Staying safe without breaking the bank

While most modern cars pack in the safety features and offer plenty of value-per-dollar, there are some out there that seem to stand above the rest. If you’re scouring the used market looking for just the right ride for your new driver, fear not, as we’ve put together a list that outlines ten models that are just a few years old, but still come with just about everything you could want.

Each entry also includes a rundown on crashworthiness, as tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, or IIHS, a U.S.-based non-profit organization that conducts research on almost all new cars.

So with that, read on for our list of the ten best-used cars for new drivers.

2016 Volkswagen Jetta

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The Jetta is one of Volkswagen’s best-selling models in the U.S., offering customers a combination of refined European panache with a relatively affordable price tag.

Buyers are sure to enjoy the pleasant interior space, which beats most other entries in this segment thanks to its luxurious and well-equipped specs across the line.

The Jetta also looks quite refined outside, never shouting its presence on the street.

The Jetta is offered in a plethora of configurations to meet the buyer’s needs. The GLI model is the one to get if you’re looking for a little more fun, described as the four-door equivalent of the epic Golf GTI. The Jetta is also optionally available with automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control, while other features from the Driver Assistance System include rear cross-traffic alert, park distance control, blind-spot detection, and forward-collision warning. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto keep the smartphone connected with ease.

New for 2016, the Jetta received a 1.4-liter turbocharged engine. The turbo 1.8-liter is another good choice if you want more power, but respectable gas mileage too. Meanwhile, the GLI makes as much as 210 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque thanks to a turbo 2.0-liter four-cylinder, plus its got a complementary sport suspension set-up to boot.

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However, make sure to avoid the diesel engine iteration, which was involved with that big Dieselgate scandal VW is {still} pulling itself out of.

According to the IIHS, the Volkswagen Jetta managed to grab a Top Safety Pick+ award for the 2016 model year, with its top “Good” rating in every crash worthiness category, with an exception for the Passenger-side Small overlap front test, where it managed the second-best “Acceptable” rating. Crash Avoidance & Mitigation was rated as “Advanced with optional equipment” in front crash prevention, while the headlights were rated as “Acceptable in only certain trims/options”

Pricing on the used market ranges between $12,000 and $16,000.

Read our full review of the 2016 Volkswagen Jetta GLI.

2016 Volkswagen Passat

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The Passat is another solid German midsize four-door, offering an easy-to-drive attitude that’s still pretty engaging behind the wheel. Updated for the 2016 model year, the Passat comes with plenty of space inside, especially on the rear bench, while Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are on deck for infotainment. Like the Jetta, the Passat is pretty understated in terms of styling, but it’s still sharper for the 2016 model year.

Standard equipment includes safety stuff like automatic post-collision braking, while options include forward collision warning, lane change assist, and rear traffic alert.

There’s also optional leather upholstery. Drivetrain options include a turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder and six-speed transmission, as well as a 3.6-liter V-6.

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According to the IIHS, the Volkswagen Passat was awarded a Top Safety Pick+ accolade for the 2016 model year, with its top “Good” rating in every crash worthiness category, with an exception for the Passenger-side Small overlap front test, where it managed the third-best “Marginal” rating. Crash Avoidance & Mitigation was rated as “Advanced with optional equipment” in front crash prevention, while the headlights were rated as “Poor.”

Pricing ranges between $9,000 and $25,000, with the bulk of examples falling in at roughly $13,000 to $15,000.

Read our full review of the 2016 Volkswagen Passat.

2016 Nissan Maxima

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The Maxima looks to kick it up a notch with a solid dose of sporty styling, all while maintaining very high safety standards.

This four-door definitely stands out amongst its competitors in terms of aesthetics, and it’s got some pretty affordable luxury features inside the cabin as well.

Making it go is a 3.5-liter V-6 producing as much as 300 horsepower and 261 pound-feet of torque. Output hits the front wheels through a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Outside, you’ll find standard LED headlight and taillight elements, while the cabin gets an 8.0-inch touchscreen.

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Safety tech includes adaptive cruise control, predictive forward-collision warning, and forward emergency braking, all of which were optional when new.

According to the IIHS, the Nissan Maxima was given a Top Safety Pick+ award for the 2016 model year, with the top “Good” rating in every crash worthiness category. Crash Avoidance & Mitigation was highly rated, managing a “Superior with optional equipment” in front crash prevention, while the headlights were rated as “Acceptable.”

