The Safest Cars for New Drivers

For teens, getting that prized driver’s license comes with another big milestone: getting behind the wheel of their very first car. There’s nothing more thrilling than the freedom of driving and the excitement of becoming a new car owner.

However, new drivers have different vehicle needs than experienced drivers. Still new to the road and its potential dangers, first-time drivers need a car that’s secure, reliable, and easy to maintain – and one that’s affordable too. Fortunately, today’s cars are safer and more advanced than ever, giving newly licensed drivers plenty of great options.

The following cars are the safest rides for new drivers:

2018 Toyota Corolla

A beloved first car for so many over the past decades and a fantastic buy for new drivers today, the 2018 Toyota Corolla remains one of the most popular small cars in America. Teenagers will love the Corolla’s hip styling and long list of modern features. Meanwhile, parents will appreciate its five-star overall safety rating. It also has a higher predicted reliability rating than competitors like the new Honda Civic. While the base model costs around $19,400, the sportier Corolla SE starts at $20,545.

With a total output of 132 horsepower and 128 pound-feet of torque, the Corolla’s four-cylinder engine provides just the right amount of pep for inexperienced drivers. Predictable handling makes the Corolla both effortless and exciting to drive. While a six-speed manual transmission is available, the automatic CVT allows new motorists to keep their hands on the wheel at all times.


Chosen as Top Safety Pick by the IIHS, the Toyota Corolla definitely provides a strong sense of security – and a Toyota Safety Sense-P package now comes standard on every Corolla. It provides helpful driving aids like pre-collision warning, lane-keep assist, and pedestrian detection.

2018 Subaru Impreza

The 2018 Subaru Impreza is perfect for first-time drivers. Young people will be drawn to the sleek Sport model, which comes outfitted with a cool set of 18-inch alloy wheels and a sleek rear spoiler, while adults enjoy the comfort that comes with one of the safest cars on the road. Prices start at a reasonable $19,350.

Under the Impreza’s hood sits an efficient four-cylinder engine. It develops a competitive 152 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque. While it’s no powerhouse, it accelerates quick enough to ensure stress-free highway merging. Unlike the Mazda 3 and the Kia Forte, the Impreza comes standard with a Symmetrical AWD system. This feature gives drivers the best possible traction in every type of weather condition, keeping drivers in control in any climate.

You certainly can’t overlook the Impreza’s excellent safety profile. It’ll reward you with superior impact protection. Available as an option, Subaru’s EyeSight driver-assist technology is definitely worth the extra cost. Class-exclusive safety innovations, such as reverse automatic braking, will help keep drivers out of trouble on an everyday basis.

2018 Chevrolet Malibu

Although the midsize Chevrolet Malibu has an attractive starting price of $22,500, dynamic styling gives it the appearance of a far more expensive car. It also offers several features that new drivers will love, including a 4G Wi-Fi hot spot and smartphone integration. Most importantly, the new Malibu ranks among the safest cars in the class.

Sporty driving dynamics make the 2018 Chevy Malibu especially appealing. You’ll have two different turbocharged four-cylinder engines to choose from. Developing a total of 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, the base 1.5 engine proves to be peppy and economical. While the larger 2.0L engine packs noticeably more performance, it may be a bit too potent for experienced drivers.

As expected, the Malibu earned a five-star overall safety rating from the NHTSA. It also provides a lot of helpful safety technologies. Chevy’s unique Teen Driver technology is a feature you won’t find on any competitors’ cars. It can provide parents with a detailed report of their teenager’s driving habits and can be used to set a speed limit cap. Some of the other available driving aids include blind-spot monitoring and forward collision alert.

2018 Kia Soul

Known for its boxy exterior styling, the 2018 Kia Soul has become a hot commodity among young drivers. It’s a versatile crossover SUV that promises a lot of fun. A standard 100,000-mile powertrain warranty gives the Soul a big edge over rival compact SUVs such as the Mazda CX-3 and the Honda HR-V. Although prices start at an attractive $17,000, you’ll need to shell out an additional $1,600 for an automatic transmission.

To obtain the best balance of performance and fuel economy, opt for the midlevel four-cylinder engine. It develops a fulfilling 160 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque. On the road, the Kia Soul handles more like a hatchback opposed to a traditional SUV. New drivers will be inspired with a great deal of confidence.

You can count on the new Kia Soul to provide great crash protection. Although a backup camera isn’t standard on the base model, it comes with the optional Convenience package, along with lane departure warning, automatic emergency braking, and blind-spot detection.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta

When shopping for a new ride, don’t forget about the redesigned 2019 Volkswagen Jetta. Scheduled to hit dealerships later this spring, the all-new Jetta is already garnering rave reviews. Coupe-like styling, improved fuel economy, and a more spacious interior make it a solid choice. With 72,000 miles of bumper-to-bumper coverage, the Jetta’s standard warranty leads the class – perfect for new drivers who don’t want to worry about roadside problems. Expect to pay about $18,500 for the well-equipped base model.

Powering the new Jetta is a familiar turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which develops 147 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. The engine’s abundance of torque helps the Jetta to offer effortless acceleration around town and on the highway.

For the 2019 model year, a backup camera comes standard on every trim. You also have access to all of VW’s latest safety technologies. Even if your teenager gets into a crash, VW’s Automatic Post-Collision Braking system will help keep damage to a minimum.

Lisa F. Young / Shutterstock
Lisa F. Young / Shutterstock