder to find (especially unmodified), but if you find the right car, you could end up a very happy buyer!

The Verdict: The Acura Integra is one of the best-handling FWD cars from the 1990s, and it was supplied with solid engines throughout the entire history of the car. As a hatchback, it's somewhat practical but will still be an Autocross champ.

Acura Integra Second through Third Generation Comparison

In 1984, Toyota brought out the surprising MR-2, which was very different from the practical and uninteresting family sedans that made the manufacturer successful. The first generation (1984-1989) was extremely lightweight and featured, like all generations to follow, a MR (mid-engine rear-wheel drive) layout more commonly found on supercars such as the Ferrari F355 and Lamborghini Countach. The combination of lightweight chassis and perfect front-rear weight distribution via the mid-engine layout resulted in a car that handled like a champ and didn't need a huge engine to provide sufficient performance. The 1.6 L inline-4 only produced 112 hp, but could hit 60 mph in just over eight seconds.

In 1988, Toyota introduced a supercharged model which made 145 hp and could accelerate the lightweight sports car to 60 mph in six-and-a-half to seven seconds.

The styling of the first generation is very angular and geometric—you either hate it or love it. The price range for this generation should be around $1,000-$7,000 although certain examples with extremely low mileage may have higher prices as collector cars (especially the supercharged model).

The second-generation MR-2 (1989-1999) had very different styling, and has been called a "poor man's Ferrari" due to some aesthetic similarities between the Toyota and Ferrari's 355/348. The US received two engine options: a 130 hp 2.0 L naturally aspirated I4 and a 200 hp turbocharged 2.0 L I4. For 1992-3, Toyota changed the suspension geometry to reduce "snap-oversteer" which made the car safer to drive quickly and on the limit. If you've got experience driving sports cars and are looking for a car with a real edge to it, try to find one from the few years before this change. If you just want to be able to corner quickly and not make a fool of yourself, definitely look for a later version with the more forgiving handling. This is, for most, the best of the MR-2 generations to buy because it is newer, more powerful, and better-looking than the first generation, but less expensive than third-generation models. You'll probably be looking at 5-12k for pricing, although there is always room for variation with individual cars. The turbos are going to be harder to find unmolested and will be more expensive, but if you can find the right car, it's going to be much faster and more fun to drive than the still spectacular NA version.

The third-generation MR-2 (1999-2007) was called the MR-2 Spyder, or MR-S in some markets. It was only sold as a true convertible and had only one engine option—a 1.8 L inline-4 with 138 hp. While the engine was less powerful than that of previous generation (especially the turbo), the car's lightness allowed it to perform equally well as cars with more power. A third-generation MR-2 is going to run you about 8-18k.

The Verdict: The MR-2 is a surprisingly fuel-efficient sports car with a mid-engined layout and rear wheel drive performance. With a huge aftermarket following, it won't be difficult to find parts and modifications to spec the car up to wherever you want it. It's going to be hard to find a better-handling car at this price point!

The Mazda Miata earned its spot on top of this list for one reason: It is the best "driver's car" of the bunch—the one that dominates Autocross events nationwide and single-handedly resurrected the old-fashioned British Roadster concept. The Miata is anything but practical, and, for those living in northern climates, it won't be particularly great to drive in the snow, but the handling and rear-wheel drive brilliance all summer long will more than make up for it. In fact, many Miatas in northern areas such as "Minnesnowta" and Wisconsin have been summer-only cars since they were first purchased. Therefore, you'll be able to find a purist driver's car with relatively few miles on it (considering the age) on a reasonable budget.

The first generation Miata was first sold in 1989 with a 1.6 L I4 that made 115 hp. For the 1994 model year, Mazda upgraded the Miata's engine to a 1.8 L making 131 hp. Like the MR-2, the Miata makes do with less horsepower because it is very lightweight with good weight balance and rear-wheel drive. A limited slip differential was offered as an optional extra with manual transmission cars (an automatic transmission was offered, but proved unpopular). There wasn't much in the way of luxury, especially the first few years of production. Air conditioning, stereo, power steering, and alloy wheels were all absent from the base model in 1989 in order to lower the entry price, although features such as these became standard later on. A first generation (1989-1998) Miata will run you $1,500-$8,000, with price varying based on age, mileage, and condition.

