Top Five New Cars For College

Patrick M Hoey

With tuition costs ballooning at universities nationwide, it's no surprise fewer students want to drive themselves to college. Why pay to fuel, park, and insure a car when you can walk, bike, or take the bus around campus? Well, having a car means you can take impromptu weekend road trips, hit up the grocery store whenever necessary, take a date to more far-flung locates, or go tailgating before the big game.

Many college students end up with used cars, often ones handed down from relatives toward the end of high school. There's no shame in that: Automobile staffers have fond and not-so-fond memories of jump-starting and otherwise fixing rusty, used cars during our university years. But some students are fortunate enough to arrive during welcome week with a shiny new ride. For those people, we've assembled a list of five brand-new cars that make sense for different types of undergrads.

2014 Jeep Cherokee: The Northerner

The new Jeep Cherokee is a far cry from the boxy old Cherokee that is still a staple of dormitory parking lots. Despite its soft-roader looks, though, the 2014 Jeep Cherokee still has tough Jeep bits underneath its modern sheetmetal. Sure, front-wheel drive is standard, but the Cherokee has 7.7 inches of ground clearance and two types of four-wheel-drive systems. Grab the $30,590 Trailhawk model and you'll be rewarded with cool red-painted tow hooks, skidplates, different bumpers that improve approach angles, a locking rear differential, and an additional inch of ride height. In other words, no matter how far north your university and no matter how many feet of snow fall during winter semester, the Jeep Cherokee should be able to get you home, to class, or to your buddy's apartment in the most inclement weather. Our Four Seasons Jeep Cherokee's elevated ride height already helped us escape our office park when record-setting deluges flooded metro Detroit. Imagine how well it'll conquer blizzards on your remote college campus.

2014 Jeep Cherokee Specifications

Base Price: $23,990 (with destination)
Engines: 2.4L I-4, 184 hp, 171 lb-ft; 3.2L V-6, 271 hp, 239 lb-ft
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Fuel Economy: 18-22/27-31 mpg (city/highway)

2015 Scion FR-S: The Enthusiast

While many students look forward to their time off from studying in order to party, a car enthusiast knows that sometimes cutting loose means carving up some pavement, not flipping cups. It might not be the most practical ride, affording only 6.9 cubic feet of storage with the rear seats up, but the Scion FR-S (and its mechanical twin, the Subaru BRZ) is best measured in smiles-per-mile. It’s the ideal joy-rider to show off to your friends -- stylish, sporty, and not overly expensive to own or maintain. The FR-S has a 200-hp boxer-four that packs enough heat to get moving, but it’s modest enough to keep an overzealous college kid from quickly getting into hot water. The rear end is eager to let loose, but also easy to reel in -- Sammy from psych class will think you’re James Hunt when you drift the nearest traffic circle with some practiced opposite lock.

2015 Scion FR-S Specifications

Base Price: $25,670 (FR-S)/$26,490 (Subaru BRZ)
Engine: 2.0-liter boxer-four, 200 hp, 151 lb-ft of torque
Transmissions: 6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic
Fuel Economy: 22-25/30-34 mpg

2015 Honda Fit: The Econ Major

The sensible choice isn't often the sexiest set of wheels on the lot. But the econ major will be laughing all the way to the bank when she unpacks her entire life out of the bargain-priced Honda Fit on move-in day, while her classmates blow hundreds of dollars renting a minivan or U-Haul. Yet the Fit’s magic is the sum of more than its low sticker price, wallet-saving fuel economy, or clown-car-like 52.7 cubic feet of total cargo space: Honda made a 130-hp subcompact that’s enjoyable to drive. Particularly with the joyous six-speed manual transmission, the Fit ticks every must-have box on the checklist. It’s just as much car as you’ll ever need, without sacrifices or gimmicks. It's your friendly, reliable neighborhood Honda Fit.