Pricing ranges between $16,000 and $32,000, with the bulk of examples falling in at roughly $18,000 to $20,000.

Read our full review of the 2016 - 2017 Nissan Maxima.

2016 Mazda 6

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Of all the entries on this list, the Mazda 6 is definitely the sportiest of the bunch.

It all starts with that sleek and attractive aesthetic, which comes courtesy of the Japanese brand’s latest exterior styling language. The 6 recently received an updated interior for the 2016 model year, and now includes a bigger 7.0-inch touchscreen. Outside, there’s a set of optional LED headlights.

Helping it hang is some very well-sorted suspension tuning, which manages a fantastic balance between comfort and driver engagement. Under the hood, the 6 gets an efficient 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder making 184 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. Transmission duties are handled by either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic. With the right components, the 6 can return upwards of 40 mpg.

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According to the IIHS, the Mazda 6 was given a Top Safety Pick+ award for the 2016 model year, with its top “Good” rating in every crash worthiness category. Crash Avoidance & Mitigation was rated at the highest “Superior with optional equipment” in front crash prevention, while the headlights were rated as “Acceptable.”

Pricing ranges between $12,000 and $30,000, with the bulk of examples falling in at roughly $19,000 to $22,000.

Read our full review of the 2016 Mazda 6.

2016 Honda Accord

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When it comes to the four-door segment, the Accord is pretty much a cornerstone model, offering up loads of efficiency, high reliability, and no-fuss operation.

This is one H-badge that manages to stand above the rest.

It’s quite safe too, especially when equipped with the Honda Sensing package, which includes features like lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, collision-mitigation braking, adaptive cruise control, and road-departure mitigation. Outside, you get a funky-looking exterior.

Higher in the model range, the Accord comes with options like heated front seats, a power moonroof, and leather upholstery, all of which add even more good stuff to the car’s premium feel. Motivation is derived from either a 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder, or a 3.5-liter V-6, while either a six-speed manual or a continuously variable transmission (CVT) send power to the front axle.

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According to the IIHS, the Honda Accord managed to grab a Top Safety Pick+ award for the 2016 model year, with a top “Good” rating in each crash worthiness category. Crash Avoidance & Mitigation was rated at the highest “Superior with optional equipment” in front crash prevention, while the headlights were rated as “Acceptable.”

Pricing ranges between $12,000 and $30,000, with the bulk of examples falling in at roughly $22,000 to $24,000.

Read our full review of the 2016 Honda Accord.

2017 Ford Fusion

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The Blue Oval’s entry in this space is the Fusion, which, for the 2017 model year, brings a new upscale trim level called the Fusion Platinum, adding in leather upholstery and new features. Go for the Ford Fusion Sport, and you’ll get a twin-turbo 2.7-liter V-6 making 325 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque.

There’s also a line of turbo and non-turbo inline four-cylinders to choose from, not to mention a plug-in hybrid option making upwards of 97 MPGe.

Both FWD and AWD are offered.

Optional equipment includes lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, and collision warning. There’s also plenty of space in the cabin and in the trunk, with the hybrid’s battery taking up a little extra room if you do decide to go green.

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It’s also worth noting that Ford recently discontinued the Fusion, citing a desire to move away from sedans to instead focus primarily on the SUV and truck markets.

According to the IIHS, the Ford Fusion managed to grab a Top Safety Pick award for the 2017 model year, with its top “Good” rating in every crash worthiness category. Crash Avoidance & Mitigation was rated at the highest “Superior with optional equipment” rating in front crash prevention, while the headlights were rated as “Poor.”

Pricing ranges between $11,000 and $35,000, with the bulk of examples falling in at roughly $22,000 to $25,000.

Read our full review of the 2017 Ford Fusion.

2016 Chevrolet Malibu

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Chevy completely redesigned the Malibu for the 2016 model year, updating the model in just about every way. It certainly looks pretty mean with its new, sharp front end, plus its got LED lighting front and back and wheels up to 19 inches in diameter.

The infotainment includes support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, with a standard 7.0-inch touchscreen and optional 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot.

The Malibu also comes with a Teen Driver feature that lets parents check in on where the car was driven and how fast it went.

Interestingly, the feature will even mute the stereo if all of the passengers aren’t buckled in.

On the safety front, the Malibu comes with ten airbags as standard. Optional equipment includes Automatic Parking Assist, forward-collision alert, and adaptive cruise control. The engine lineup includes a turbo 1.5-liter ‘four, a turbo 2.0-liter ‘four, and a hybrid 1.8-liter ‘four that nets up to 48 mpg.

