When it comes to choosing a car for a first-time driver, reliability, safety, and affordability are key considerations. Consumer Reports and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety have teamed up to recommend new and used vehicles that check all those boxes.
Whether you’re looking for a family-friendly SUV or a fun sports car, there’s a vehicle that will suit your needs. We’ve rounded up our top picks for best cars for first-time drivers below.
1. Honda Fit
The Honda Fit is a compact car that is ideally suited for first-time drivers. This is because it is safe and comes with a lot of features that are ideal for teenagers to use as they start driving.
It is also a great choice for parents who are looking to buy a car for their young drivers. It is affordable and comes with a lot of safety features, so it will put your parents at ease.
When you think of a subcompact car, the Honda Fit is often the first car that comes to mind. This is because it is a small and affordable car that is easy to drive, has good fuel economy, and can be found in a wide range of colors.
In addition, the Honda Fit is a popular choice because it is one of the most comfortable and spacious cars in its class. It is also a safe car, earning a perfect 5-star rating from the government.
This is because the Fit has a number of features that will keep you and your passengers safer, including advanced driver assistance systems and an engine that is designed to be quieter than other subcompact cars. In addition, the Fit has a spacious interior and plenty of passenger room, making it an excellent choice for families.
The Honda Fit is available with a number of different engines, depending on the region. These include the 1.2, 1.3, and 1.5-liter i-DSI engines. These engines use two spark plugs per cylinder to achieve more complete combustion, which improves fuel efficiency and emissions. These engines can be paired with a 5-speed manual or automatic transmission.
2. Subaru Forester
A Subaru Forester is a good choice for first-time drivers because it provides comfort, safety features, and plenty of space. It also comes with a variety of options to make the driving experience more enjoyable.
The Forester has been around for over two decades and is a staple in the Subaru lineup. Its boxy wagon styling and standard all-wheel drive are still the main selling points of this crossover, but it has been upgraded over the years to improve its performance, safety, and convenience.
In addition, it has been fitted with a number of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) to keep you safe on the road. For example, its EyeSight suite of ADAS includes forward-collision warnings and automatic braking.
Additionally, it comes with a rearview camera and lane-departure warnings. It also offers a lead vehicle start alert, which detects cars that are moving in front of your car and can help prevent collisions with them.
Lastly, the Forester has plenty of room for five passengers to sit comfortably. Its boxy shape helps to create plenty of headroom for taller people, and it has a squared-off opening that makes it easy to load and unload items.
The Forester has a comfortable interior that features soft materials and tasteful plastics. It also has a large touchscreen infotainment system with Subaru’s Starlink interface and navigation. It also has a number of USB ports for charging your mobile devices.
3. Nissan Frontier
The Nissan Frontier is one of the best cars for first-time drivers. It’s cheap, offers modern features and a solid safety rating. However, it’s not the best choice for off-roading and has poor fuel economy.
The Frontier’s 310-horsepower V6 engine and smooth-shifting nine-speed automatic make it an excellent choice for drivers who want to enjoy quick acceleration and strong acceleration on the highway. Rear-wheel drive models get EPA-estimated 18 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway, while four-wheel-drive models achieve 17 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway.
For off-roading, Nissan offers a 4WD Pro-4X model that’s equipped with Bilstein shocks, all-terrain tires and extra skid plates to ensure the Frontier can handle some serious traction. Unfortunately, it lacks many of the advanced off-road features found in rival trucks like the Toyota Tacoma and Chevrolet Colorado.
It’s also worth noting that the Nissan Frontier was woefully behind on active safety tech until last year. Until then, it offered only automatic emergency braking.
But now, the Frontier comes with a number of new safety technologies that’ll keep your loved ones safe on the road. These include lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and high-beam assist.
For 2023, Nissan has introduced a Midnight Edition package that enhances the Frontier’s SV Crew Cab trim with black interior and exterior design accents. This Midnight Edition trim also includes 17-inch black alloy wheels, black exterior badging and an exclusive synthetic leather-wrapped center console. It’s a great way to add a little bit of style to your adventure-ready truck.
4. Toyota Corolla
The Toyota Corolla is a great car to buy for a first-time driver. It has a wide range of trims and engine options, making it a versatile vehicle that can suit your needs.
You can go with a sedan or hatchback, gas or hybrid power, and front-wheel or all-wheel drive. The Corolla also offers a number of safety features, such as a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking.
It has a well-tuned suspension and an automatic gearbox that doesn’t jerk at low speeds like some alternatives, and it drives smooth and precise. Its petrol engines are responsive, but don’t feel brash or over-driven, and its hybrid motor runs on electricity in town but is great for the motorway.
All Corolla models have a touchscreen infotainment system that’s easy to use, and it has an array of apps for everything from traffic updates to music playback. The resolution is crisp and responses are snappy, and it has a virtual assistant that can adjust settings for you.
The interior of the Corolla is a pleasant place to be, and the seats are comfortable. The backrests slide forward and backward by pulling a lever, and they adjust for height.
Overall, the Corolla is a safe and reliable car that’s perfect for a first-time driver to take on the road. It comes with a lot of standard safety features, and it’s backed by Toyota’s reputation for reliability.
The Toyota Corolla is a popular option for used car shoppers, and it makes our list of the best cars for first-time drivers because it offers plenty of value for the money. It has a great look, lots of features and a powerful engine that will make your driving life more enjoyable.
5. Volkswagen Jetta
The Volkswagen Jetta is a great car to consider for first-time drivers. The sedan is spacious and efficient, but it also has a lot of features that will keep your new driver safe on the road.
The Jetta offers a wide range of trim levels and engine choices, so it can be tailored to the needs of every driver. Its 158-hp turbocharged four-cylinder is smooth and responsive, and it can be had with an automatic transmission.
Its fuel economy is impressive, too. The standard Jetta can achieve an EPA-estimated 30 mpg on the highway, which is a major plus for first-time drivers who want to maximize their gas money.
For those who want a little more out of their car, Volkswagen offers the Jetta GLI. It swaps out the base model’s tame torsion-bar rear suspension for a multi-link setup. The GLI also adds a 228-hp turbocharged four-cylinder that can zip the Jetta to 60 mph in just fewer than six seconds.
However, it isn’t quite as fun to drive as the base model. Its supple suspension, low-rolling resistance tires, and mediocre brakes don’t make it as spirited as it should be.
The GLI has a few additional standard features, such as adaptive dampers and a digital gauge cluster. It also adds a panoramic sunroof, leather upholstery, and a powerful audio system.
The VW Jetta is a great choice for first-time drivers because it is easy to get behind the wheel of and has all of the safety features you’ll need to ensure that your teen stays safe on the road. It’s also a great option for families, with plenty of space to seat five adults in comfort and a trunk large enough to carry seven carry-on suitcases.