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There are some SUVs that get it right from the start, especially from trusted brands like Mazda, Honda, and Toyota. In order to earn a recommendation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, these sport utility vehicles had to have good safety scores and come in under $40,000. Plus, the best small SUVs for teens also received the stamp of approval from Consumer Reports.

Many of the best small SUVs for teens in 2023 come from Toyota

This Toyota RAV4 is one of the best small SUVs for teens
A 2023 Toyota RAV4 | Toyota

The newest IIHS list for the best small SUVs for teens in 2023 is out, with Toyota leading the way. Both the Toyota RAV4 and the Lexus US landed on the best-of list. Working with Consumer Reports, the IIHS says that the best vehicles for teens are generally a reasonable size and not too fast. Sports cars, mini cars, or large SUVs and trucks did not make the list.

Vehicles like the 2023 Toyota RAV4 are classified as a small SUV with four doors. In the main crashworthiness tests, the RAV4 earned high marks in most segments. This small SUV earned the Top Safety Pick award due to these high scores. New for this year, the crash avoidance and mitigation segments are factored into the overall safety score. This included headlights, vehicle-to-vehicle front crash protection, and vehicle-to-pedestrian front crash prevention.

The 2023 Lexus UX also earned the Top Safety Pick Plus award. It earned nearly perfect scores on all eight of the main crashworthiness tests and the crash avoidance and mitigation tests. Regarding seat belts and child restraints, the UX SUV impressed the experts.

Some of the best small SUVs for teens in 2023 from Mazda

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recommended many small SUVs for teens from Mazda and Subaru. To land on this list, the SUVs had to be $23,000 to $39,800 and earn high marks on Consumer Reports testing. The 2023 Mazda CX-5 earned the Top Safety Pick designation for several reasons. It performed well on the small overlap, moderate overlap, and roof strength tests.

The CX-5 is also known for being fun to drive and has many features for a reasonable cost. Plus, the large cargo area helps carry around all of those school supplies or sports equipment. The 2023 Mazda CX-50 had a similar story and positive testing.

For the 2023 Subaru Forester, the IIHS and Consumer Reports gave it the mark of approval. This small SUV performed well on the main crash tests and the new crash avoidance exams. Finding a new car with a reasonable cost can be especially helpful for those who might be using the vehicle most of the time with the intention of handing it down one day. High safety scores are a must for these situations.

Honda made some safe compact SUVs for teen drivers

Honda has two small SUVs that are suitable for teen drivers. Both the 2023 Honda HR-V and the 2023 Honda CR-V earned the Top Safety Pick award. Like the other options the IIHS chose, these two compact Honda SUVs earned high marks for safety and have a reasonable cost.

“If you’re spending the money on a new vehicle that’s likely to be in your family for many years, we want you to get the most safety available. That means the highest ratings in our latest suite of tests,” IIHS Chief Research Officer David Zuby said.

This is a pretty specific list of small SUVs that are safe, reliable, and good enough for teen drivers. That doesn’t mean other drivers won’t appreciate all that these sport utility vehicles have to offer, but it should give you more peace of mind while your teen is out driving around.


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