2015 Honda Fit Specifications

Base Price: $16,315
Engine: 1.5-liter I-4, 130 hp, 114 lb-ft
Transmissions: 6-speed manual, CVT
Fuel Economy: 29-33/37-41 mpg

2015 Mazda CX-5: The Out of Towner

Today’s compact crossover is a perfect choice for students who have to pack up and drive their stuff to a school far from home, and the 2015 Mazda CX-5 is our favorite example of the breed. It gets up to 35 mpg on the highway so you won’t pay too much for gas when you head home for winter break; it packs 65.4 cubic feet of cargo space so you can stuff plenty of beanbag chairs in the back; and it even manages to include a bit of that Mazda “zoom-zoom” spirit with its nimble handling and responsive four-cylinder engine. We recently picked the Mazda CX-5 as our favorite among seven compact-crossover competitors. It combines a reasonable price with a stylish exterior to make for a practical, logical compact SUV that avoids being boring -- and you can even get a manual transmission on the base Sport model. The Mazda CX-5 was also an All-Star in 2013.

2015 Mazda CX-5 Specifications

Base Price: $22,375
Engines: 2.0-liter I-4, 155 hp, 150 lb-ft; 2.5-liter I-4, 184 hp, 185 lb-ft
Transmissions: 6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic
Fuel Economy: 24-26/30-35 mpg

2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class: The Show-Off

Mercedes-Benz really nailed the looks of its new entry-level model, as this compact CLA transcends its front-wheel-drive, economy-car roots with a swoopy, upscale shape that prominently displays the three-pointed star up front. It’s perfect for the student with a bit of extra cash who wants to stand out from the Honda Civics and Toyota Corollas that crowd most university parking lots. If the front-wheel-drive (AWD is optional), 208-hp CLA250 isn’t quite enough to impress your buddies at the frat house, there’s always the wild, 355-hp CLA45 AMG version shown here. You’ll pay more than $17,000 extra for this high-performance machine, but it does look (and sound) pretty mean with its extra AMG bits, such as the sporty body kit, upsized wheels, and sport-tuned exhaust that will get plenty of attention around town. Oh, and it's a riot to drive, too.

