10 great first cars

With prices under $25,000 (some way under) these cars make excellent choices for those shopping for their first new set of wheels.

Kia Rondo
If you're looking for a small wagon:
Kia Rondo
Base prices: $16,000 to $20,000

Engine and transmission: 162 horsepower, 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder engine with 4-speed automatic transmission or 182 horsepower, 2.7-liter V-6 with 5-speed shiftable automatic.

Fuel economy: 21 city, 29 highway, 24 combined with 4-cylinder; 20/27/23 with V6

Kia's designers managed to fit three rows of seats fitting up to seven people in the space of a subcompact. The middle row can slide forward up to four inches to relieve some of the squeezing in the back.

The Rondo is a direct competitor to the Mazda5, which is much more fun to drive and offers some clever interior storage solutions. The problem with the Mazda5, though, is that it's not available with Electronic Stability Control (which is why it didn't make this list).

Stability control can be especially important in a vehicle that carries a lot of people, because driving dynamics change as more seats are filled.

If you're looking at a car for a new driver, you might want to pass on the optional third row. Statistics show that crash rates for teen drivers go up with the number of other teen passengers in the car. For safety's sake, it's best not to encourage car pooling among the young.










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