As a mom of a teen driver, I find myself having more and more discussions with parents who are considering buying that first car for their teen drivers. And if you’ve seen the alarming stats, a primary concern for this particular purchase is safety.
My advice: Rather than buy an older used car that’s lacking in safety features, it’s better to buy new and load it up with all the latest safety tech that will help your teen stay safe on the road. Of course, you’re not made of money, so we kept the target price of our suggested models as low as possible. Here are the cars we recommend for teen drivers:
- 2019 Hyundai Kona SEL
- 2019 Kia Forte EX with the Launch Edition Package
- 2019 Mazda3 Select Package with front-wheel drive
Keeping teen drivers safe on the road is critical. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death in teens ages 15 to 18 years old, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. In 2017, 2,247 people were killed in car crashes that involved a teen driver, and more than half of teens killed in crashes weren’t using their seat belts at the time of the collision.
When it comes to safety tech for teens (and really, all drivers), consider making sure the car is equipped with the following:
- Automatic emergency braking: This safety feature senses slowing or stopped traffic ahead and alerts the driver. If the driver doesn’t respond, the car will slow or even stop on its own to avoid the crash.
- Forward collision warning: Automatic emergency braking is often paired with forward collision warning, which alerts the driver to a slowed or stopped vehicle. This safety tech won’t brake the car for you, however.
- Lane departure warning: If your car is drifting out of its lane, this system will alert you via vibrations, sounds and visual alerts.
- Rear cross-traffic alert: This system warns the driver of cars that are crossing behind your vehicle, which is helpful in busy parking lots. Some systems will even tell you which direction the car is approaching from.
- Blind spot warning system: Think of this as a set of eyes in the back of your head. The system warns when there’s a car in your left or right blind spot with warning lights often found in the side mirrors.
- Apple CarPlay and Android Auto: These systems allow you to control certain apps via the car’s multimedia system in addition to having hands-free calling and voice-to-text functionality. While not technically a safety feature, Cars.com’s editors find Apple CarPlay and Android Auto make it safer to use some of your smartphone’s functions like navigation while driving.
One last thing: We also made sure that our Best 2019 Cars for Teen Drivers received the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s ratings of Top Safety Pick Plus or Top Safety Pick.
To earn the highest honor of Top Safety Pick Plus, a car must receive ratings of “good” in physical crash tests including driver-side small overlap front, passenger-side small overlap front, moderate overlap front and side crash tests, as well as top ratings of good in roof-strength, head restraint and headlight tests. The car also must score an advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention.
To earn a Top Safety Pick rating, a car must receive a top score of good in all of the physical crash tests in addition to earning an acceptable or good rating in the passenger-side small overlap crash test and headlight rating, as well as an advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention.
All that safety tech combined with IIHS ratings meant that our list of Best 2019 Cars for Teens is small but mighty. Let’s take a closer look at these cars:
2019 Hyundai Kona SEL
The Hyundai Kona was introduced in 2018, and the 2019 Kona SEL trim checks all the boxes on our must-have list as a cost of $22,895. An optional feature that parents may want to add to this subcompact SUV is Hyundai’s Blue Link Connected Car subscription service for additional peace of mind. Blue Link Connected Car has automated collision notification and enhanced roadside assistance. Just press a button and the Kona’s location and information will be transmitted to the response center.
2019 Kia Forte EX
Redesigned for 2019, the Forte EX is a compact sedan that will appeal to teens and parents. To get all the safety equipment needed for a teen driver, you’ll need to get the Forte EX with the optional Launch Edition Package, bringing the price to $26,125. The Forte EX also has driver attention warning, which monitors the driver for signs of distraction or drowsiness, and provides visual and audible alerts if detected.
2019 Mazda3 Select Package With Front-Wheel Drive
Also redesigned for 2019, the Mazda3 sedan with the Select Package and front-wheel drive costs $23,520. The hatchback version is $24,720. It received IIHS’ Top Safety Pick status. As equipped, it comes with high beam control, which automatically switches the headlights between high and low beams.
Honorable Mention: 2020 Nissan Versa
If those prices are a little steep, consider the 2020 Nissan Versa SV for $18,535. This sedan is loaded with safety tech — not only does it have all the features we listed above, but it also has rear automatic braking, which detects stationary objects when in Reverse and brakes your car should a crash be imminent. What held back the Versa is that it hadn’t yet been tested by IIHS.
More From Cars.com:
- Stats Show Teens Are Bad Drivers; Here’s How to Help Them Be Safe
- For Real, Parents of Teen Drivers: Some of Y’all Are Dropping the Ball
- Which States Are Sweet and Which Ones Suck for Teen Drivers?
- More Safety News
Before handing over the keys to a new car, make sure to familiarize your teen driver and yourself with all this safety tech. It’s only helpful if it’s used correctly. And parents: Don’t forget to be a good example of a great driver for your teen.
Cars.com’s Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with Cars.com’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don’t accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of Cars.com’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.
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