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5 Good Green Cars For Your Teen: Frugal, Fun, But Responsible Too

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It's summer, the kid wants a car, what are ya gonna do?

Chances are you want your kid driving around in something safe. Almost certainly something not too fun or stylish, unless you want them showing off with a car full of friends. And you probably want something with good gas mileage too--it ain't gonna get any cheaper.

Naturally, used cars are a good place to start as far as cost goes, but we've assembled five brand-new, warrantied and safe vehicles that you'd be happy for your kid to drive. If you were wondering where the Fiesta has gone, we actually covered it last week, so why not check it out?

2012 Chevy Sonic
29 mpg city, 40 highway, 33 combined

A small Chevy that's one of the most stylish of the bunch? You'd not have heard that a decade ago but the Sonic is different, and with the right engine you're looking at 40 mpg on the highway. The least you can spend on the 40 mpg turbocharged 1.4 is $16,460 for a sedan in LT1 trim, but Sonics start at $13.865 for a sedan in 1LS trim with the 1.8-liter Ecotec engine, missing out by 5 mpg on the highway over the sportier model. You get stability control and ten airbags on all models.

2012 Kia Rio
30 mpg city, 40 highway, 33 combined

Along with the Chevy Sonic, probably the most distinctive-looking car here, which makes a change after its depressingly bland predecessor. The extra excitement doesn't mean poor fuel economy though. Okay, so it won't beat any hybrids out there, but if you want the security of a warranty then you can't complain at $13,600 for a new Rio--nor 40 mpg on the highway. Don't fancy the badge? You can get virtually the same package in the Rio's Korean cousin, the 2012 Hyundai Accent.

2012 Nissan Versa
30 mpg city, 38 highway, 33 combined

Cost a concern? With an MSRP of $10,990 you won't find many cheaper without going used. Okay, so to get a Versa for that price you have to specify a poverty model, the 1.6 S with manual transmission. It's also not as fuel-sipping, getting 27 city, 36 highway and 30 combined. $13,120 gets a CVT version with better figures. But hey, if you buy your kid a manual car they may be less inclined to text while driving. And a Versa will virtually drive all their friends away, so no distractions there either...

2012 Toyota Yaris
30 mpg city, 38 highway, 33 combined

It may not be as high-tech as the Yaris Hybrid we drove last week, but a regular Yaris is still a parsimonious and refined little car, and you'll not have to worry about Toyota reliability either. 38 highway is a few clicks off some of the best here, but a base price of $14,115 can't be sniffed at, and figures on the EPA's fueleconomy.gov site suggest drivers are getting an average of nearly 40 mpg from the manual--convince your kid to slow down and they may get the same!

2012 Honda Civic
28 mpg city, 39 highway, 32 combined

The Civic is an archetypal first car, and if you choose to buy new the current model is still a good choice. Sure, it's not the most fun, but if you're keeping a beady eye on the kids, do you really want them having a lot of fun when you're not around? They should at least get decent mileage when you're not around--up to 39 on the highway from the 1.8-liter engine. It should be easy to learn in and drive too, with a five-speed automatic transmission.

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Comments (3)
  1. First choice Fiesta, second choice Honda Fit.

    Oh who am I kidding Prius C, Prius C, Prius C
     
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  2. Later in the year, Nissan should be revealing it's new Versa Hatchback with the same new platform, styling cues as the new Sedan has; and some images can be found online. With the new DOHC 1.6l engine and more compact CVT transmission, the Versa is a great choice for savvy consumers looking for the most bang for the buck. Nissan buyers typically cross-shop competing brands very diligently, but some quick research reveals the resale values of 2007-2011 Versa's are very strong, holding more original value than all the other cars referenced in this article. Getting more money for a future trade-in or for resale should be a concern and priority in your vehicle selection in today's economy.
     
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  3. I'd like to see how the new Versa hatchback turns out. Hopefully, it won't be as dull as its sedan version. The best car for teens...the prius C :3
     
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