AAA Car Buying Reveals Top Cars for Teens

Safety and style drive experts’ selections

Phoenix, Ariz., June 14, 2012.  When it comes to choosing a vehicle, teens opt for speed, style, and brand, while parents focus on safety, reliability and affordability. Like settling on a curfew, finding a happy medium may not be easy. In an effort to simplify the process, AAA Car Buying is releasing its picks for top cars for teens.

“Parents and teens seeing eye to eye on a vehicle can be tough,” said Don Nunnari, vice president of automotive services for AAA Arizona. “However, there are a variety of safe, reliable and stylish vehicles on the market that will fit into the budget, thereby satisfying parent needs and teen wants.”

AAA Car Buying experts recommend the following vehicles for teens based on safety, style and reliability:

  • Volkswagen Golf/Rabbit TDI: These hatchbacks are roomy and flexible. Handling is predictable and stability control has been an option since 2003. The TDI (Turbo Diesel) is the diesel option, with lower horsepower and much better fuel economy ratings than the gasoline powered versions.
    • Expert tip: Avoid the speedier GTI (Grand Tourer Injection) edition as it can be too powerful for less experienced drivers. 
    • Safety rating:The 2012 four door, four wheel and all wheel drive models received a four star rollover safety rating in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) New Car Assessment Program.
  • Ford Focus: In addition to being pleasant to drive and a solid performer with good handling, the Ford Focus provides good fuel economy, advertising up to 40 hwy mpg on the SE with SFE package.
    • Expert tip: Newer models feature MyKey, which allows parents to limit speed, radio volume and prevent teens from turning off safety systems.
    • NHTSA safety rating: 2012 models received an overall four star rating.

  • Honda Civic: A perennial and parental favorite, the Honda Civic offers solid handling, a stout structure, easy maneuvering and good fuel economy.
    • Expert tip: Avoid the Si model, as it may be too powerful for younger drivers.
    • NHTSA safety rating: The 2012 four door model received a five star rating.
  • Hyundai Sonata: The Hyundai Sonata comes standard with a four-cylinder engine. Handling is secure and the ride is comfortable.
    • Expert tip: Beware of the turbocharged version; it is unnecessarily powerful for teenage drivers.
    • NHTSA safety rating: The 2012 Sonata received a five star safety rating.

  • Ford Fusion: The Ford Fusion features secure handling and comfort. Upper trim levels can be equipped with an optional cross traffic alert feature, which makes backing out of a parking space with limited visibility safer. 
    • Expert tip: The four-cylinder motor or gasoline-electric hybrid are AAA’s picks for teen drivers.
    • NHTSA safety rating:The 2012 Fusion received an overall four star rating.
  • Kia Sportage: The Sportage, one of Kia’s midsize crossover utility vehicles is economical, dependable and handles well.
    • Expert tip: The Sportage comes with a wide range of safety features.
    • NHTSA safety rating: The 2012 Sportage received four stars and a “no tip” evaluation.


AAA offers a wide variety of resources to guide parents through the learning to drive process. TeenDriving.AAA.com is an interactive site that provides parents and teens with individualized information – including a downloadable brochure on a parent’s guide to choosing a vehicle.

In addition, the club offers Permit Prep 101, a free parent-teen workshop that offers safety tips, Graduated Driver’s License law information and statistics and resources. For information on upcoming workshops, visit: http://www.az.aaa.com/news/traffic-safety/permit-prep-101.

AAA’s Top Cars for Teens list was compiled by AAA Car Buying experts who test drive and evaluate hundreds of vehicles each year. AAA Car Buying affords members the convenience of buying a vehicle without stepping foot into a car dealership. For more information visit az.aaa.com/automotive/car-buying. Consumers can also download the AAA Auto Buying Tools App to access information on the go.

AAA Arizona, the Arizona affiliate of AAA, provides automotive, insurance and auto travel services to more than 825,000 Arizona members. Annually, AAA’s Roadside Assistance responds to more than 450,000 calls for help on Arizona roadways. The auto club also provides insurance, travel, auto repair, discounts and financial services to AAA members. Since its founding in 1927, AAA Arizona has been a leading advocate for the safety and security of all travelers.