Kia Soul leads Kelley Blue Book's 10 Best Back-to-School Cars

(August 20, 2012) IRVINE, Calif. — The 2012 Kia Soul is this year's No. 1 Back-to-School Car according to Kelley Blue Book, the leading provider of new car and used car information. In this annual list published by, the editors rank their top affordable new-car choices for students, naming the 10 Best Back-to-School Cars of 2012.

In addition to picking up the usual school supplies, sometimes back-to-school shopping includes test drives and negotiating, which can be an education in itself. To help give first-time car buyers a head start, the editors looked at the most affordable cars of 2012 and then picked the 10 best bets according to the needs and wants of students. 

Even better, all of the top new Back-to-School Cars on this year's list are available for less than $16,000 according to Kelley Blue Book's Fair Purchase Price, which shows you the average price others in your area paid for the same car based on actual transaction data updated each week.

"From funky hatchbacks to stylish sedans, all of's 10 Best Back-to-School Cars of 2012 are affordable, safe and reliable, not to mention fun to drive and fuel efficient. Most importantly, these vehicles fulfill the often distinctively different set of new-car criteria of both parents and students, striking a healthy balance," said Jack R. Nerad, executive editorial director and executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Book's 

"Parents will be amazed at the sheer selection of amenity-laden student-friendly new cars available today for less than $16,000."

KBB's Ten Best:

2012 Kia Soul

With a low price tag, roomy interior and singular looks, the Kia Soul charms with a practical but youthful exuberance.  And it gets even better for 2012, gaining direct injection technology and six-speed transmissions that yield bumps in power, responsiveness and fuel economy.  Stir in tastefully refreshed exterior and interior bits, and the Soul convincingly grabs the top spot on our list of Best Back-to-School Cars for 2012.

2012 Hyundai Accent

Like an adolescent outgrowing that gawky stage and becoming a runway-worthy young adult, the Accent has shed its econobox self to become a real stunner.  Done with its automotive puberty, 2012 marked an all-new Accent sedan and hatchback with fresh sheet metal, more power and even better fuel economy.  Retained is a 10-year powertrain warranty that will last beyond the college years.

2012 Chevrolet Sonic

Sporty design, vibrant colors, lots of space for friends and even that cool name make the Sonic hatchback and sedan attractive to younger drivers.  Their parents, meanwhile, will be keen on this subcompact's outward visibility, easy-to-drive manners, good fuel economy and eager (but not overwhelming) engines.

2012 Mazda3

Student bodies seeking a bit more space for passengers and cargo will find lots to like in the stylish and sporty Mazda3.  Available in sedan and hatchback forms, even the most affordable 4-door version of this well-finished compact comes with a respectable measure of Mazda's zoom-zoom character, impressive safety features and a utility-enhancing 60/40 split-folding rear seat.

2012 Nissan Versa

As the least expensive car in America, the Nissan Versa makes an excellent choice for students looking for the most sensible way to get from A to B. And despite its rock-bottom price tag, the 5-passenger Versa sedan includes a full suite of basic creature comforts plus unexpected niceties like an auxiliary audio jack for portable music players.  

2012 Toyota Yaris

Juggling the pressures of school and home life is stressful enough without adding the burdens of an unreliable vehicle into the equation. Backed by Toyota’s renowned reputation for dependability, the Yaris is a carpool buddy you can count on. And considering its quirky good looks, nine standard airbags and versatile hatchback design, it just may be your very best friend.

2012 Volkswagen Jetta

Although an under-$16,000 Jetta won’t set many youthful pulses racing – the base engine offers just 115 horsepower -- VW’s compact sedan matches more than a hint of European driving feel with refined design and an impressively scaled passenger compartment.

2012 Fiat 500

Behold the automotive equivalent of a teenage girl. Savvy, sassy and doing its best to stay adorable, the 2012 Fiat 500 is smarter than a Smart, more mini than a Mini, and loaded with European sensibilities -- particularly in the way it eases around in city traffic and can find parking in even the most claustrophobic urban landscape.

2012 Honda Fit

Shuttling friends and hauling cargo are definite musts for any student, and few subcompact cars do either as well as the Honda Fit. With an uncommonly flexible rear seat -- it folds down AND up -- the Fit can accommodate an impressive variety of people and cargo configurations. Backed by a full tank of Honda reliability, the Fit is also a smart choice to go from high school to grad school, and all the way to the real world.

2012 Ford Fiesta

Your kid may shrug about the 4-door sedan version of the 2012 Ford Fiesta, but the 5-door hatchback is definitely a player. With fuel economy bumping 40 mpg and a protecto-cocoon of seven airbags at the ready, the Fiesta is both smart and fun, and will look very cool with a Springfield High parking sticker clinging to the window.