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Best cars for First Time Drivers, Teen drivers, Young Drivers
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Top Picks for First-Time Drivers

First-time drivers need safe, reliable transportation that won't break the bank. From a pool that included our Best Bets and all the newer cars we've driven since, we considered coupes, sedans, convertibles, hatchbacks, SUVs and regular-cab pickup trucks that cost less than $20,000. Top criteria included overall value and safety features, but our experts also considered gas mileage, exterior styling and interior comfort.

 Best New Car for First-Time Drivers
2013 Hyundai Elantra
Starting MSRP $17,760

Even as the current Hyundai Elantra soldiers into its third year, the car remains our favorite for young drivers. Strong interior quality, roomy seats, top crash-test scores and intuitive electronics distinguish Hyundai's top seller, whose svelte styling has aged well. The trunk swallows an impressive 14.8 cubic feet, and Hyundai's lengthy warranty should keep teens and parents free from unforeseen repair bills. The Elantra sedan's overall mpg rating in the low-30s means less of that summer-job paycheck will have to go toward gas and more of it can go toward college.
   
 
 Best Deal for First-Time Drivers
2014 Nissan Versa
Starting MSRP $12,800

The Nissan Versa combines room and efficiency for not a lot of dough. It starts at $14,600 with an $810 destination price for an automatic transmission, and it has standard air conditioning and a slate of now-required safety features you'll have a hard time finding on many used economy cars. An available continuously variable automatic transmission boosts highway gas mileage to 40 mpg, which should keep those road trips home light on the wallet. And the trunk's 14.9 cubic feet — bigger than in some family sedans — can stash a lot of laundry for Mom to wash.
   
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Suggestions for First-Time Drivers
2014 Chevrolet Sonic  Recommended for First-Time Drivers Chevrolet Sonic (2014)
Starting MSRP $14,995

The Chevrolet Sonic drives like a bigger car, and its inventive styling — with motorcycle-inspired headlights and gauges — should earn you some points. Chevrolet's MyLink multimedia system packs plenty of teen-friendly tech, including hands-free voice texting via Apple's Siri Eyes Free program.
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2013 Honda Civic  Recommended for First-Time Drivers Honda Civic (2013)
Starting MSRP $18,755

The redone Honda Civic extends the nameplate's penchant for reliability and drivability. Most versions earn a competitive 32 mpg in EPA combined city/highway mileage ratings, while top scores in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's challenging new small-overlap test should satisfy parents' safety concerns.
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2013 Hyundai Elantra GT  Recommended for First-Time Drivers Hyundai Elantra GT (2013)
Starting MSRP $19,340

The Hyundai Elantra GT has enough premium options — a panoramic moonroof, heated leather seats, keyless access with push-button start — to exude entry-level luxury-car panache. And the GT is about $1,500 more than the sedan, too.
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2013 Kia Sportage  Recommended for First-Time Drivers Kia Sportage (2013)
Starting MSRP $19,850

The affordable Kia Sportage is our sole SUV pick for first-time drivers. Kia's styling zeitgeist — responsible for Cars.com's Best of 2011-winning Optima — translates to sharp lines here. Stick with the 2.4-liter four-cylinder, as the optional turbo four-cylinder is a lot of power for a first-time driver.
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2013 Subaru Impreza  Recommended for First-Time Drivers Subaru Impreza (2013)
Starting MSRP $18,690

Few all-wheel-drive cars boast 30 mpg in EPA combined city/highway mileage ratings, which the Subaru Impreza does with an automatic transmission. Roomy seats and good sightlines distinguish Subaru's compact, and the new multimedia system's smartphone integration with internet-radio app Aha should keep up with tech-savvy teens.
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2013 Toyota Prius c  Recommended for First-Time Drivers Toyota Prius c (2013)
Starting MSRP $19,890

Teens fishing for cupholder change to fill the gas tank will love the affordable Toyota Prius c, whose EPA-estimated 53 mpg city rating beats all non-pluggable cars. Friends might mock the eco-hatch styling, but after a few fill-ups in their own cars, they'll be begging for a ride.
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2014 Toyota Tacoma  Recommended for First-Time Drivers Toyota Tacoma (2014)
Starting MSRP $18,985

After "Back to the Future," everyone wanted Marty McFly's Toyota pickup. Nearly 30 years later, teens can own its descendant in the affordable Toyota Tacoma, whose burly V-6 and functional interior should earn plenty of campus credibility.
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2014 Volkswagen Jetta  Recommended for First-Time Drivers Volkswagen Jetta (2014)
Starting MSRP $16,365

The Volkswagen Jetta remains an inexpensive sedan with solid ride quality and a roomy cabin. Diesel, hybrid and turbo gasoline versions offer more performance and better efficiency for bigger budgets, while available leatherette, or imitation leather, seats give an upscale vibe for less than $20,000.
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