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2008 Hyundai Elantra (Hyundai)
2008 Hyundai Elantra (Hyundai)

Driving It Home

The best cars for your kid Add to ...

In front of me is a brochure for the Driving Unlimited Academy, promising "Different, Better, Driver Training."

Yikes! My 15-year-old is about to become a 16-year-old and that means he's going to start driving in a couple of months. I thought this day might come along soon, once I noticed Sam is now taller than his dad. Now it's frighteningly close at hand.

So I am thinking about driving schools and I am thinking about cars for Sam to drive. And today, along comes a note from Consumer Reports suggesting a handful of good, safe and reliable used cars for teens.

CR hangs its hat not on racy designs and high performance, but instead pushes teen cars with anti-skid control, anti-lock brakes, and curtain air bags. Good crash-test scores are very important, too. And CR leans towards vehicles that score well in reliability studies.

All CR's are recommended vehicles scored well in CR's testing, have had average or better reliability, and performed well in government or insurance industry crash tests. They also have enough power to accelerate safely for merging, they have good brakes and they handle pretty well in emergencies.

The CR types are not big on trucks and large SUVs (sport-utility vehicles), arguing that they tend to have "clumsy handling, poor fuel economy, and their high centres of gravity make them more likely to roll over. Sports cars or other especially quick cars are another bad idea, with a higher rate of accidents than other cars and insurance rates to match.

Some of the latest recommendations for teen cars can be bought for less than $10,000 (US). Along those lines, keep in mind that the CR list below includes prices all in U.S. dollars.

That gives rise to another thought. With the strong Canadian loonies, used car buyers here also have the option of shopping south of the border without losing anything on the exchange rate. And importing a used car is much simpler than buying a new car in the U.S. and bringing it over the border.

Small cars

  • Hyundai Elantra SE (2008-present) $11,775-$18,695
  • Mazda3 (2007-) $13,025-$19,070
  • Scion xB (2008-) $14,075-$18,630
  • Scion xD (2008-) $13,675-$16,620
  • Subaru Impreza (2008-) non-turbo, $13,700-$19,106
  • Suzuki SX4 Crossover (2007-) $10,150-$17,519

Family cars

  • Acura TSX (2004-) $13,725-$29,675
  • Honda Accord (2008-) 4-cyl., $17,725-$22,795
  • Kia Optima (2007-) 4-cyl., $9,900-$20,365
  • Toyota Prius (2004-) $11,750-$22,950
  • Volkswagen Jetta 2.5 (2006-) $12,825-$22,965

Small SUVs

  • Honda CR-V (2005- ) $13,300-$25,805
  • Nissan Rogue (2008- ) $16,550-$25,850
  • *Toyota RAV4 (2006- ) 4-cyl., $13,625-$25,405

(*Note that CR has temporarily suspended its recommendation of the RAV4 and several other Toyota models due to problems with sticking accelerator pedals.)

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