2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class Specifications

Base Price: $30,825 (CLA250); $48,375 (CLA45 AMG)
Engines: 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4, 208 hp, 258 lb-ft; 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4, 355 hp, 332 lb-ft
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
Fuel Economy: 23-26/31-38 mpg
Ky West
Why not the Ford Transit Connect?  It has tons of room for a college kids' stuff, room for friends, good on gas and safe. Ford is even having a giveaway where you can win one and $15,000 for modifications.  Hopefully I can win one for my kid.  Here is the giveaway site:
hey, kids are already buried in tens or even hundreds of thousand of dollars in debt from college...whats another $48,000 of debt for a guys must work for the banksters
Better choices would be the Chevy Cruze or Ford Focus.  Good cars, reasonably priced, reliable, and for smart students that know if you want to get a job after graduation, you can't keep shipping the country's money overseas.
I'm sitting in my university office right now worrying about a student who cannot afford to stay in school, but if he drops out he will need to leave the dormitory, his permanent address.  He is days away from joining the homeless.
For well-heeled college students I recommend my new car:  Chevy Sonic LS 5 speed.  For the rest, I could have given any needy student my '95 Saturn.  Alas, there are many who could not even afford the insurance.
Some students are fortunate enough to arrive to school in new cars.  Why does it seem as though people have lost their minds over this article, as if the thought of college students driving new cars is such an alien concept.  It happens.  Some college students can afford to have new cars when they come to college.  GEEZ!
And all the cars on this list seem like "typical" cars, just updated.  There are always Jeep Cherokees (great used SUV), the flashy kid with the BMW or Mercedes, someone with a small crossover, etc.
Imaging students with new cars is not the worst thing in the world folks.  LoL  It happens.  
George Graves
 it's a year out from production, but it's on it's way...6800.00, 84mpg, air conditioning, heat, radio, 95% american made in Shreveport, LA.   0 - 60 mph under 10 seconds, top speed over 100 mph.  GASOLINE ENGINE.  3 air bags,
Has nobody realized how much college costs these days, putting a lot of new cars outside the reach of most students if not all?
Danish Shaikh
Chevrolet Camaro
Ken Cavallo
Through college, I drove an '04 SVT Focus that cost me 12k. It was a blast to drive with a six speed, excellent steering and a stiff chassis. It was a great, cheap enthusiast's car. It taught me the fundamentals of performance driving and educated me in the ways of car maintenance. It was my college education in cars. How about including some vehicles like that?
Adam Fansuri
CLA 45 AMG of course!
I rode the bus for the first two years in college.  For the last two I drove a Saab 96, three cylinders, 40hp and a top speed of 68mph.  No worry about speeding tickets.  
Syed Faiz Ahmed Gaffari
I love go to school in a Honda Accord 2003 .
Lee Klein
It's really sad how much Automobile has gone down hill since Jean left. Most of their posts are really bad. What happened?
Eric Seeger
Since you guys at automobile are incapable of doing it yourselves, I'll do the job of being embarrassed for you: Wow, what a piece of crap this article was. Sorry. We just threw it together right before the three day weekend with text that we already had laying around and didn't even stop to think about the fact that we are plugging $30k cars for 18-year olds. Our bad. We will try harder next time.
Craig Burt
Wow, get a grip a 48K Merc as a college car.  No wonder kids are loosing interest in driving at all.  let;s all get a lief and consider purchasing a good used car for under 10K, spoiled little brats is all that comes to mind.
Timothy Alba-Wright
I'm surprised the #Prius didn't make the list. Seems odd.
Doni Ferdian
any tips for school bus ?
Larry Hunt
Yes, how about a rewrite with best 2005 cars for college kids. In this obama economy only his 1% Soros kids will be buying off this list.
Michael Sadaghiani
David George
SN95 & New Edge All The Way!
David George
Dude I wouldn't buy any new car at all I'll wait 5 years and then see what happens. I would rather take my chances w/ a '00 - 04 Ford Mustang V6 - GT Hard Top for the prices that these Rides are going for.
Anuj Sharma
So nice
Joseph Herbias
Honda Fit
Richard Hawkins
Are you guys f**king kidding me? You don't exactly have that kind of money in college, this article is bogus. I would agree if it said first cars getting out of college......
Dammy Onafowokan
Saw a CLA as the cover image, immediately disregarded the article.
I went to college, I know for a fact most kids cant afford a freakin Mercedes or the trail hawk, with payments, the others might be due able, but most would just save a few thousand and buy a used wrangler, or a cobalt ss which are everywhere on campuses
Okay, this list was already ripped apart on Motor Trend's website, so let me say it here as well.  This list is ridiculous.  You might as well have put Bentleys and Maseratis on it, because it's still pure fancy for most college students.  I'm 25 years out of college and wouldn't be able to afford a couple of these.  Well, I could, but it wouldn't make sense financially with my sensible budget.  Any freshman showing up in a brand new Fit would probably be the envy of his/her dorm floor.  But lets face it, anyone showing up in a CLA would immediately be labeled an ostentatious d-bag.  Here's a thought.  How about a list of the best used cars you can get for $3000-5000?
Sruthi Baruvuri
Anand Shah tam tam nai :P its "tum tum :D
Anand Shah
Akhil PaulNitya Singh DhadwalShyamal RajShravanii NitnawreDevyani ShiroleChaitali PawaskarAnuja KoliSruthi BaruvuriTarun Arvind Mishrayeh log pagal hai...tam tam hi bhul gaye;):p
Wesley Lam
I wish the new Subaru WRX STi was on the list, but if I have to pick a car from that list I would go with the Mercedes-Benz CLA.
Bill Bortz call this Auto journalism? Stop hiring bloggers.
Jon Crooks
Where's the 1998 Corolla. Let's get back to reality.
Jerry Camera
all garbage!
Renauldo Caldwell
30k on a new car for a college student. Sorry no trust fund babies over here.
Carey Thompson
The article is about planning ahead. Buy the car when they finish elementary school, and it'll be ready to hand down when they start college. I would enjoy the BRZ/FRS.
Stephen Abbott
The Merc is only for wealthy kids at Ivy League schools. Any new car is too expensive for a college kid. Save the money to pay off student loans.
Joe Grove
I'll take my 1996 Buick Riviera that I paid $4,000 for, 6 years ago.
Matthew French
Um what college kid can afford a new car?
Chris Erhard
Talk about out of touch. $30k plus for a college car? Try again with a used at $10k for this story. Oh, wait... Was this written by kids from the trophy generation too?
Truc Mai
Chris Prather
Ah. None. College kids can drive used cars. Get yourself a new one after you graduate and get a job...
DA Bebelheimer
I'll take all 5
living off daddy's money, eh?

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