Consumer Reports, IIHS issue list of new vehicles recommended for teens

October 7, 2020

Parents shopping for a safe and reliable 2020 model for their teen driver can consult a new list of recommended vehicles compiled by Consumer Reports (CR) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

The two organizations created this new resource following their recently published joint list of recommended used vehicles for teens.

The list of 18 recommended new vehicles is considerably shorter than the used vehicle list, which consists of 65 models. The recommended new models are more expensive than the used vehicles, which were all under $20,000.

“While buying a new car for a young driver is less common than buying used, new vehicles offer the latest in both crash avoidance and crash protection technologies,” says Jennifer Stockburger, director of operations at CR’s Auto Test Center. “And if you’re putting out the additional money to buy new, why not make it the safest option you can find?”

“It can be tempting to buy a tiny, bare-bones model for a teenager,” says IIHS President David Harkey. “But we know that teenagers are among the riskiest drivers, so it’s important not to skimp on safety. Spending a bit more for state-of-the-art crash protection and crash avoidance features is a worthy investment in your child’s future.”

The list is also a good resource for parents of younger children who might be buying a vehicle for their own use with an eye to handing it down to a new driver in the future.

The recommended 2020 vehicles range in price from about $21,000 to $37,000. All of them are winners of the IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK or TOP SAFETY PICK+ award, meaning they have good ratings in all six of the Institute’s crashworthiness tests, advanced or superior ratings for front crash prevention, and acceptable- or good-rated headlights.

Only vehicles that come with vehicle-to-vehicle automated emergency braking as standard equipment are included in the recommendations. In cases in which acceptable or good headlights aren’t standard, the list specifies the qualifying trim levels and options.

In addition, all vehicles have average or better reliability, based on CR’s member surveys; average or better scores from CR’s emergency handling tests; and dry braking distances of less than 140 feet from 60 mph in CR’s brake tests. They also receive a rating of good or better from CR for ease of use of their controls.

The list has no sports cars or other vehicles with excessive horsepower because these vehicles can tempt teens to test the limits. In addition, there are no minicars or vehicles under 2,750 pounds. The biggest, heaviest vehicles, including those in the large SUV class, have also been left off the list because they can be hard to handle and often have increased braking distances.

The list also excludes vehicles that had substantially higher than average insurance claim rates under medical payment or personal injury protection coverage in recent model years and haven’t been redesigned.

Both coverage types pay for injuries to occupants of the insured vehicle. The Highway Loss Data Institute, an IIHS affiliate, collects and publishes insurance loss data by make and model every year. The results are adjusted for driver age, gender and other factors that could affect risk.

CR puts every car it purchases through more than 50 tests and evaluations and supplements that information with reliability and owner satisfaction data from its surveyed members. From these collective insights, CR has long produced recommendations for the best cars for teens, with an emphasis on performance, safety and reliability.

IIHS is best known for crash tests of new vehicles and the annual TOP SAFETY PICK awards. The Institute began issuing used vehicle recommendations for teens in 2014 after IIHS researchers found that teenagers were likely to drive very old or very small vehicles. This is the first time IIHS has issued recommendations for new vehicles for teens.

Recommended new vehicles for teens, 2020 models

Prices, rounded to the nearest $100, reflect Kelley Blue Book New Car Fair Purchase Prices for the least expensive trim level that qualifies for the recommendation. If a particular option package is needed, the manufacturer’s suggested retail price for that package has been added to the price.

Some listed models include a “built after” date. This applies when a manufacturer makes changes to improve safety in the middle of a model year. Information about when a specific vehicle was manufactured can be found on the certification label typically affixed to the driver door or near it.

Honda Insight $22,000
Mazda 3 (sedan and hatchback) $22,100
Toyota Corolla (XLE/XSE sedan + Advanced Lighting; XSE hatchback + Preferred package) $23,400
Subaru Legacy $22,100
Honda Accord (excluding Touring 2.0T and Touring Hybrid) $23,300
Mazda 6 $23,800
Nissan Altima (SR, SV, SL and Platinum trims) $24,900
Subaru Outback (built after October 2019) $25,900
Mazda CX-3 $20,700
Subaru Forester $23,900
Mazda CX-5 $25,200
Chevrolet Equinox (LT only) $27,000
Honda CR-V (Touring and all hybrid trims) $27,900
Lexus UX (with Triple-Beam LED Headlamps with Auto-Leveling) $32,800
Kia Sportage (SX Turbo only; built after September 2019) $33,000
Toyota RAV4 (Hybrid Limited only with Adaptive Front Headlight System) $36,900
Hyundai Santa Fe (SEL trim with Premium package or Limited trim) $32,700
Mazda CX-9 (built after December 2019) $32,700

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