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This Year’s Top 10 Back-To-School Cars

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DETROIT (WWJ) - Choosing a car for yourself – that’s one thing. But choosing a car for your child – that’s a far more important decision, because that car will transport your most precious possession. The decision on which vehicle is the right back-to-school car for your child is a critical one.

The experts at Kelley Blue Book’s kbb.com put their heads together to compile a list of the top 10 back-to-school cars. The car for your child must be safe, affordable and versatile. It would also be nice if it were fuel-efficient, fun-to-drive and good-looking, too. Oh, and how about reliable and inexpensive to own?

All these factors are rolled into the following list, which spotlights five new and five used vehicles. The new cars are all available at a Fair Purchase Price under $18,000, while the used vehicles are all 2007 model year and newer with a Kelley Blue Book Suggested Retail Value of less than $12,000 (with base-level equipment and average mileage).

Used Car #5 – 2007 Nissan Sentra
For the practical-minded pupils that just need a way to get around town, try the four-door 2007 Nissan Sentra. With seating for five friends, plenty of cargo room and a shift-less CVT transmission that helps it achieve up to 33 mpg on the highway, the Nissan Sentra should be more than capable of handling any student’s academic activities – and the extracurricular ones, too.

Used Car #4 – 2007 Ford F-150
Ask any student who has tussled with a member of the football team. Mass counts. For parents who subscribe to a bigger-is-better safety philosophy, try the 2007 Ford F-150. Beyond sheer size, the F-150 boasts five-star NHTSA front crash ratings, beefy good looks and all the practical hauling and towing abilities afforded by a proper pickup truck.

Used Car #3 – 2007 Kia Sedona
Students love minivans. No, wait, that’s a lie. However, the 2007 Kia Sedona has a lot of things that a thinking student could get a healthy crush on. You mean like the looks? No. The Sedona is still pure minivan, inside and out. But think about it: Students are made out of “stuff I gotta haul” and “friends I gotta haul around,” and the Kia Sedona offers full-size cargo space and three rows of seating – and the third row folds flat into the floor.

Used Car #2 – 2008 Chevrolet HHR
Fond of sporting yesteryear’s fashions ironically? Prove that you’re not messing around by picking up some 1949-era sheet metal design in the form of the 21st-century 2008 Chevy HHR. Your classmates will be impressed by your commitment to your image – and by the HHR’s comfortable ride and versatile interior.

Used Car #1 – 2007 Suzuki SX4
The 2007 Suzuki SX4 is the least-expensive all-wheel-drive vehicle on the market, making it a smart choice for anyone who doesn’t have a lot of money to burn but needs something that can take on the cruelest of winters. Plus Suzuki allows for its no-deductible, 100,000-mile, seven-year powertrain warranty to be transferred to subsequent owners – which equates to added piece of mind for the parental units when you decide to take an impromptu road trip to hit the slopes with your friends.

New Car #5 – 2011 Chevrolet Cruze
Want to impress your friends? The 2011 Chevrolet Cruze is nice enough inside that they might think you’re borrowing your more sophisticated older brother’s car. In addition to a well-appointed and quiet cabin, the Cruze can comfortably seat five and has a large trunk for books and gear. It also features OnStar telematics with emergency crash response – something mom and dad will love knowing you’ll have just in case.

New Car #4 – 2011 Fiat 500
The 2011 Fiat 500 also appeared on this year’s list of the 10 Coolest Cars Under $18,000, where it finished at the head of class. Affordable, adorable and easy on the gas, the retro-inspired Fiat 500 is a smart – and surprisingly comfortable – little commuter car that can help ease the transition from a cozy bed to that 7:30 a.m. zero-period elective.

New Car #3 – 2012 Ford Focus
The 2012 Ford Focus is the kind of car young drivers love: It looks cool on the outside, modern on the inside, handles with more than a hint of sportiness and offers advanced audio and information technology. Parents of young drivers will appreciate the cost-savings afforded by the Focus’s excellent fuel economy, along with the peace of mind offered by Ford MyKey, a system that lets them limit things like audio volume and top vehicle speed.

New Car #2 – 2011 Honda Fit
Playful and nimble in both its look and road manners, the 2011 Honda Fit is a wicked-smart choice for either the college-bound undergrad or his empty-nesting parents (or both). Tardis-small on the outside and Tardis-big on the inside, the Honda Fit is a four-door hatchback that can carry four surprisingly comfortable adults in subcompact style. What the four-cylinder engine may lack in whoomph, it makes up for in mpg: 27 city/33 highway.

New Car #1 – 2012 Hyundai Accent
Like its bigger brothers the Sonata and Elantra, the 2012 Hyundai Accent appeals to a finely-tuned sense of value, putting a lot of equipment into a stylish, roomy package that competes more than favorably with competitors like the Ford Fiesta, Mazda Mazda2 and Honda Fit. While not pavement-ripping, the 138-horsepower engine will deliver 30 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the open road. And at a price that’s a bargain, the 2012 Accent demands to be on your back-to-school shopping list.

Each year editors of Kelley Blue Book’s kbb.com select the top 10 back-to-school cars.

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