Well, this is painful to write, but the end of summer is upon us. Thank goodness Kelly Blue Book is making school exciting with its list of Top 10 Best Back-to-School Cars for 2017.
All the cars start in the low $20k range and are what KBB calls a fair compromise between what makes parents happy and their teens happy. The main thing to note right off the bat though is Honda dominates.
The Fit continues to fit every need and checks all the boxes. Its roomy, fuel efficient and starts at a very doable $17,065. Standard goodies include the huge cabin and storage space. The third-generation Fit even has more backseat legroom than the Honda Accord. The seats are also crazily adjustable thanks to Honda’s 60/40 split 2nd-row Magic Seat. The middle folds up so you can carry tall stuff and then folds flat when you need to carry long stuff. It also has a long standing reputation as a safe, reliable, fun to drive vehicle that’s also a good value. You can check out our review of the upper-trim Fit EX-L with Nav here.
Second for the Soul isn’t always a bad thing. It also comes in as the second lowest starting price on this list at $16,995 (only the Nissan Versa Note beats it). The funky soul definitely stands out from the crowd with its looks and offers plenty of functionality. The boxy shape gives it a surprising amount of interior room. The headroom alone makes it worth checking into for you taller folks. You can check out our review of the Kia Soul Turbo here.
The Civic is a repeat winner for the 2017 KBB Overall Best Buy and the Compact Car Best Buy and with good reason. The model starts at $19,615. It comes standard with a multi-angle rearview camera and automatic climate control. It comes with a nice 158-horsepower with 174 lb-ft of torque, which still manages a great 31 city and 40 highway mpg. Check out our recent reviews of the Honda Civic Touring S and Honda Civic Si for more on what the various trims offer.
The new little sib of the best-selling CR-V, it makes a great first car with its Honda reliability and compact SUV size. It starts at $20,405. It also offers an interesting option, for the size and price points, of opting for AWD for $2,100 more. It gets a top safety rating from the NHTSA for 2016, relevant since the 2017 model stays the same except for a new color offering.
This is one of Jerry’s favorite sleeper cars, meaning you can find the Mazda3 used for really good prices. A new 2017 model starts $18,970. It packs a decent 155-horsepower. Enough to have fun without pushing dangerous. Accordingly, it’s known for its fun handling at a low price point.
It also comes in first place as KBB Coolest Cars Around $18k list.
The Note is the hatchback version of the Versa sedan. It starts at $16,365 placing it well below the $20k cap and the most affordable vehicle on the list. KBB notes it for its surprising roominess. Fuel economy is also stellar with an EPA-estimated 39 mpg highway miles and 31 in the city.
All-new for 2017, Subaru’s redesigned Impreza goes from an eh sedan to a fun one with Subaru reliability and good resale value. It’s also Subaru’s only model in this under $20K price range. So look no further if that’s one of the features on the top of your must list. It starts at $19,215 and that includes all-wheel drive. Read our review of the 2017 Impreza Sport here.
8. 2017 Mazda CX-3
The Vroom Vroom company’s smallest compact SUV starts at $20,900. It maintains the aggressive Mazda grille and hood. Its sharp lines are telling as a sibling of the Miata. It also packs a decent, but not crazy, horsepower rating of 146.
Toyota’s legendary compact sedan starts at $19,455. It’s noted on this list for its Toyota standard of reliability and safety. The base model includes a backup camera, adaptive cruise control, and automatic collision braking. It’s your all around basic sedan that makes it great vehicle to launch kids well into their mid-to-late twenties. Basically, the go-to for going through high school, university, and grad school all in one car. You can check out our review of the Corolla SE here.
The Trax is a good choice for its cool sub compact SUV size and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connections – we’re only disappointed that it currently does not offer Chevrolet’s Teen Driver system. Its compact size makes it a good choice for those tight parking situations in the big city. It also gets IIHS top safety scores in all but the forward crash mitigation test.
You can read our review of the 2017 Trax here.
Photo Credit: Honda, Kia, Subaru, Chevrolet, Mazda, Nissan