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Best cars for your teenager

By Tony O'Kane, 30 Oct 2018 Car Advice

Best cars for your teenager

So your offspring has entered a new stage in life – these first-car choices should help reduce some of that inevitable parental anxiety

Your son or daughter has turned 18 and they’re eager to get on the road. However, as their parent you may be feeling just a little bit anxious about their safety behind the wheel. You’re able to help them out by getting them into something brand-new (which should provide some peace of mind in itself), but what do you choose?

We’ve put together a list of ten cars that should keep your kid mobile, safe and happy, and limit the amount of stress-induced grey follicles on your head.

Read next: Australia's Best Hybrids

Safety is, obviously, paramount, so the inclusion of accident-avoiding autonomous emergency braking (AEB) is worth pointing out. Crash safety is also vital to know, and while not everything on this list scores a full five stars in that criteria, we tell you whether it’s something you should be worried about for the vehicles that don’t.

Suzuki Swift GLX Turbo – $22,990
AEB – Yes
Crash safety – 5 stars (ANCAP)

Suzuki’s ever-popular Swift hatchback may start off well under the $20K mark, but it’s the GLX Turbo that’s the most compelling all-rounder in the family.

With 82kW of power from its thrummy three-cylinder turbo petrol engine and a 915kg kerb weight the GLX Turbo has plenty of pep in its step, while fancy features like adaptive cruise control, AEB, keyless entry, climate control and a great touchscreen infotainment suite with built-in sat nav make it very well-equipped for the asking price.

Read more about the Suzuki Swift GLX Turbo

Mazda CX-3 Neo Sport manual - $21,790
AEB – Yes
Crash safety – 5 stars (ANCAP)

SUVs are very much de rigeur these days, and odds are the next generation of drivers are interested in something rugged and high-riding as well. Mazda’s CX-3 is in a good position, then, thanks to the affordable price of entry for the Neo Sport manual petrol.

Its likeable 2.0-litre delivers strong power and the manual option offers good engagement factor too – the only downside is the simplified infotainment and a tiny boot. Want an automatic? Add $2000.

Read more about the Mazda CX-3 Neo

Volkswagen Polo 85TSI Comfortline - $21,990
AEB – Yes
Crash safety – Five stars (ANCAP)

Volkswagen’s Polo feels rather posh for a light hatch, and is easily the segment standard for refinement, fit and finish. It drives exceptionally well too, and its cabin feels bigger and more upmarket than many of its rivals.

Its infotainment system is also one of the best, and on the whole it’s one of the finest all-round offerings at this price point. Definitely hard to go past.

Read more about the Volkswagen Polo 85TSI

Kia Cerato Sport sedan - $23,690
AEB – Yes
Crash safety – not yet tested

Does your kid crave something a little more grown-up? The Cerato Sport sedan certainly looks mature, but it steers admirably well, has plenty of equipment and has heaps of rear seat space for their friends.

Downsides? Its engine can feel a touch on the weak side, but keeping speeds sensible is one way to keep your child – and their pals - safe.

Read more about the Kia Cerato Sport sedan

Skoda Fabia Wagon 70TSI - $18,040
AEB – Yes
Crash safety – Five stars (ANCAP)

If your teenager has a hobby that comes with a need to tote a lot of equipment – say, a drum kit, bicycle or sporting gear – there’s not a lot of choices when it comes to affordable wagons that would suit that type of lifestyle.

Thankfully, the only wagon that’s available below $25K happens to be quite a likeable device – and one that comes with plenty of safety gear and mod-cons.

Read more about the Skoda Fabia wagon

Honda Jazz VTi manual - $14,990
AEB – Yes
Crash safety – five stars (ANCAP)

Alright, so your offspring has a space-consuming hobby but they reckon a wagon is too dorky for “their steez” or whatever it is kids are saying these days. Henceforth, they’ve rejected your suggestion of the Skoda Fabia. Perhaps steer them toward the Honda Jazz and show them the versatility-boosting effect of that car’s Magic Seats feature instead.

The Jazz may be little, but it can transform into a little van if you need to lug a lot of stuff.

Read more about the Honda Jazz

Kia Picanto - $15,690 (driveaway)            
AEB – yes
Crash safety – four stars (ANCAP)

Kia’s compact Picanto is a winner when it comes to affordability, with an auto-equipped model able to be driven home for less than $16K. Easy to drive and spacious for its size, it's a cinch to park thanks to its ultra-compact proportions.

AEB is standard as well, minimising the chance of front-to-rear accidents, however if you’re worried about its four-star ANCAP score you should note that it was held back from a full five stars due to low scores in pedestrian protection and child occupant protection - adult occupant protection was rated highly.

Read more about the Kia Picanto

Toyota Corolla Ascent Sport automatic - $24,370
AEB – Yes
Crash safety – five stars (ANCAP)

The Toyota Corolla has long been seen as a ‘safe choice’, but with the arrival of the new generation earlier this year the humble Corolla is now one of the best-driving options in its class. The base Ascent Sport auto has plenty of appeal in petrol-engined form, and it comes with a healthy list of standard equipment.

A small boot is its main drawback, and though there's a decent-sized screen perched atop its dashboard, a proper integrated satellite navigation system is a cost option at the Ascent Sport level.

Read more about the Toyota Corolla 

Citroen C3 shine – $23,490
AEB – No
Crash safety – four stars (ANCAP)

Does your kid spend a lot of time reading fashion blogs or scrolling endlessly through Instagram feeds to get ideas for their own wardrobe? Maybe they’re interested in design as a career and simply have an eye for fine aesthetics? The oh-so-French Citroen C3 could be right up their alley. Retailing at $23,490, the C3 Shine looks futuristic and fashionable, boasts a supremely comfortable cabin and comes standard with an automatic transmission.

There’s no AEB and its four-star ANCAP score doesn’t look terribly impressive, but that’s due to a low pedestrian protection score. Its adult occupant protection score of 88 percent and child occupant score of 83 percent are quite good.

Read more about the Citroen C3

Hyundai Kona Active 2.0-litre - $24,500
AEB – optional
Crash safety – five stars (ANCAP)

Available in a veritable rainbow of bright colours and clothed in bodywork that stands out from the rest of traffic, the edgy styling of the Kona appears to have ‘youth’ written all over it.

Its accessible $24,500 pricing has youth appeal too, and Hyundai’s five-year warranty and capped-price servicing should also give some financial peace of mind to young adults.

There’s built-in sat-nav on an 8-inch touchscreen, though consider shelling out for the optional safety pack if you want accident-avoiding technology like AEB, lane-keep assist and rear cross-traffic alert.

Read more about the Hyundai Kona