Graduation day is right around the corner, and for many teenagers, the ultimate gift is still a new set of wheels.
With only three new vehicles priced under $20,000 these days, cheap rides are a thing of the past, but for those who can afford them, Consumer Reports has teamed up with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) to pick the best new models for teens and recently licensed drivers.
"As parents, we can’t control what happens on the road once our teen driver pulls out of the driveway," Jennifer Stockburger, director of operations at Consumer Reports' Auto Test Center, said.
"But we do have some say in the type of vehicle they drive off in, and that can make a huge difference. This list can help parents find vehicles that check all the boxes."
The list leaves off sports cars and other high horsepower vehicles that might be too tempting to speed with or show off in.
It also eliminates vehicles that are very small – microcars and those under 2,700 pounds – that might not fare well in a crash with a heavy vehicle, as well as very large models that can be harder to handle and pose additional dangers to other drivers, cyclists and pedestrians when in the hands of an inexperienced driver.
The 16 vehicles chosen also received either a Top Safety Pick ro Top Safety Pick+ crash safety award from the IIHS and standard automatic braking systems; reliability and performance scores of at least average from Consumer Reports; a braking distance from 60 mph of less than 140 feet; and a good or better score for how easy their in-cabin controls are to use.
Vehicles with higher than average injury insurance claims were also left off, unless they recently received a full redesign.
Here is the full list by segment with prices for the lowest-priced trims that qualify.
Mazda 3 sedan or hatchback: $23,000
Subaru Legacy: $25,100
Subaru Outback: $29,300
Honda HR-V: $24,400
Subaru Forester: $27,700
Mazda CX-5: $27,800
Mazda CX-50: $28,900
Toyota RAV4: $29,300
Honda CR-V: $29,700
Lexus UX: $36,000
Subaru Ascent: $34,600
Hyundai Palisade: $36,600
Toyota Highlander: $37,100
Mazda CX-9: $38,300
Lexus NX: $39,800
Honda Odyssey: $38,100