15 Best Cars Under $25,000 for New Grads05/29/2019
You’ve finally finished school, got a big-kid job, and now you’re looking for your first car. Even in a crossover-obsessed market, automakers continue to offer hatchbacks, sedans, and wagons to cater to consumers who don’t really care about sitting up high or having higher ground clearance. For those who want to buck the SUV trend, we referenced IntelliChoice data to compile this list of cars with low starting prices, low 5-year ownership costs, and good safety ratings. Keep reading for non-SUV options—all of which start under $25,000—that will keep you safe without breaking the bank.
2019 Honda Fit
One of the most versatile subcompact hatchbacks available, the Honda Fit has a spacious, well-packaged interior. When paired with the optional CVT, the 1.5-liter I-4 offers exceptional fuel economy, up to 33/40 mpg city/highway in the base LX trim. The Honda Fit also drives better than you’d expect, and earned a five-star overall safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. New graduates can also save an extra $500 if you lease or finance with Honda Financial Services.
2019 Toyota Yaris
The Mazda2-based Toyota Yaris sedan is one of the most efficient subcompact cars available with an EPA fuel economy rating of 32/40 mpg when equipped with the optional six-speed automatic. It also handles better than many cars in its class, making it great for darting around the city. NHTSA gives the Yaris a five-star overall safety rating. Toyota’s college graduate cash back is one of the most generous at $1,000; however, it’s not available in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, or the Carolinas.
2019 Kia Soul
If you’re not into the looks of the new 2020 Kia Soul, the outgoing model remains a solid choice thanks to its roomy interior and personality. In typical Hyundai-Kia fashion, the Soul has a user-friendly multimedia system and plenty of features usually found on more expensive vehicles like optional heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, and a Harman Kardon audio system. When equipped with the optional front crash avoidance system and HID headlights, the 2019 Kia Soul is an IIHS Top Safety Pick.
2019 Kia Rio
Kia’s least expensive model, the Rio, is a great commuter car with a comfortable ride and a nicely finished interior. Some trims come standard with a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. Just like the Soul, the Rio gets Top Safety Pick status as long as you get the right equipment.
2019 Hyundai Accent
The Hyundai Accent gives you more for less. All but the base model comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a 7.0-inch touchscreen standard, and the range-topping Limited trim even comes with the hands-free smart trunk, automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, and LED headlights. Those optional lights earn the Accent Limited an IIHS Top Safety Pick award. Hyundai offers a $400 cash back for new graduates that can be applied to the purchase of a new vehicle.
2019 Subaru Impreza
Live in a region with four seasons? Consider the Subaru Impreza, the only compact car that comes standard with all-wheel drive. Available in sedan or hatchback body styles, the Impreza has enough space for four and gets up to 28/38 mpg with the CVT depending on which trim you choose. As a bonus, the Impreza is named an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ when equipped with the optional EyeSight advanced safety suite and LED headlights.
2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback
Long synonymous with staid and vanilla, the new Toyota Corolla hatchback breaks the mold with sporty handling, great fuel economy (up to 32/42 mpg with the CVT), and a slick exterior design. Safety isn’t ignored, either, because all Corolla hatchbacks get the Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 suite of active driver assistance features, which help earn models with LED headlights IIHS Top Safety Pick status. Toyota has a $1,000 college graduate cash back program that you can apply toward your lease or purchase, provided you live outside of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, and the Carolinas.
2019 Hyundai Elantra
If you can stomach its new, more polarizing look, the Hyundai Elantra sedan offers a spacious interior, lots of tech features, and standard forward collision prevention technology, which helps it earn IIHS Top Safety Pick+ status. There’s also an efficiency-minded Eco model good for an EPA-rated 32/40 mpg. Hyundai has a $400 cash offer towards the purchase or lease of a new vehicle for new graduates, which should help sweeten the deal.
2019 Kia Forte
Although it shares most of its underpinnings with the Hyundai Elantra, the Kia Forte gives you more equipment for the money. All models come standard with an 8.0-inch touchscreen, and EX models have heated and ventilated front seats as standard. With the optional CVT, the Forte is EPA-rated at up to 31/41 mpg. As for safety, the Forte earns IIHS Top Safety Pick+ designation when equipped with the optional LED headlights.
2019 Honda Civic
Currently the gold standard in the compact segment, the Honda Civic offers a nice blend of fuel efficiency (up to 32/42 mpg with the CVT), practicality, and agility. In addition to the sedan, the Honda Civic is available in coupe and hatchback body styles. All body styles earn a five-star overall safety rating from NHTSA. Honda’s $500 college graduate offer is available on the Civic and can be applied to your purchase or lease.
2019 Hyundai Ioniq
With an EPA fuel economy rating of up to 57/59 mpg, the Hyundai Ioniq puts fuel efficiency at the forefront. The car’s relatively conventional exterior styling also means you won’t look like you’re driving a spaceship. The Ioniq hybrid earns a Top Safety Pick award from IIHS when equipped with front crash prevention and optional HID headlights. Hyundai’s college graduate rebate program gives you $400 back when you purchase or lease an Ioniq.
2019 Toyota Prius
The Toyota Prius recently received a refresh, and its revised exterior design tones down the pre-face-lift car’s angry, angular looks. Thanks to its hatchback profile, the Prius blends versatility with fuel economy and it now drives better than its predecessors. It’s also an IIHS Top Safety Pick thanks to standard forward collision avoidance. Toyota’s $1,000 college grad rebate, which can be applied to a purchase or lease, makes the fuel-sipping Prius more accessible to recent graduates.
2019 Volkswagen Golf
A well-rounded performer, the Volkswagen Golf blends great driving dynamics with a surprisingly roomy cabin. The new 1.4-liter turbo-four gets an EPA-rated 29/37 mpg with the eight-speed automatic, making it surprisingly fuel-efficient. Collision prevention technologies also come standard on all models and you can build on it with more features on the SE trim with the Driver Assistance package. All 2019 Golf models score a five-star overall safety rating from NHTSA.
2019 Honda Insight
Want a hybrid minus the oddball exterior design? The Honda Insight has your name on it. With an EPA fuel economy rating of up to 55/49 mpg, the Insight gives you the efficiency you crave in a familiar package that also drives well. It also offers plenty of safety, being named a Top Safety Pick+ by IIHS. Honda’s $500 college graduate rebate, which you can apply to a purchase or lease, makes the Insight even more attainable.
2019 Kia Niro
Don’t let its body cladding fool you, the Kia Niro is a compact hatchback even if Kia tries to market it as a crossover—and it also happens to be a great hybrid. Its upright exterior yields a spacious interior and great visibility for the driver. In addition to the standard hybrid, the Kia Niro is available as a plug-in hybrid with a 26-mile all-electric range. There’s also the full EV variant that can travel up to 239 miles on a charge. Pick the standard hybrid or plug-in with forward collision avoidance and optional HID headlights, and you’ll be getting an IIHS Top Safety Pick+.
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