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Five Best New Cars for Recent College Grads

Recent college grads need a reliable vehicle with enough space to contain the family they are likely to have within the next eight years. The following five cars have room for family, visual appeal worthy of pride, and enough additional tech to keep up confidence in having something nice to care for.

Volkswagen Jetta SE

MSRP: Starting at $22,395

The VW Jetta SE costs slightly more than a base Jetta but comes to life thanks to a turbocharged engine that makes 147 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. It also gets a combined fuel economy rating of 34 MPG.

An eight-speed automatic transmission with sport mode ensures the Jetta SE can lay down power as needed but retain high fuel efficiency during everyday driving. The Jetta SE includes 10-color LED lighting for both internal accents and VW Virtual Cockpit display readings. Recent college grads will love the leatherette seats, aggressive stance, and long warranty that the Jetta provides.

All Jettas come from the factory with support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and a suite of advanced safety features. Cross-traffic monitoring, automatic emergency braking, and blind-spot monitoring are also included.

Honda Civic EX

MSRP: Starting at $23,400

The Honda Civic is a very common and affordable sporty sedan with multiple trim options including the powerful Type R. The Civic EX provides some technology similar to the Jetta such as lane watch and adds on a rear-facing camera. The Civic EX offers a more efficient turbocharged 1.5L engine, as compared to the base model, making it an excellent choice for recent college grads.

The 2019 Civic EX uses a continuously variable transmission to smoothly put the power to the ground. A combined EPA fuel efficiency rating of 34 MPG means it won’t drain your wallet, either. The Civic also features a 10-speaker surround sound stereo system.

Tesla Model 3

MSRP: Starting at $35,000 (only if custom ordered directly from Tesla)

The Tesla Model 3 provides a balance of energy efficiency, power, and reliability for a cost higher than others on the list. The Model 3 brings technology such as Enhanced Autopilot to level the playing field, however.

The base RWD Model 3 has a total range of 240 miles—about 130 MPGe. Juicing up at a Supercharger station will compare almost equally to filling up at your local gas station, though home charging may be cheaper in some locations. A large, 15-inch touchscreen serves as an instrument panel, GPS, and control center for the Model 3. The base RWD Model 3 is estimated around 270 horsepower.

Jeep Wrangler

MSRP: Starting at $31,545

The Wrangler provides massive off-road capability and a huge spread of aftermarket customization options for those looking to express themselves through their vehicle. Higher trim levels offer additional technology, such as lane watch and a rear-facing camera. The vehicle comes stock with a 7-inch touchscreen for audio and navigation control.

Wranglers, unlike most other options in our line up charge extra for an automatic transmission—the eight-speed paddle-shift transmission will cost $2,000 extra but offers increased fuel efficiency—to the tune of nearly 30 MPG.

Most other vehicles in our line up have only one option for engine, but the 2019 Wrangler gives buyers the option of a 3.6L V6 or turbocharged inline-four. From the factory, a new Wrangler comes in several colors, ranging from yellow and green to grey and black. One major benefit—drivers can take the car top off at any time. Plus, the Wrangler is just cool.

Nissan Kicks

MSRP: Starting at $18,640

The Nissan Kicks is an affordable but stylish, economical ride that feels like it has more than its 122 horsepower. The 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine is paired with a CVT that gives it an excellent average EPA fuel efficiency rating of 33 MPG combined.

For a little more money, you can also get the Kicks with an upgraded stereo, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support.

All images provided by the manufacturer unless otherwise noted.