The second-generation Miata (1999-2005) phased out the pop-up headlights and got a little bit bigger, yet more aerodynamic. The 1.8 L engine was upgraded to run at 140 hp, and ABS was added as an option. In 2001, Mazda refreshed the second-generation Miata and upgraded the structural stiffness of the chassis while adding a six-speed manual gearbox to the top line model. For the 2004 and 2005 model years, a MazdaSpeed Miata was also available in limited quantities. This Miata featured a turbocharged version of the 1.8 L that made 180 hp and could reach 60 mph in 6.2 seconds. Mazda upgraded the suspension and fitted wider rubber to the lightweight alloy wheels. A MazdaSpeed Miata will cost $10,000-$15,000, while a normal one will cost $2,500-$12,000 based on condition and mileage.

The Verdict: The Mazda Miata provides the handling capability of much more expensive sports cars in an affordable package. While it isn't practical and won't carry more than one passenger, this is the best performing sports car in its price range. If you need something practical, this isn't the car for you. But if you are looking for a car that you can use as a daily driver and also take to the Autocross course and have success, you'll want to take a serious look at a Miata!

Volkswagen GTI: The ultimate hot hatchback, this sporty version of the Golf barely missed the top five. The main thing holding it back is the higher maintenance cost of German vehicles. With solid turbocharged I4 and V6 engines, the GTI is truly a fantastic combination of hatchback practicality and light-your-hair-on-fire performance.

Subaru WRX: The WRX was a bit pricy for this list, but it makes it to the honorable mention list due to the great performance and rally heritage offered by the '90s Subaru sports sedan/wagon. With a turbocharged flat-4 and Subaru's legendary AWD system, the WRX will be quick on any surface and is relatively easy to modify for more power.

BMW E30: The E30 generation 3-series are fantastic cars, and favorites among BMW enthusiasts. The biggest problem other than maintenance cost is the difficulty of finding an affordable example that hasn't been completely worn out. E30 BMWs either have over 150,000 miles or are going to cost more than the budget of an average high school/college student.

Photo Credit: Chevrolet

There's an old joke that the best cars for teenagers are those that get terrible gas mileage (so they can't afford to drive too far from home), are built like tanks (for safety reasons), and seat just one person (to keep distractions to a minimum). In reality, there are plenty of thrifty vehicles out there that are good starter cars for teenagers and perfect for first-time car buyers - especially those who are lucky enough to be able to afford a brand new automobile instead of the family's older clunker. Let's take a look at 10 of the best cars for teenagers and examine what exactly makes them a strong choice for the younger set.

Photo Credit: Volkswagen

The Volkswagen Golf is so popular amongst first-time drivers that in some parts of the country it's almost like a uniform. The 2016 Volkswagen Golf is an affordable compact hatchback that can be had in two-door and four-door editions, and despite its small size, it offers good practicality due to its 46 cubic feet of total cargo space - perfect for hauling hockey gear to the rink, for example. The Golf is also relatively easy on gas in base form, providing 37 mpg highway when ordered with its 1.8-liter, 170-horsepower four-cylinder turbo engine, making it one of the best first cars for teenagers.

Photo Credit: Scion

Completely new for the 2016 model year, the Scion iA is the brand's first sedan. It's actually a thinly-disguised Mazda Mazda2, which was sold in the United States as a hatchback until last year, and previously occupied a spot on Autobytel's list of the best teen cars. The Scion iA features a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that provides just 106 horsepower and 103 lb-ft of torque, not quite enough to get into trouble. Transmission choices are a six-speed manual and a six-speed automatic. The modest power also comes with a great tradeoff: some of the best fuel economy ratings in the class, up to 33 mpg city and 42 mpg highway. Five passengers can fit in the 2016 Scion iA, and it's earned a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the IIHS.

Photo Credit: Honda

The 2016 Honda Fit is subcompact hatchback answer to the question of how, exactly, to squeeze all of a teenager's possessions in the back of a vehicle on his or her way to college. The Honda Fit's Magic Seat feature makes it a snap to rearrange the passenger compartment and unleash the vehicle's 52.7 cubic feet of storage space, made even more usable by its flat load floor. The Fit is also one of the best cars for teenagers because it will also keep the fuel bill low during the journey thanks to the 32 combined mpg offered by its 1.5-liter, 130-horsepower four-cylinder engine.

The 2016 Subaru Impreza is one of the best cars for teenagers learning the low-friction lessons taught by those first few encounters with snowy roads in a winter climate. Ice and low temperatures don't have to be scary for new drivers when piloting the Subaru Impreza thanks to its standard all-wheel drive, which provides class-leading levels of grip. Available in both sedan and wagon editions, the Impreza comes with a 2.0-liter boxer four-cylinder engine that delivers 148 horsepower and 34 mpg on the highway - proving that one no longer has to give up efficiency in order to benefit from the added security of all-wheel drive, making the Impreza one of the safest and best first cars for teenagers out there.

