10 Best Back-to-School Cars 2015
Every parent knows that a good back-to-school car is practical, functional, safe and affordable. And every student knows it's far more important to have something fun and stylish. Our annual list has something for everyone, including cars that both sides can agree on. Every entry here features a starting Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price of around $20,000 or less.
One of the more premium selections on this list, the Mini Hardtop 2-Door offers more practicality than you might think. The base Cooper has a Fair Purchase price just a hair over $20K, and is powered by a turbocharged engine that offers up to 40 highway mpg. Of course, when you aren't hypermiling, the Mini is a blast to drive on canyon roads.
For students studying in a region where winter means snow, having a car with standard all-wheel drive is a huge plus. An even huger plus: both the 4-door sedan and 5-door hatchback start at less than $20,000.
Ford's small hatchback and sedan have been on the market for a few years now, proving to be a good mix of sprightly sporty car and sensible smart car. The Fiesta is responsive and handles well, but also nets up to 43 highway mpg. This car may be small, but it's filled with safety and connectivity tech, including the newest version of SYNC, called SYNC3, with an available swipe and pinch-to-zoom touch screen.
If you're the person in your group of friends who owns a truck, you're the one that is always part of desert dirt bike trips, camping trips and will be asked to help on moving day (free pizza!). Chevrolet's Colorado has the capability to get the job done, is easier to park than a full-size truck and offers plenty of tech features.
The iM is Scion's new kid on the block. The 5-door hatchback is powered by an efficient 4-cylinder that's expected to provide fuel economy as good as 37 highway mpg. And while parents can appreciate the eight airbags and hill start assist, kids will enjoy the 6-speaker audio system, Bluetooth phone connectivity and wide array of dealer-installed accessories that'll make the iM uniquely theirs.
The subcompact Nissan Versa Note is a highly versatile hatchback, available with upscale features including the parking-lot wonder Around View Monitor, Bluetooth connectivity and hands-free texting. As an added plus, the rear seat has oodles of legroom and can be folded flat to accommodate more than 38 cubic feet of gear.
The new Honda HR-V is a subcompact SUV that slots below the popular CR-V in size and price, but not appeal. This fuel-efficient, affordable SUV has available features like a multi-angle rearview camera, hill start assist, AWD and Honda's LaneWatch side-view camera.
Whether you want the familiar layout of a sedan or the flexibility of a hatch, Mazda has a Mazda3 that'll fit your needs. The Mazda3 is tech-savvy, stylish and fun to drive, but it's also fuel efficient and practical.
One of the coolest hatches on the market is also one of the most practical. The Kia Soul has a low starting price -- less than $16,000 -- but comes with a lot of useful standard equipment. The industry-leading 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty only adds to its appeal.
The Fit is the most versatile vehicle on this list, partly due to Honda's Magic Seat. This innovative feature makes the Fit able to carry as much gear as a small crossover, yet the subcompact hatch boasts a much smaller footprint and better fuel economy. It offers a rear-view camera and LaneWatch, plus the Fit can read your texts aloud as you drive.