NEWS

Best Cars for First-Time Drivers 2016

By Joe Bruzek

December 29, 2015

First-time drivers need safe, reliable cars that do not break the bank. We look at coupes, sedans, hatchbacks, SUVs and pickups under $20,000.

16Subaru_Impreza_ES.jpg 2016 Subaru Impreza; | Cars.com photo by Evan Sears

Best Car for First-Time Drivers

The Impreza is a home run for first-time drivers. Not only does the Impreza have stellar crash-test ratings, but it provides foul-weather confidence with its standard all-wheel-drive. The Impreza starts at less than $20,000 and also provides plenty of cargo room in its hatchback form. Let's not forget its fuel economy of 28/37/31 mpg city/highway/combined with the continuously variable automatic transmission. Also available is the EyeSight collision avoidance system, with autonomous braking on higher trim levels. Forget home run, the Impreza is a grand slam for first-time buyers.

Shop the 2016 Subaru Impreza near you

Used
2016 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Premium
73,867 mi.
$16,299
Good Deal
Used
2016 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Premium
13,777 mi.
$22,990
Good Deal
Home Delivery
Virtual Appointments

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16Nissan_Versa-Note_OEM.jpg 2016 Nissan Versa Note; | Manufacturer image

Best Deal for First-Time Drivers

Budget-friendly doesn't begin to describe the features and room you get for the money with the Versa Note hatchback. One of the most notable features is Nissan's Around View Monitor that shows a top-down 360-degree view of the car, which makes parallel parking or squeezing into a tight spot a breeze. The Versa Note's backseat is massive for the class, with the kind of room typically found in a larger class of cars. That $20,000 gets you a fully loaded Versa Note with navigation, heated seats, USB input, Around View Monitor, Bluetooth, smart keyless access and more.

Shop the 2016 Nissan Versa Note near you

Used
2016 Nissan Versa Note SV
94,595 mi.
$13,990
Home Delivery
Virtual Appointments
Used
2016 Nissan Versa Note S Plus
89,124 mi.
$13,990
Fair Deal
Home Delivery
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16Chevrolet_Sonic_OEM.jpg 2016 Chevrolet Sonic; | Manufacturer image

Recommended for First-Time Drivers

Available as a sedan or hatchback, the Sonic's aggressive exterior and unique interior styling stand out in a class of cars that otherwise look similar. Inside, the Sonic has a motorcycle-inspired gauge cluster that floats above the dashboard with a digital speedometer and an analog tachometer. The Sonic's ride quality is one of its defining characteristics with a smooth, sophisticated ride suited for those long hauls back and forth to college.

Shop the 2016 Chevrolet Sonic near you

Used
2016 Chevrolet Sonic LS
48,818 mi.
$15,950
Fair Deal
Home Delivery
Virtual Appointments
Used
2016 Chevrolet Sonic LT
36,030 mi.
$11,995
Good Deal

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16Honda_Fit_OEM.jpg 2016 Honda Fit; | Manufacturer image

Recommended for First-Time Drivers

It's hard to beat the space efficiency of the Fit. The low cargo floor and tall roofline give the little hatchback SUV-like cargo versatility that could likely fit an entire small dorm room inside. Plus there's Honda's Magic Seat, which allows the second-row seats to flip up and provide the full distance from the floor to the roof for tall cargo items. Sealing the deal is fuel economy of up to 41 mpg on the highway with the continuously variable automatic transmission.

Shop the 2016 Honda Fit near you

Used
2016 Honda Fit LX
31,881 mi.
$18,590
Home Delivery
Virtual Appointments
Used
2016 Honda Fit EX
49,070 mi.
$17,990
Home Delivery
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16Hyundai_Elantra_OEM.jpg 2016 Hyundai Elantra; | Manufacturer image

Recommended for First-Time Drivers

The Elantra is a practical, value-laden compact sedan that's easy on the eyes with its swoopy styling and uniquely styled interior. Most parents and first-time car shoppers will be looking at safety ratings, fuel economy and value, and the Elantra hits those marks as an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Top Safety Pick, up to 38 mpg and some pampering features, such as the available rear heated seats and Pandora internet radio integration.

Shop the 2016 Hyundai Elantra near you

Used
2016 Hyundai Elantra SE
90,639 mi.
$12,500 $1,450 price drop
Fair Deal
Home Delivery
Virtual Appointments
Used
2016 Hyundai Elantra Limited
83,464 mi.
$15,495
Good Deal
Home Delivery
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16Mazda_Mazda3_OEM.jpg 2016 Mazda3; | Manufacturer image

Recommended for First-Time Drivers

The Mazda3 is a must for the first-time driver with a flair for the sporty. Mazda's compact sedan and hatchback don't just look sporty, but are legitimately fun to drive in the grand scheme of fun-to-drive cars, and not just "for the class." For this car, fun to drive doesn't mean inefficient, thanks to highway fuel economy ratings of up to 39 mpg with the automatic transmission.

Shop the 2016 Mazda Mazda3 near you

Used
2016 Mazda Mazda3 i Sport
81,376 mi.
$15,500 $1,400 price drop
Great Deal | $1,141 under
Used
2016 Mazda Mazda3 s Touring
51,323 mi.
$19,800
Good Deal
Hot Car
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16Mini_Hardtop_OEM.jpg 2016 Mini Hardtop Coope | Manufacturer image

Recommended for First-Time Drivers

There's fun to drive, and then there's the go-kart levels of fun to drive that the Hardtop delivers along with style in exceeding quantities both inside and out. We're not even talking about the Cooper S here, but the base Cooper trim level with a punchy 1.5-liter three-cylinder rated at a top 40 mpg highway with a manual transmission.

Shop the 2016 MINI Hardtop near you

Used
2016 MINI Hardtop Cooper
80,264 mi.
$16,000
Great Deal | $978 under
Home Delivery
Virtual Appointments
Used
2016 MINI Hardtop Cooper S
58,024 mi.
$18,499 $2,437 price drop
Great Deal | $1,969 under
Home Delivery
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16Toyota_Prius_c_OEM_Awards.jpg 2016 Toyota Prius c | Manufacturer image

Recommended for First-Time Drivers

It's hard to beat the Prius c's combined fuel economy of 50 mpg in EPA ratings for its $20,000 starting price. That's 10 mpg better than any similarly priced compact gasoline-only sedan. Add in the c's hatchback usability and the baby Prius drives a hard bargain for first-time drivers who will be driving a lot and want to minimize spending party money at the pump.

Shop the 2016 Toyota Prius c near you

Used
2016 Toyota Prius c Two
45,662 mi.
$18,995
Home Delivery
Virtual Appointments
Used
2016 Toyota Prius c Two
83,191 mi.
$15,500 $1,000 price drop
Great Deal | $652 under

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16Volkswagen_Jetta_OEM.jpg 2016 Volkswagen Jetta; | Manufacturer image

Recommended for First-Time Drivers

Roominess is king in the Jetta, with a backseat that's limo-sized compared with other sedans in the segment. The optional turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder is both quick and fuel efficient with 37 mpg on the highway and 170 horsepower, so you can carpool and still have guts to get down the road. The Jetta is also one of the few, like the Impreza, with optional forward collision warning with autonomous braking and earns an IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus designation.

Shop the 2016 Volkswagen Jetta near you

Used
2016 Volkswagen Jetta 1.4T S
43,687 mi.
$11,999
Great Deal | $2,189 under
Used
2016 Volkswagen Jetta 2.0T GLI SE
65,832 mi.
$19,995
Good Deal
Hot Car

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