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KBB’s ‘Top 10 Back-To-School Cars’ List Has Us Puzzled

Posted in Car Buying, Lists, Pop Culture by Kurt Ernst | August 11th, 2011 | 6 Responses |

The 2012 Hyundai Accent sedan and 5 door. Image: Hyundai

We get along fine with the staff at Kelley Blue Book, and I’ll even cop to using there pricing models on a regular basis over the past 20 years or so. They’re bona-fide industry insiders, and when they publish a list it generally has good information on it. Their latest effort, which shows the top five used and top five new cars for back to school, has us scratching our heads, wonder just what the KBB staff learned to cook in their organic chem classes.

We’ll buy into the top five new cars, although we’d probably substitute the Hyundai Elantra for the Fiat 500 on the list. The used cars, though, leave us seriously puzzled. A Ford F-150 for back to school? Where parking space is at a premium and fuel economy is key? A Kia Sedona minivan? Unless you outfit it with a condom dispenser and vinyl wrap all the seats, let me be the first to say “Bad idea, and don’t ever light up the interior with a black light.”

The top two choices are even odder: the much-unloved Chevy HHR and the Suzuki SX4. The Chevy may look cool from the outside (or not, depending upon your perspective), but the inside is cramped, dated and cheap. The Suzuki is a decent choice (and I’ll admit to being a fan of the SX4), but there’s probably about a dozen Suzuki dealers in the whole country. Where will you take it for repairs? Where will you get parts?

Below are KBB’s top five new cars for back-to-school, followed by their pick for used cars. Our suggestions for the used column would include any used Honda or Mazda, as well as Volkswagen TDIs. Feel free to let us know what your top picks would be, and we’ll bet they won’t include an F-150 or a minivan for college living.

KBB’s Top Five New Cars For Back-To-School

1 2012 Hyundai Accent
2 2011 Honda Fit
3 2012 Ford Focus
4 2011 Fiat 500
5 2011 Chevy Cruze

KBB’s Top Five Used Cars For Back-To-School

1 2007 Suzuki SX4
2 2008 Chevrolet HHR
3 2007 Kia Sedona
4 2007 Ford F-150
5 2007 Nissan Sentra

Source: Kelley Blue Book

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6 Responses

  1. Canrith says:

    Used car list from current student:

    1: Cobalt. – Small, decent mpg, cheap, sporty(ish) looking and can be a bit of fun if you opt for the ss trim.

    2: Civic – Pick any civic style that you like. Avoid modded. If its been well kept the car will run a long while, and do so cheap.

    3: Mazda 3 – Cheap, reliable, hauls you and a few friends, good gas mileage.

    4: Corolla – Beige. Reliable and cheap. Pros: invisible to cops. Cons: Invisible to everyone else too.

    5: Mini – Unique look, decent mpg.

    If you must have a new looking ‘sports’ car, a miata is the cheapest fun you can buy on four wheels. And an mx-8 can be picked up used for cheap. Both will net above average gas mileage as an added bonus.

    Advice, get something cheap on insurance…or a bike.

    • Kurt Ernst says:

      Canrith, that’s a solid list. Not sure what you meant by “MX-8″ though – did you mean Mazda’s RX-8?

      The RX-8 is a great-handling car, but owning one isn’t like owning a piston-engine car. You’ve got to check the oil with every fill-up, and RX-8’s don’t like short trips where the engine doesn’t come up to temperature. They’re not horrible on fuel economy as long as you don’t wind them out, but who buys a sports car to drive it like a Prius? If you do drive it like a sports car, the RX-8 will return fuel economy comparable to a big, thirsty V-8.

      • Canrith says:

        Thank you.
        And yeah, meant the rx-8, but was still thinking about the miata, lol. (havent owned an rx-8, or any rotary for that matter, just driven, so didn’t know about the high maintenance. Sorry about that)

        The list was a copy from what I send to a friend who was just looking for me to back up what they already wanted for a college vehicle. Speaking for myself I’m pretty happy with the Camaro.

  2. SNAK3 says:

    I really like my 2007 Kia Optima as a college car. If you get one with low miles you get a great warranty. Even if it has higher miles its not terribly expensive to fix, and is pretty dang reliable. Mine has 109k and only the compressor has had to be replaced. It is pretty neutral to cops depending on color-mine is beige- the beige interior is good with the occasional spill or puking from one of your wasted friends. It’s not fast by any means, but is still fast enough. Mine gets nearly 40 mpg’s cruising on the highway. It handles pretty well for not being the ‘sport’ version. Last but not least it has a very roomy interior and trunk, which is good for moving people and/or stuff. I was able to take my entire dorms worth of stuff in 2 trips. I am not a light packer either.

  3. Willhelm says:

    60 series landcruiser is my starter car, just perfect. reasonably fuel efficient, not great but ok. will drive through anything and reliable as anything out there. Great for any kind of road-trip especially living near the mountains. oh and it is gorgeous.

  4. ptschett says:

    I’m going to contradict the last sentence.

    As far as I’m concerned there’s nothing wrong with a pickup as a college car. At my college (SDSU, the Jackrabbits one) the parking spots were big enough for a pickup. I envied my classmates with pickups whenever it snowed and they could get around immediately while my ’96 T-bird had to wait a few days till the snow crew got around to the residence-hall lots. (Though I should mention that this was back when we were worried that the aftermath of 9/11 might make gas prices get crazy, like $2.00/gallon crazy.)

    Also I had situations where a pickup or minivan would have made more sense than my car. For a couple years I was responsible for transporting and operating InterVarsity’s PA system, and I could only get one main speaker, the mixer board, one tote of microphones/cables/etc and the amplifier in my car; it took another car and driver to haul the other main speaker and the other tub of accessories. The minimum single-vehicle solution would have been a 4-door midsize station wagon or a compact pickup.