The report includes a list of 13 cars -broken down by price, model and size – and emphasizes the active safety features meant to keep newer drivers safe on the road.
For teen drivers, US News only selects vehicles that have the best combination of predicted reliability ratings, crash test scores, and available advanced driver assistance features, it says.
Hyundai won the most awards in the new car category, with three. And in the used car category, Toyota won four of the five awards.
All of the cars included on the 2021 list have forward collision warning, forward automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and lane-keep assist. All winners also have teen driver controls or smartphone apps that allow parents to monitor their teen drivers and talk about responsible driving habits.
“When a teen gets behind the wheel and they’re learning to drive, they are picking up habits that will stay with them on the road for the rest of their driving lives,” Jamie Page Deaton, the executive editor of U.S. News Best Cars, told Insider in an interview. Despite all of the features that come with a new car, Deaton says the most important one is a lot of practice for new drivers.
This year, five of the winners are hybrid models that Deaton says may take extra practice for newer drivers who are used to driving gas-only cars
Learn more about this year’s best cars below.
Best new car between $US20,000 ($AU27,347) and $US25,000 ($AU34,183): 2021 Hyundai Elantra Hybrid
The 2021 Hyundai Elantra Hybrid is ranked in the top three within the hybrid and electric cars category by US News. It has great fuel economy ratings, above-average safety and predicted reliability scores, and superior front crash prevention results. The car costs roughly $US24,555 ($AU33,575).
Best new SUV between $US20,000 ($AU27,347) and $US25,000 ($AU34,183): 2021 Hyundai Kona
The 2021 Hyundai Kona is ranked No. 2 by US News in the subcompact SUVs category. The Kona rides smoothly and handles well, plus it gets good gas mileage, according to US News. With an overall five-star NHTSA Safety Rating and superior IIHS Safety Ratings, the 2021 Hyundai Kona costs $US21,685 ($AU29,650).
Best new car between $US25,000 ($AU34,183) and $US30,000 ($AU41,020): 2021 Hyundai Ioniq Hybri
The 2021 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid has brake assist, electronic stability control, lane departure warning, and lane keep assist, which are all features that Deaton recommends for new drivers. The car sells for $US24,405 ($AU33,370) and is ranked at a 10/10 for safety by US News.
Best new SUV between $US25,000 ($AU34,183) and $US30,000 ($AU41,020): 2021 GMC Terrain
The 2021 GMC Terrain has great fuel economy and a roomy cabin, making it a good compact SUV for a teen who needs extra space, according to US News. This car features traction control, an active safety feature that helps keep traction between the car’s tires and the road in dangerous conditions. The 2021 GMC Terrain sells for about $US26,195 ($AU35,817).
Best new car between $US30,000 ($AU41,020) and $US35 ($AU48),000 ($AU47,856): 2021 Nissan Altima
The 2021 Nissan Altima is ranked No. 6 within the midsize cars category by US News. With seating for five, this car has a great IIHS safety rating and a five-star score overall from NHSTA. The 2021 Nissan Altima costs about $US25,425 ($AU34,764).
Best new SUV between $US30,000 ($AU41,020) and $US35 ($AU48),ooo: 2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid
The 2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid is ranked No. 2 in the hybrid and electric SUVs category by US News. It “is energetic, fuel-efficient, roomy, and comfortable, making it one of the better all-around choices in the hybrid and electric SUV class,” US News states. With an excellent overall safety rating, the 2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid sells at $US34,765 ($AU47,535).
Best new car between $US35 ($AU48),000 ($AU47,856) and $US40,000 ($AU54,693): 2021 Toyota Camry Hybrid
The 2021 Toyota Camry Hybrid has a 10/10 safety rating. From rear crash protection results to its headlights, this car preformed well, according to US News. The 2021 Toyota Camry Hybrid even offers cross-traffic alerts to help parents feel at ease with their child behind the wheel. The 2021 Toyota Camry Hybrid sells for about $US33,745 ($AU46,140).
Best new SUV between $US35 ($AU48),000 ($AU47,856) and $US40,000 ($AU54,693): 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid
The 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid has a spacious interior and high safety and predicted reliability scores, according to US News. The cabin is made of high-quality materials and the car has a long list of safety features. The overall NHTSA safety rating ranks at five out of five stars. This SUV is priced at $US34,835 ($AU47,631).
Best used large car: 2017 Toyota Avalon
The 2017 Toyota Avalon ranks No. 2 in 2017 Affordable Large Cars, according to US News. “It has a capable engine, a balanced ride, and a luxurious interior with a wealth of advanced features,” US News’s website says. The 2017 Toyota Avalon costs $US26,460 ($AU36,179) to $US29,669 ($AU40,567).
Best used midsize car: 2018 Honda Accord
The 2018 Honda Accord finishes near the top of US News’s midsize car rankings because of its excellent safety scores and standard driver assistance features, according to US News. This car sells from $US24,626 ($AU33,672) to $US32,328 ($AU44,203).
Best used Midsize SUV: 2017 Toyota Highlander
With above-average fuel economy and high-tech standard safety features, the 2017 Toyota Highlander is a good used option for new drivers. The average price paid for a used 2017 Toyota Highlander is $US29,358 ($AU40,142) to $US38,341 ($AU52,425) according to US News.
Best used small car: 2018 Toyota Corolla
The 2018 Toyota Corolla has advanced safety features and a great reliability rating. The 2018 Toyota Corolla typically sells between $US16,603 ($AU22,702) and $US22,179 ($AU30,326) according to US News.
Best used small SUV: 2017 Toyota RAV4
The 2017 Toyota RAV4 has a large interior, advertises a smooth ride, and has great safety ratings with advanced safety features for new drivers. The average price paid for a 2017 Toyota RAV4 is between $US23,401 ($AU31,997) and $US29,467 ($AU40,291).