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The kids are back in school; if yours is in college, they may need a new set of wheels. After all, driving between the dorms and the convenience store late at night is much easier with a new car. If you don’t want to lend out your car, here are five of the best compact cars for college students.

1. 2023 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid

a front view of the 2023 Hyundai Ioniq
2023 Hyundai Ioniq | Hyundai

Did you think we would add a Toyota Prius to the list of best compact cars? Don’t get us wrong, there’s nothing bad about the Prius, but the 2023 Hyundai Ioniq is a great alternative. If your college student has to commute between home and school, the Ioniq will allow them to travel farther between fill-ups.

The Hyundai Ioniq is powered by a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine mated to a 32-kWh electric motor. The setup produces 139 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque, which is more than adequate for a long commute. But best of all, the Ioniq can average up to 58 mpg in combined driving situations.

The Ioniq isn’t the most fun car to drive, given its lower power rating, but it is safe. Some notable safety features include a forward collision warning, a driver attention monitor, and lane-keep assist to keep your kiddo on the road.

2. 2023 Honda Civic Sport

2023 Honda Civic Sedan in silver parked in the mountains
2023 Honda Civic | Honda

The Honda Civic is a staple in the compact sedan category and for 2023, the Civic is all grown up. Not only does it have sophisticated styling inside and out, but it also has a fuel-efficient engine and a host of safety features.

We recommend the Civic Sport trim level because it costs around $25,000 and comes with a lot of standard features a college kid would love. Some of them include Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility, a 7-inch infotainment system, and a Smart walkaway auto lock system.

The Honda Sensing suite of safety features is also included. Some of them include adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, and traffic sign recognition so your kid knows exactly what the speed limit is.

3. 2023 Subaru Crosstrek

A 2023 Subaru Crosstrek driving in the snow
2023 Subaru Crosstrek | Subaru

If your college kid likes to get away on the weekends and go off the beaten path, the 2023 Subaru Crosstrek is a great choice. It has 8.7 inches of ground clearance, a standard all-wheel drive system, and a hatchback shape with 20 cubic feet of space.

It’s also fairly fuel-efficient as it returns 33 mpg on the highway and is decently powerful with its standard 152-hp engine. However, a more potent 182-hp engine is also available.

4. 2023 Nissan Versa

A front view of the 2023 Nissan Versa parked on a city block
2023 Nissan Versa | Joe Santos, MotorBiscuit

The 2023 Nissan Versa is one of the cheapest cars on this list, with a starting price of around $15,000. But that’s not why we included it. We recently drove the 2023 Versa and were impressed with its stout feature set and comfortable interior.

We recommend shelling out around $20,000 for the top-trim Versa SR, which comes with everything your college student needs. Some of the features include a 122-hp engine, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, heated seats, auto climate control, and a host of safety features.

5. 2023 Kia Soul

A rear view of the 2023 Kia Soul
2023 Kia Soul | Kia

The Kia Soul has been around for over a decade, and it’s easy to see why. The Soul’s quirky styling and efficiency have served the public well over the years and works even better for college students. The Kia Soul offers a fuel-efficient engine and a spacious boxy cabin with ample room for passengers and their stuff. There are also plenty of tech features, such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The best compact cars for college kids provide plenty of safety and efficiency

Although plenty of inexpensive cars in the market will serve any college kid well, these five cars offer the most. The eclectic cars on this list offer plenty of practicality without breaking the bank. Of course, if you want to spend a little more, you can get the kid a Toyota Prius.


New Cars for College Grads that are Safe, Affordable, and Make a Great First Impression