If you’re car shopping for the newly licensed driver in your life, you have a hard choice to make. You don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for a vehicle that will be driven by an inexperienced, sometimes reckless, young adult. At the same time, you want to make sure they stay protected on the roads and have access to all the latest safety technology. That “New Driver - Patience Please” sticker only goes so far when it comes to keeping them safe. Instead, consider one of these 5 vehicles which offer the latest safety tech, earn a Top Safety Pick rating in crash tests from the IIHS and have a starting MSRP under $20,000.
1. 2019 Subaru Impreza
The Subaru Impreza will make an ideal first car for a young driver, no matter if they just passed their driver's test or are heading off to college and leaving home for the first time. It strikes the right balance between practicality, safety, and affordability. For under $20,000 MSRP, you can choose from a sedan or a 5-door hatchback (we'd go with the hatch for the flexible cargo space).
In addition to standard all-wheel drive, the safety features available in the Impreza are numerous which can put a worried parent's mind at ease. The base model is now available with Subaru's Eyesight driver-assistance technology. This includes adaptive cruise control, automated emergency braking, lane-departure warning, and lane-keeping assist. Upgrade to the Limited trim and the Eyesight package comes standard along with automatic high beams and a rear automated emergency braking system. When it comes to safety ratings, the Impreza got the highest IIHS Top Safety Pick+ designation, passing each crash test with flying colors.
Starting MSRP: $18,595
2. 2019 Kia Soul
Even though the 2019 Kia Soul's styling may be polarizing, the unique, boxy exterior makes the Soul stand apart from other subcompact crossovers. If your young driver wants to stand out in a crowd, the Soul will help them do just that. The Soul's appeal isn't limited to its style, however. It offers just the right amount of space, storage and a good driving experience in addition to safety features that give you more confidence when letting a young driver take the wheel on their own.
The Kia Soul earned the IIHS 2019 Top Safety Pick rating getting the top marks in nearly every crash test. The base model comes with many safety features including brake assist, electronic stability control, and traction control. When you upgrade to the Plus model, you get available lane departure and blind-spot warning, along with adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking.
Starting MSRP: $16,490
3. 2019 Hyundai Elantra
After the Hyundai Elantra was refreshed for 2019, it is now a more attractive and safer vehicle. We'll start with the new styling because let's face it, teenagers can be vain. Despite, the affordable price, the 2019 Elantra offers an upscale aesthetic. Hyundai has taken some cues from Lexus and Audi in refreshing the exterior, giving it a more sculpted, sporty and dramatic look.
Safety features include standard camera-based forward collision prevention, lane-keep assist, and driver attention alert system in every trim. There is a standard rear-view camera with dynamic guidelines for safer backing-up in tight spaces on all trims. Going with the highest (Limited) trim gives drivers Safe Exit Assist technology which warns the driver when there is a vehicle approaching and a door is open. In case you're not sold on the safety factor just yet, the 2019 Hyundai Elantra earned the highest Top Safety Pick+ from the IIHS.
Starting MSRP: $17,200
4. 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback
The 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback has everything a young driver will look for in a vehicle including a fun driving experience and attractive, sporty styling. While you may never convince your teen of this, the safety features and crash ratings of the Corolla Hatchback are even more important than its 0-60 time. Luckily, the 2019 Corolla Hatchback gets high marks in the safety category.
Every model of the 2019 Corolla Hatchback comes with standard Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 which includes Automatic High Beams, Road Sign Assist, Lane Tracing Assist, Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist and Road Edge Detection. The IIHS gives the Toyota Corolla Hatchback a 2019 Top Safety Pick rating.
Starting MSRP: $18,850
5. 2019 Hyundai Kona
The 2019 Hyundai Kona is a new subcompact crossover with funky and youthful styling, powerful engine options and top safety ratings. While the ride can't be described as cushy, it will please the young driver due to a sporty feel. An optional 1.6-liter turbocharged engine on the higher trim levels takes the vehicle up a notch for 175 horsepower (up from 147 horsepower in the base inline 4-cylinder).
Hyundai upped the safety features on the 2019 Hyundai Kona with their SmartSense safety package. For every trim, including the base model, the Kona comes with Forward Collision Warning. Emergency Braking, Lane Keep Assist and Driver Attention Warning. On top of the latest standard tech to prevent an accident, the 2019 Hyundai Kona does an excellent job of protecting drivers and passengers should an accident occur. It earned the 2019 Top Safety Pick+ award from the IIHS.
Starting MSRP: $19,990