• Aug 15, 2006
The guys at CNNMoney.com have come up with a list of the 7 best "college cars" -- the best available rides for current college students or new grads who have to work within a limited budget. To make the list, each car had to have a base price of under $16,000, be fuel-efficient, and offer good utility.

Without further ado, here's what they came up with. We've listed them from lowest to highest base price:
  • Nissan Versa - $12, 450
  • Scion xA - $12, 780
  • Dodge Caliber - $13,425
  • Ford Focus - $13,450
  • Mazda3 -$13, 710
  • Honda Fit - $13,850
  • Kia Sportage - $15,900
Read on to see our thoughts after the jump.

[Source: CNNMoney.com]

The fuel economy kings are the Versa (30/34 mpg), Scion (31/38 mpg) and Fit (33/38), and in terms of value, all seven cars bring some good things to the table.

While the Honda Fit is a very attractive candidate, Honda has acknowledged that it's having trouble keeping up with the demand, so it may not necessarily be easy to find one.

The Focus looks a little dated compared to some of the newer vehicles listed above, but as CNN points out, it's also available as a sporty wagon (base price, $16,735), which is a really nice thing for a student who has to haul his or her life to and from school a couple of times a year.

The Scion is a nice deal, but its 1.5L engine only makes 105 horsepower. Still, the low entry price leaves the buyer with some extra dough that can be used to accessorize the car.

The Sportage is pretty cool as small SUVs go, but its entry price doesn't include A/C. Plus, if you want 4WD, the number immediately jumps to $20K. Unless you absolutely must have the SUV body style, you'll likely get more bang for the buck from the other cars on the list (if you stick to the $16,000 budget, that is).

The Mazda3 sports 150 ponies underhood, stylish bodywork (though we wish the car at this price point was the hatchback and not the sedan), and can also be upgraded to include PW/PDL while still sneaking in under $16,000.

The Versa boasts decent power (122-hp) from its 1.8L, looks good on the road, and gets great gas mileage. While it doesn't come with power windows or door locks at the price shown above, buyers can upgrade to the better-equipped SL trim and still stay well below the $16,000 threshold CNNMoney set for the list.

Finally, Caliber brings bulldog-tough looks and a highly versatile interior to the party, though CNNMoney advises that you wait until you can get a manual transmission to go with the 2.4L four.

No matter how you cut it, there are a number of new, interesting, stylish, and frugal small cars out there for the budget-minded. The list is geared toward students and new grads, but you needn't be either one to appreciate the value the list highlights.

[Source: CNNMoney.com]


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  • 62 Comments
      • 8 Years Ago
      "I would be willing to bet that most of you would have liked the opprotunity to have a very nice car when you were 17 or 18 and are simply mad because there are people in the world who have things that you are not able to have at this moment."

      -I doubt your parents would be proud of how you are handling your reward to everyone else. It's called being classy and adult like. Sort of along the lines of don't talk politics, your income, or religion. If I was your father I would be sad my kid used our personal reward to him or her and then exploited with an aire of arrogance to the general public, granted an internet blog. Nevertheless, I would not be proud of you.

      I'm sure you don't care and you have every right not to.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I know I'm old and everything, and I know I went to a state (OK, Big Ten) school in the midwest decades ago, but if people are able to buy their kids the kind of cars we're talking about here, there's waaaaay to much taxpayer support of secondary education.
      • 8 Years Ago
      So what world is this in? Most of the people I went to college (in an area ranging from lower middle class to upper middle class, rural and small town, mostly White) drove hand-me-down cars or used wheels from parents and grandparents, not new cars. Most of the people I grew up with would take their used Mustangs, Camaros, pick-up trucks, or cruisers such as Vics, Caprices, etc. over this list of garbage any day. As for myself, it was grandpa's old Crown Victoria, too bad the damn trans had to go out at 77k, else I'd still be driving it.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Good for the kids who have a car while going to school. But it's not for me. Gas is expensive, parking spaces are few and far between, and college kids can't drive anyways so the car is going to get bumps and scratches in no time.

      I chose to to buy a road bike when I started my first year of college. Not only did I get choice parking areas, I could spin past traffic hold ups and use sidewalks if I wanted to take a short cut. Why anyone NEEDS a car in a typical college town is beyond me because businesses tend to collect as near to a college as they can.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Kamil, I the point is to showcase brand new cars at the price point. It's no secret that $16,000 can get you an excellent used car. That's actually an interesting topic in itself (used cars/same budget). Hmmm...
      • 8 Years Ago
      Has CNNMoney ever, you know, bothered to go to a college parking lot in the last half decade? $13,000 cars? Try WRX STIs, S4s, G35s, 350Zs, et-al. The majority of new cars I witnessed in student housing parking lots, working with housing services from 2000 to 2006 at the University of California Riverside (arguably the 'poorest' UC in terms of average student income, etc) were $20,000 and more. M3s, 911s, Boxters also had a decent showing as well. Often I wonder if the same sort of rules of journalism apply to internet based journalists (the whole research your story bit).
      • 8 Years Ago
      If you grow up in the north shore suburbs of chicago or barrington and go to U of Illinois instead of wasting your parents money on Northwestern or University of Chicago you get a free Corvette. Unfortunateley I didn't grow up in one of those neighborhoods, but it seems like a good deal.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Graduated in 2002 from Humboldt State University in Eureka, California. Ya want to tell me again how rich your entire university system is again? 1978 Volvo Wagon, That is the official car of Humboldt State… Welcome to the North Coast!!! Well I live in Vegas now, but anyway…
      • 8 Years Ago
      Why do they think that kids in college would want one of these mostly boring cars?

      $16k buys some cool used (almost new, '02 and newer) cars like a WRX, Mustang, RS-X, that 300hp Neon thing, and many others... all of which would be probably more liked by the kids driving them as opposed to these econoboxes.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I don,t understand why they out an SUV in there since it's a college students listing.....
      • 8 Years Ago
      " I am because my parents are able to provide me with a great car but I have earned it with a 3.8 GPA and I work my ass off at school."

      3.8 eh? That's second place, that, my friend is the 1ST loser, just telling you what I would tell my kids!
      • 8 Years Ago
      I pity a college student who would have to drive around campus in an Aveo. It would eventually get aggrivating having to floor the car everytime i accelerate to take advantage of all 103 horsepower.
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