ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION
If you've never shopped for new cars before, we've got good news and bad news. The good news is that there's never been a more exciting time to buy a car. Fuel economy's up, technology's exploding and more manufacturers are fielding competitive vehicles than ever before. It's an embarrassment of riches out there for 2014, even if you're on a budget.
OK, so here's the bad news: With so many appealing cars to choose from, the task of narrowing them down can be overwhelming. So how about letting us do the footwork for you? We've cast our votes here at AutoTrader.com and come up with the 10 best new cars for first-time buyers, taking into account value, efficiency, versatility, performance - you name it, we considered it. Whether you're looking for a practical commuter car, a convenient crossover SUV or a sporty coupe, this handy list should point you in the right direction. In case you're considering used cars, by the way, we've thrown in a few solid used-car options, as well.
If you're familiar with Hyundai, you might be wondering why we didn't pick the smaller, cheaper Accent instead, so allow us to explain. The way we see it, the Elantra isn't that much more expensive - figure , 500 if you're comparing the GLS trim to the GLS - and you get a lot more car in return. First of all, the Elantra's arguably the most successful execution of Hyundai's fluidic-sculpture design language; it's the rare economy car that looks good in any driveway, no matter the zip code. It also has more standard features, a bigger back seat and more power without giving up any real-world fuel economy. And like every Hyundai, it comes with an excellent warranty that includes 10 years/100, 000 miles of powertrain coverage. Given the Elantra's easier-to-live-with nature, we also think this is a first car that will work out nicely for a lot longer than other economy cars.
The Corolla is always a sensible choice thanks to its well-deserved reputation for reliability. But as you may have heard, there's a totally redesigned Corolla for 2014, and it has more going for it than just prudence. The interior is night-and-day nicer, highlighted by improved dashboard materials, a sporty steering wheel and an automatic shift lever that wouldn't look out of place in a Lexus. Outside, the Corolla isn't as pretty as the Elantra. By Corolla standards, however, it's avant-garde. And the new continuously variable transmission (CVT) is a winner all around, providing both enhanced responsiveness and up to 42 miles per gallon highway. We especially like the LE Eco model.
Nissan Versa Note
We won't bend your ear about how luxurious and sophisticated the Versa Note hatchback is, because that's plainly not what this Nissan is about. The game plan here is clear: Offer a lot of space and fuel economy for not a lot of money. Judged by those criteria, the Versa Note is a rousing success. Seriously, the back seat has to be experienced to be believed; we're convinced it's got as much space as some midsize family haulers. Grown men can lounge back there like it's a sofa. Cargo space is similarly generous, measuring over 20 cu ft behind the rear seat backs (more than any sedan's trunk) and nearly 40 cubes with the seat backs folded down. And CVT-equipped models get 40 mpg on the highway. Not bad for about $16, 000 to start.
The Fit hasn't changed a lot in recent years, and why should it? Somehow combining the exterior dimensions of a subcompact with the cargo capacity of a crossover SUV, the Fit continues to be a unique engineering achievement. We love the no-nonsense dashboard, too: It's a throwback to the Hondas of old, when ergonomics and sheer simplicity reigned supreme. The Fit's not without its foibles, chief among them a level of road noise that we'd find hard to forgive in any other car. But it compensates with genuinely entertaining handling, and if you want to learn or perfect the lost art of driving stick, the Fit's 5-speed shifter is one of the best around.