Photo Credit: Mazda

The fully redesigned 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata might seem like an unusual addition on a list of the best cars for teenagers, but hear us out. The Mazda MX-5 Miata only offers two seats, which means that teens won't be carting around a huge number of friends or being asked to give someone a ride every five minutes. Yes, the Miata is a sports car, but one that prizes excellent cornering and a 50/50 weight balance over high horsepower - with just 155 horsepower on tap from a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine, no one is going to be racing for pink slips. Throw in 36 mpg on the highway and the fact that the top goes down, and this is one affordable roadster that provides a compelling argument as one of the best first cars for teenagers.

Photo Credit: Honda

The Honda Civic has been a popular teenager’s car, whether used or new, for decades, and the all new 2016 version is no exception. Let’s look at the benefits: sub-$20k MSRP, both coupe and sedan body style (with a hatchback to come), reasonably thrifty, good crash test scores, decent looks, and a reputation for steadfast reliability. The base trim 2016 Civic is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 158 horsepower and 138 lb-ft of torque. This can be paired to a six-speed manual gearbox, which earns 40 mpg on the highway, or a continuously variable transmission, which boosts highway mileage to 41. It’s basic, sure, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good.

Photo Credit: Ford

The 2016 Ford Focus features sophisticated styling in both its sedan and hatchback guises, helping it stand out amongst other compacts in the field. The Focus delivers great handling for its sub-$20k price point, along with the availability of features like the Ford SYNC vehicle interface. It also offers a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that develops 160 horses and 146 lb-ft of twist on its way to posting fuel mileage numbers of 26 mpg in stop-and-go driving and 38 mpg on the highway.

The 2016 Volkswagen Beetle is aimed squarely at style mavens on a budget. The Volkswagen Beetle's retro looks have been thoroughly modernized in its latest incarnation, and the hatchback's sub-$20k price means that it just might squeeze into the financial plans of a teenage driver. Based on the same general platform as the VW Golf, the Beetle offers the same base motor (170 horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder) but adds the twist of an available 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder unit that delivers 210 horses. The latter also provides near-equivalent highway fuel mileage (33 mpg vs. 31 mpg), while increasing the Beetle's performance substantially.

The 2016 Chevrolet Sonic is another good-looking affordable car. Found in either sedan or hatchback body styles, the Chevrolet Sonic provides subcompact shoppers with an inexpensive entry point into new vehicle ownership. The Sonic's attractive lines are backed up by available features such as Bluetooth connectivity, the OnStar telematics system, and imitation leather upholstery, and it features 10 standard airbags. Standard on the Sonic is a 1.8-liter, 138-horsepower four-cylinder engine, with the option of a turbocharged, 1.4-liter four-cylinder motor that produces the same number of ponies but boosts torque and fuel economy (up to 37 mpg on the highway).

Photo Credit: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

The 2016 Dodge Dart provides aggressive and athletic styling in a compact sedan package that appeals to younger buyers looking for a pleasing mix of look-at-me design and attractive pricing. The Dodge Caliber seats up to five passengers, can haul 13 cubic feet of cargo, and offers plenty of standard features. The base model Dart is motivated by a 160-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers fuel mileage of 36 mpg during highway cruising.

2016's Safest New Cars for Teens

  • The Cheapest IIHS Top Safety Pick+ Cars For 2016

  • 10 Great Safety Features in Cars That Are on Sale Now

  • 10 of the Safest Crossovers for 2016

  • The 11 Safest Small Cars for 2016

  • 10 of the Best 7 Passenger Vehicles

    10 of the Best 7 Passenger Vehicles

    1. 2016 Volkswagen Golf
    2. 2016 Scion iA
    3. 2016 Honda Fit
    4. 2016 Subaru Impreza
    5. 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata
    6. 2016 Honda Civic
    7. 2016 Ford Focus
    8. 2016 Volkswagen Beetle
    9. 2016 Chevrolet Sonic
    10. 2016 Dodge Dart

    2016's Safest New Cars for Teens

    The Cheapest IIHS Top Safety Pick+ Cars For 2016

    10 Great Safety Features in Cars That Are on Sale Now

    10 of the Safest Crossovers for 2016

    The 11 Safest Small Cars for 2016

    10 of the Best 7 Passenger Vehicles

    Consumer's Ideal Cars Revealed in 2012 IVA Awards

    Ideal SUVs & Pickups Rated by Owners in 2012 IVA Awards

    Autobytel Fast Five: Best MPG SUVs for 2012

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