Hits and misses from Kelley Blue Book’s list of cars for students

With the start of school just around the corner, parents and students are starting to look for wheels for the new academic year.

Not coincidentally, the editors at auto price information company Kelley Blue Book are out with their annual list of the best cars for students.

They have pared their recommendations down to 10 vehicles that get good grades for being practical and affordable, while also displaying some style and personality.

The auto reviewing team at The Times likes many of the vehicles on the list -- all the cars can be purchased new for about $20,000 or less, including tax and licensing fees -- but we think parents of new drivers should be particularly careful in their selection.

Though inexpensive compared with many new cars, some on the Kelley Blue Book list are very small cars that don’t have the mass to withstand a crash with a pickup truck or large vehicle, and don’t offer the best level of safety for newbies.


Kelley Blue Book’s list probably works best for college-age students who have more driving experience. That’s because per mile driven, drivers ages 16 to 19 are about three times more likely than drivers age 20 and older to be in a fatal crash, according to federal government data. Car crashes are among the leading causes of death of young people.

Kelley Blue Book recommends the 2015 Honda Fit and the Toyota Prius C. The Prius scored poorly on the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s small overlap test, which measures what happens when the front corner of the car hits another car or solid object. Such crashes account for nearly a quarter of front-end crashes involving serious or fatal injury, according to the institute.

The 2014 Fit also failed the test, but the current model is a complete redesign. The IIHS has not yet published its data for the new model.

Those looking for a smaller, less expensive car might consider the Chevrolet Sonic, which also is on the Kelley list. If you are looking for a small SUV, Kelley Blue Book suggests the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, which does well on the safety tests.

Other vehicles Kelley recommends, but that we give mixed reviews to, include the Kia Soul, the Nissan Versa Note and the new Volkswagen Golf.

Parents also might consider a larger used car for their teens, but they should look for vehicles that have electronic stability control, which helps a driver maintain control of the vehicle on curves and slippery roads. Other desirable feature include side airbags and good safety ratings from the IIHS and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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