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5 College-Friendly Car Choices

5 College-Friendly Car Choices

By Jeff Youngs, June 06, 2013
Tuition, fees, and expenses for room and board continue to outpace the annual rate of inflation. With students and their families footing a greater portion of the bills for higher education, it's important to make sure your son or daughter is driving an affordable and reliable vehicle that won't create additional expense. And it sure helps if that car is functional, safe, and fuel-efficient, too. Based on J.D. Power vehicle dependability data,* these 5 college-friendly car choices should help your student to conserve as much cash as possible.

*Source: J.D. Power & Associates 2013 Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS)

2010 Hyundai Sonata
This midsize sedan gets 25 mpg in combined driving with its standard 4-cylinder engine, received 5-star ratings in frontal- and side-impact crash tests from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and was the most dependable model in its class according to J.D. Power.

2010 Scion xB
A roomy multi-purpose vehicle with a 5-door design, the dependable 2010 Scion xB earned a "Top Safety Pick" rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Additionally, the xB receives 4-star frontal-impact and 5-star side-impact crash-test ratings from the NHTSA. The EPA says the Scion xB gets 24 mpg in combined driving.

2010 Scion xD
This subcompact 5-door hatchback is rated to get 29 mpg in combined driving. The lightweight car gets a 4-star NHTSA frontal-impact crash-test rating combined with 5-star side-impact test results, while the IIHS gives the Scion xD its highest crash-test rating of "Good" in all assessments except for the frontal-impact test, for which the car receives an "Acceptable" rating.

2010 Toyota Prius
With a combined fuel-economy rating of 50 mpg, an interior that is officially rated as midsize, and a 5-door hatchback design that allows the car to carry plenty of cargo, the Toyota Prius easily meets the functionality and affordability requirements of a college student. The NHTSA gives the Prius 4-star crash-test ratings in each of its assessments, except for side-impact protection for the driver, which rates 5 stars. The Prius also receives top safety scores from the IIHS, but because the car's roof crush strength was not tested in 2010, it was ineligible for a "Top Safety Pick" accolade.

2010 Toyota RAV4
Among the roomier compact crossover SUVs, the Toyota RAV4 can be equipped with all-wheel drive and a powerful V-6 engine that's almost as fuel-efficient as the standard 4-cylinder. Fuel-economy estimates range between 21 mpg and 24 mpg in combined driving, depending on configuration. Additionally, the RAV4 gets 5-star crash-test ratings from the NHTSA in each crash test except for its performance in the front passenger, frontal-impact assessment, which results in a 4-star rating. The IIHS gives the RAV4 "Good" ratings across the board, except for roof crush strength, for which the SUV rates "Acceptable."

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