Shopping for a new teen driver can be stressful. To help ease this stress, IIHS and Consumer Reports have collaborated to put out a list of the best new vehicles for teen drivers in 2020, with a specific focus on safety ratings. If you’re looking for a new small car for your teenager, the IIHS only recommends three brands: Honda, Toyota, and Mazda.
The IIHS’s focus on safety
Because teenagers are some of the highest-risk drivers, IIHS places a heavy emphasis on the safety ratings and features of the cars that it recommends. While these vehicles may cost a bit more upfront, it is a worthwhile investment that can really benefit new drivers.
As such, every car on this list is a winner of either the IIHS Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick+ award. This means that each vehicle has been tested for its crashworthiness in six different areas, and has received good scores in each. Additionally, each of the cars must have either advanced or superior ratings in front crash prevention, with headlights that are rated either acceptable or good.
How these cars are chosen
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Although the IIHS has spent several years recommending the best used cars for teen drivers, this is the first year it has put together its list of recommended new cars, which includes vehicles from Honda, Mazda, and Toyota. In addition to the stringent safety requirements, each of the cars on this list needs to have a predicted reliability rating of average or better from Consumer Reports. Every car has a rating of good or better for ease of use of its controls, and a score of average or better in the Consumer Reports emergency handling tests.
Additionally, to make the list, each car needs to come standard with vehicle-to-vehicle automated emergency braking. They also have dry braking distances of 160 feet or less from 60 mph.
IIHS and Consumer Reports have avoided recommending any cars that may be difficult or risky for teen drivers to control. These restrictions account for vehicles with excessively high horsepower, large SUVs, and cars that weigh less than 2,750 pounds.
Each of the cars on this list are between $21,000 and $37,000. IIHS notes that these cars may also be a good choice for parents who are looking for a car for themselves that they will eventually be able to hand down to their children.
Which Honda, Toyota, and Mazda vehicles are recommended?
The three small cars recommended by IIHS are the Honda Insight, the sedan and hatchback versions of the Mazda3, and the Toyota Corolla. The Honda Insight starts at approximately $22,000. It has a 1.5-liter I4 engine that makes 151 hp, and it gets 55 miles per gallon in the city and 49 miles per gallon on the highway. The Insight comes with Honda Sensing, the automaker’s safety suite. Adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, and lane-keeping assist all come standard.
The Mazda3 starts at $22,100. Both the hatchback and sedan versions feature a 2.5-liter I4 engine that makes 186 hp. This car gets 26 miles per gallon in the city and 35 miles per gallon on the highway.
For the Toyota Corolla, IIHS recommends some specific trims in order for the vehicle to meet the required safety standards: the XLE/XSE sedan with advanced lighting, and the XSE hatchback with the Preferred package. The Corolla starts at $23,400.
Whether you’re shopping for your teen driver’s first car, or you want a small car for yourself that you’ll be able to pass down to your child when the time comes, sorting through the many options to find the safest choice can be challenging. The IIHS and Consumer Reports have narrowed the playing field — and Honda, Toyota, and Mazda have come out on top.