Five Good Cars for College Students

cars college students 560x373

Although many would advise against taking a car along for your first year in college, we certainly understand the predicament a young car enthusiast faces when he/she is being shipped off. To a large extent, the advice to not tag on such a huge liability when you are already going to be burdened with the task of living alone, taking care of yourself, and acclimatizing with a new space is after all quite sensible, but there are always going to be decisions where the heart reigns supreme.

For the die-hard petrolheads amongst the crowds, it never is a decision of “If” but of “What?”, and that can be a rather tricky question to get about. Many might already have a project car that they were building up with their parents to take along to college, others might already have a clear idea of what they want their parents to get them, but for the rest, choosing the perfect college car isn’t as easy as it sounds. 

Should you just take your mom’s old Ford Escape or should you get a new vehicle altogether? Well, this is something that would need a rather elaborate brainstorming session, but if you are in the market for a new vehicle, the following list should help take off some steam.

Toyota Corolla

2021 Corolla Apex Exterior 010 1500x1000 1 560x373

Yes, the Corolla is always going to be the tried and tested de-facto option for a reliable, feature-loaded, safe, and economical college car. The 2021 MY of the Corolla already impresses us with its perfect crash test safety scores that are coupled with a ‘Top Safety Pick’ award from the IIHS. Parents can be reassured that all variants come equipped with Toyota Safety Sense 2.0, which includes forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, lane centering, traffic-sign recognition, and high-beam assist.

Although the Corolla isn’t going to be extremely powerful on the road, depending on which trim you go for, it can be rather spritely, and when coupled with its great handling dynamics, it can be a decently fun daily driver. The fact that it returns over 33 mpg and has enough room to seat all of the new friends that you would make in college, the Toyota Corolla is a definitive heavy hitter.

Hyundai Elantra

Hyundai Elantra 560x373

Somehow Hyundai has managed to one-up the Corolla at its own game by not only offering more but also costing less! The Elantra manages to be more powerful and agile than the Corolla while also offering similar levels of safety as it too comes with Hyundai’s SmartSense Safety Suite that earns it a ‘Top Safety Pick’ award from IIHS as well. A greater number of standard features also means that the Elantra does offer significantly more tech for the same price as that of the Corolla although the Corolla does have the advantage of being a “Toyota”.

A 37 mpg EPA estimate puts it leagues ahead of the Toyota as well which does mean that opting for the Elantra might just be the smarter choice.

Mazda 3

Mazda 3 560x373

The Mazda 3 is arguably going to be the enthusiast pick of the bunch and our personal favorite as well. Although the Mazda 3 smokes everyone else on the list when it comes to performance and amazing handling, it is to be noted that it doesn’t shy away from one-upping them in the safety department as well since it is conferred with a ‘Top Safety Pick+’ award by the IIHS. The optional AWD setup on the Mazda is worthy of a mention as it is an amazingly designed system that gives the Mazda a distinct edge in harsh weather conditions.

Yes, the Mazda does lose out to the competition when it comes to efficiency since it returns 31 mpg compared to the higher numbers of the Corolla and Elantra, but for the astronomically different driving experience that it offers, we would be more than happy with the compromise.

The Mazda,in our opinion, is also the best looking and the most well-made vehicle out of the lot as well, especially on the inside since it could arguably give certain German manufacturers a run for their money. Packed with all the tech that you can dream of and a supremely reliable powertrain, the Mazda has got to be the one if you want the utmost driving pleasure.

Subaru Crosstrek

Subaru Crosstrek 560x373

If you have the hiking and biking bug inside of you and desperately want to cure that itch every weekend instead of simply going to your nearest club, Subaru is just the right vehicle for you on sale. The go-anywhere, masculine, practical, and reliable Subaru Crosstrek is arguably the perfect vehicle not just for college students but adventure junkies in general. 

Although the six-speed manual could appeal to the soft roading enthusiasts or the purists at heart, the simple and reliable CVT would definitely come in clutch for the commute to college if you don’t live in a dorm. The added 5 mpg over the manual’s 25 mpg is quite the added bonus considering the fact that the Crosstrek comes with AWD as standard.

Being another ‘Top Safety Pick’ from the IIHS, the Crosstrek certainly doesn’t disappoint when it comes to safety since it also comes standard with Subaru’s EyeSight Driver Assist technology alongside the usual active safety features. The engine on the Subaru could feel a little less refined compared to all the other vehicles in question, but the added gruffness in our opinion adds a little more character to an otherwise perfect vehicle.

Honda HR-V

preview 928x522 1 560x374

If you are looking for a proper high rider to be your college companion, maybe looking at the Honda HR-V is worth your time and also your money. With a respectable EPA estimate of 30 mpg combined, the HR-V shouldn’t be too much of a stress on your wallet after purchase and the umpteen amount of interior and cargo space should be more than enough for a weekend trip with the mates.

Although the HR-V narrowly misses out on bagging an award from the IIHS due to the unavailability of the Honda Sensing Suite of driver aids on the base model, it is still an extremely safe vehicle to pilot on the road and comes loaded with effective driver aids once you move up to the EX variant.

Our Take

The above options are recommended picks taking into account:

  • Safety
  • Efficiency
  • Practicality
  • Ease of Living
  • Performance

Although there are many other automobiles to choose from in the market, we doubt many other options would offer such a perfect blend of the above-mentioned qualities. We do know that some aficionados might want to go for a more performance-oriented used vehicle but we would pursue to not opt for a vehicle that might hinder other experiences that your college has to offer. 

An expensive car or the one that has an extremely poor economy or even the one that costs an arm and a leg to insure for your age are definitely not the picks at the time as even as car enthusiasts we believe that you can always upgrade your vehicle down the line but you can never regain lost experiences and opportunities!