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Top 10 Cars For College Students

September 9th, 2011

Sending your beloved son or daughter off to college is a joyous yet heartbreaking experience. Choosing the right car for a college student requires a careful eye on a few factors. Price, safety ratings, fuel efficiency, reliability and interior space are primary concerns, and then there is the all-important cool factor. Here are our top 10 new car choices for college students. They are limited to cars under $20,000.

10. 2012 Volkswagen Golf – $18,765

2012 Volkswagen Golf

Our take: The Golf is a cut above other compact hatchbacks in refinement, feeling more like a luxury car than an econobox. The turbodiesel TDI variant gets stellar fuel efficiency but is priced above $20,000.

9. 2011 Subaru Impreza – $18,220

2011 Subaru Impreza

Our take: Attending college in an environment seeing lots of rain or snow? The Impreza can’t be beat when it comes to bad-weather safety. The trick all-wheel drive system does mean lower fuel efficiency.

8. 2012 Ford Focus – $17,295

2012 Ford Focus

Our take: In the compact car segment Ford had all but conceded to the Japanese, the company comes roaring back with the all-new 2012 Focus. Students will love the well-designed and high-on-technology interior.

7. 2011 Kia Soul – $13,995

2011 Kia Soul

Our take: For those who like to stand out, the Soul offers a great standard equipment list and is an IIHS Top Safety Pick. The unique design is a solution to subcompact car boredom.

6. 2012 Chevrolet Cruze – $17,275

2012 Chevrolet Cruze

Our take: The Cruze is currently the top-selling compact car in the U.S., with remarkable fuel efficiency, attractive styling and generous safety features to thank. Long-term reliability is unknown.

5. 2012 Nissan Versa – $11,750

2012 Nissan Versa

Our take: If price is a top concern, the all-new-for-2012 Versa is still the least-expensive car in America. The new version comes with better efficiency and standard equipment list than last year’s model.

4. 2012 Honda Civic – $17,305

2012 Honda Civic

Our take: The Civic, redesigned for 2012, is a safe and fun-to-drive model which earns high marks in fuel efficiency and reliability. Avoid the more-powerful Si model for inexperienced drivers.

3. 2012 Ford Fiesta – $13,995

2012 Ford Fiesta

Our take: Ford’s Fiesta brings many more standard and available features than most of its subcompact competitors. The sedan is cheaper, but the hatchback is more versatile and attractively styled.

2. 2011 Honda Fit – $15,850

2011 Honda Fit

Our take: While the Fit may not be the cheapest or most-efficient subcompact, it outhandles its competitors and features a well-designed interior. Reliability has been excellent, and the car sheds the “cheap” stigma facing competing models.

1. 2012 Hyundai Elantra – $15,995

2012 Hyundai Elantra

Our take: Hyundai’s Elantra features a subcompact price, compact dimensions and midsize interior space, combined with the best warranty in its class. All models see 40 highway mpg regardless of transmission choice.

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