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According to the IIHS, the Chevrolet Malibu managed was given a Top Safety Pick+ award for the 2016 model year, with its top “Good” rating in every crash worthiness category, except for the Passenger-side Small overlap front test, where it received a “Marginal” rating. Crash Avoidance & Mitigation was rated at the highest “Superior with optional equipment” in front crash prevention, while the headlights were rated as “Poor.”

Pricing ranges between $9,000 and $25,000, with the bulk of examples falling in at roughly $18,000 to $20,000.

Read our full review of the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu.

2016 Toyota Camry

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The Camry holds the title of best-selling passenger car in America, and that’s for a very good reason.

Not only is it rock-solid in terms of reliability, but it’s also jam-packed with value for your dollar and quite comfortable as well.

Toyota recently revitalized the Camry with new styling bits, while inside, the 2016 model year gets high-tech features like inductive Qi wireless charging for compatible smart devices. Infotainment is handled by a 7.0-inch touchscreen, while Bluetooth streaming and USB connectivity keep you plugged in. There’s also loads of high-end interior cues carried over from the Lexus brand.

In terms of safety, the Camry gets ten airbags, but also more modern features like automatic braking, lane-keep warning, adaptive cruise control, and Safety Connect, the latter of which will send an automatic collision notification in the event of an accident.

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Engine options include a 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder, a 3.5-liter V-6, and a hybrid 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder.

According to the IIHS, the Toyota Camry was awarded a Top Safety Pick+ designation for the 2016 model year, with a top “Good” rating in every crash worthiness category, except for the Passenger-side Small overlap front test, which was not rated. Crash Avoidance & Mitigation was rated as “Advanced with optional equipment” in front crash prevention, while the headlights were rated as “Acceptable.”

Pricing ranges between $11,000 and $28,000, with the bulk of examples falling in at roughly $20,000.

Read our full review of the 2016 Toyota Camry.

2016 Nissan Altima

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The Nissan Altima is yet another popular four-door model, offering plenty of space inside, plus high-efficiency under the hood and loads of features throughout, all for a reasonable price tag.

Refreshed for the 2016 model year, the Altima now comes with new active grille shutters for even more mpg at the pump.

It also includes safety stuff like predictive forward collision warning, a blind-spot monitor, and adaptive cruise control, plus an “easy fill tire alert” that’ll signal when the tires are at the proper pressure by flashing the car’s lights.

In addition to a roomy interior, the Altima comes with an optional Bose stereo and heated front seats. Nissan offers two engines when it comes to motivation, starting with a 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder, and topped by a 3.5-liter V-6. Even more performance flavoring can be had with the sportier SR trim level, which tosses in new exterior bits and a sharper suspension package.

2016 Nissan Altima – Driving Impression And Review High Resolution Exterior Drivetrain
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According to the IIHS, the Nissan Altima managed to grab a Top Safety Pick+ award for the 2016 model year, with a top “Good” rating in every crash worthiness category. Crash Avoidance & Mitigation was rated as “Superior with optional equipment” in front crash prevention, while the headlights were rated as “Acceptable.”

Pricing ranges between $10,000 and $25,000, with the bulk of examples falling in at roughly $18,000 to $20,000.

Read our full review of the 2016 Nissan Altima.

2016 Kia Optima

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Value is the name of the game with the Kia Optima. Recently upgraded for the 2016 model year with new technology and a fresh interior spec to boot, the 2016 Optima also comes with a new architecture for a more comfortable ride overall.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included with the infotainment spec, and extra soft-touch surfaces can be found throughout.

Safety tech includes lane-departure warning, blind-spot detection, rear-parking sensors, and more, all of which were offered as optional extras.

Providing the power is either a turbo 1.6-liter inline four-cylinder, a turbo 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder, or a 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder.

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According to the IIHS, the Kia Altima was given a Top Safety Pick+ award for the 2016 model year, with a top “Good” rating in every crash worthiness category. The Passenger-side Small overlap front test was not rated. Crash Avoidance & Mitigation was given the top “Superior with optional equipment” rating in Front crash prevention, while the headlights were rated as “Poor.”

Pricing ranges between $10,000 and $27,000, with the bulk of examples falling in at roughly $20,000.

Read our full review of the 2016 Kia Optima.

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