There are some parents in this world who feel that they need to present their offspring with a brand-new car. If there's one thing most parents do know, it's that the car shouldn't be too powerful, because insurance costs will be high (and also the possibility of writing off a car goes way up). But there are still some cars under the 200 horsepower mark that are bad choices for the teenage driver that may pose a great risks to other drivers.
It has therefore become my prerogative to advise against certain cars under the 200 HP threshold that I wouldn't feel comfortable with Generation Y-ers at the wheel.
Full disclosure: The author is a member of Generation Y as well. Hate away.
Here's the list:
FIAT 500 Abarth
As much as I love this car and prefer it over a Mini Cooper S, I cannot recommend this to any teenage driver as a first car. It is manual-only, meaning the driver is less distracted; however, I wouldn't want someone to have something so tiny to drive first. Also, the fact that Alex Lloyd used the Abarth as an example in his guide to hooning does not help the car's cause. Instead, buy yourself the 500 Abarth and give your current car to your son and daughter. (As long as your current car is not fast and is safe.) You're welcome.
Convertibles generally have horrible visibility when the top is up due to the smaller windows. It's like you're just waiting to hit something in the parking lot. Convertibles will also present you with more distractions when the top is down. (We all need to gawk at that hot girl or guy walking down the street and show off our "cool" convertible– right up until the crash.) There is absolutely no way a convertible is good as a teenager's first car.
I almost forgot about this car because I almost never see them (and I live in Berkeley). It's too expensive for what it is. It's way too small. It's fuel economy pales in comparison to a Prius, which is larger and the same price. The transmission is maddening to deal with. I think parents are already smart enough to not buy this car if I don't see them very often in a college town. Despite my criticism, there is one immense benefit: parallel parking will be much easier.
First off, they haven't come out with any good cars lately. (The 2014 Outlander and Outlander Sport are fine, but they're crossovers.) They still make the Galant, which no one will recommend, except a Mitsubishi salesman, the Lancer is getting long in the tooth (and anything in the competition retains resale value much better), the 2014 Mirage looks like an economy car from ten years ago, and the i-MIEV is uncool and not something to keep for the long-term. Furthermore, the dealer network is nearly hopeless to deal with.
No one should ever get a brand-new 3-Series as their very first car. They need to learn to properly drive first. Get them a 320i as your first car, and most of the time it's a future "asshat" in the making. They won't use their turn signals. They will go triple the speed limit everywhere except highways. They'll tailgate anyone who doesn't go at their preferred speed. And add the fact that your teenager would be considered the "poor" person in the high-school parking lot for not having a 335i or even a 328i. Don't buy a new 320i as your kid's first car.
So what other under 200-HP cars have I missed out on? Or am I completely wrong on my picks?
Satish Kondapavulur runs Clunkerture, named because "Clunker.com" was $82 at auction and would've taken 30% out of the balance of his Eagle Vision for LeMons fund. In between contemplating cross-country runs, he spends much of his time attempting to convince others that his MkV Jetta 2.0T Wolfsburg is indeed a sports sedan.
All photos courtesy of the respective manufacturers.