You have a teenager in the household who has just obtained a driver's license or is about to go off on a great adventure called college. You'd like to get that first set of wheels. You want a ride your offspring would like, but you also want it to be safe and affordable.
My suggestion would be to think three-year-old small car, small crossover, or midsize pickup. Buying a vehicle on its third birthday means avoiding the worst depreciation, yet getting a relatively new vehicle of recent design. Residing in Smallville means minimal bucks up front and at the gas pump. And thanks to the stronger, more advanced architecture and additional safety features employed in latter-day rides, buying a small vehicle is much safer than it once was.
Here's a six-pack of assorted 2015 transit that your offspring and your wallet could live with. These are attractive, economical, comfortable, and decently equipped ways to get around. They typically seat four comfortably and afford room for their luggage. The prices shown are for base models with manual gearboxes. An automatic will usually tack about $600 to the price tag. These prices — NADA Guide averages for very clean automobiles sold by new car dealers — also reflect a premium of around $700 for a car with only 36,000 miles on it.
Here's a quick look at the suggestions:
Ford Focus Sedan ($9,525). Also available as a hatchback and an electric, the Focus was refreshed for 2015. It features handsome styling (thanks in no small part to Ford's theft of the Aston Martin grille design). Even in base form, it boasts a rear camera, power windows and mirrors, and keyless entry.
Powered by a 2-liter, 160 horsepower four, the Focus manages EPA mileage ratings of 26 city and 36 highway with the manual gearbox, and even better with the six-speed automatic (27 and 40).
Kia Soul ($11,025). With its quirky/cute styling and affordable utility, this compact hatchback has proved quite popular. Redesigned for 2014, it is also offered as an electric and furnishes standard gear that includes power, heated mirrors, hill-start assist, and a six-speaker sound system.
The Soul is motivated by a 1.6-liter, 130-horse four that affords its EPAs of 24 city and 30 highway.
Chevrolet Colorado extended cab ($14,825). The Colorado was a brand-new midsize pickup when it debuted in 2015 and has proved quite popular. It is available with an extended or crew cab, rear or all-wheel drive, and is powered by a 200-horsepower four or a 305-horse V-6. Except for the base, four-cylinder truck, which can be had with a six-speed manual, a six-speed automatic does the shifting.
These trucks handle well, and are quiet and comfortable. The base manual four delivers EPAs of 19 and 26.
Subaru Forester ($16,350). Redesigned for 2014, this compact crossover is the only vehicle in this selection offered only with all-wheel-drive. So even our lowly manual base car is good in the snow. Its also decently equipped, with gear-like cruise control, and power windows and locks.
The Forester's 170-horsepower four delivers adequate power and EPAs (22 and 29).
Honda Civic LX sedan ($12,975). A perennial favorite with young people, the Civic is an attractive, comfortable ride that derives decent acceleration and excellent fuel economy (EPAs of 28 and 36) from a 1.8-liter four that develops 143 horsepower.