The idea of letting your teen get behind the wheel can be daunting. But thanks to modern safety features, good reliability records and safe driving dynamics, some cars will lend an extra peace of mind that your young driver is safe.
Driving without parental supervision can be exciting, and not always in a constructive way. But in Toyota’s ubiquitous gas-electric hybrid, your teen isn’t likely to do much drag racing. On the contrary, the fuel-efficient Prius rewards drivers who accelerate gently and try to anticipate driving conditions ahead of them – in short, it encourages safe driving practices. The 2004 and newer Prius, sold as a five-door hatchback, also has good crash-test ratings, an excellent reliability record and plenty of standard safety features.
A big car tends to come out ahead of a smaller one in a crash, but you also don’t want a behemoth whose handling and braking keep you from avoiding an accident altogether. The 2006-2010 Sonata midsize sedan strikes an excellent balance, especially thanks to standard electronic stability control that few competitors offered until several years later. Pick the standard four-cylinder engine over the powerful optional V6, though, if you don’t trust your teen to drive sensibly.
The commanding seating position and sturdy image of an SUV make it a tempting choice for a teen, but some are unwieldy – easy to crunch against another car or to flip over in a sudden swerve. Modern crossovers mitigate that issue, but none balances the utility of an SUV with the comfort and ease of use of a compact car better than the Subaru Forester. The 2003-2008 model is the best balance of safety, value and agility for your teen. Don’t buy one that’s too old, though, as they sometimes require costly engine repairs.
If you’re buying a brand-new car for your teen, the 2014 Civic compact car boasts outstanding safety ratings, agile handling and desirable technology integration. A standard back-up camera reduces the chance it will get scraped up, and great gas mileage takes the edge off the purchase price. Stick to the sedan over the coupe and avoid the sporty Si version to keep insurance rates in check.
Brady Holt, a Washington D.C. newspaper reporter, has had a lifelong interest in cars in the automotive world, and he’ll share his thoughts at every available opportunity. Brady has written for Examiner.com since 2008, publishing hundreds of car reviews, automotive news pieces and other features. His work can be found on Examiner.com.