Ask the Best and Brightest: Cruise Campus in . . . a Hyundai Elantra?

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

Ever since ForbesAutos.com disappeared down the media rat hole, the autoblogosphere has been more or less listless. Into this breach (dear Horatio) strides everyone’s favorite misnamed bi-weekly motor mag. AutoWeek presents their “best rides for campus cruising.” Which is, of course, the headline writer’s “inventive” take on a top ten list of entirely sensible cars that Mom and Dad should purchase on behalf of their education (i.e. party) seeking progeny. Well, it’s not really a “top ten” list per se—’cause that would mean AW would have to rate the cars in some sort of order, which would risk pissing off the people paying the bills. So here are their random choices for aspiring didacts.

2009 Hyundai Elantra Sedan – AW likes it ’cause J.D. Power rates the Elantra as one of its “Ten most problem-free cars and trucks” for 2009.” Punishment for good grades, perhaps? Anyway, we’re off to an exciting start!

2009 Honda Civic – Safe! AW likes the Civic because the IIHS (a quasi-governmental organization) rates it a top safety pick. For small cars. And everyone knows college kids should be driving small cars. Oh, and “The Civic also features available satellite-linked navigation with voice recognition, perfect for finding your way around campus for the first time.” As opposed to, say, an iPhone or portable sat nav device.

2009 Mitsubishi Lancer – OK, they’ve done the safety thing. Now . . . the “Lancer gives you plenty of bang for not so many bucks [152 hp, unless you buy it in CA, where it’s 143 hp]. Standard features sure to impress the academics include auto-off halogen headlamps, two-color multi-information display and a 140-watt CD/MP3 head unit with a digital signal processor and speed-compensated volume control.” I hope my kids aren’t that easily impressed.

2009 Ford Escape – Back to safety. “All Escape models come with a standard AdvanceTrac with roll stability control.” While that’s nice and all, if a parent’s worried about SUV rollovers, maybe they shouldn’t buy their kid an SUV.

2010 Toyota Prius Hybrid – “Eco-friendly autos are a must on the college scene.” So that’s that, then.

2010 Kia Soul – “The Soul has a quirky, youthful design with a reasonable price tag.” Agreed.

2009 Dodge Caliber SE – Ha! The same people who laud the Elantra for its reliability DARE suggest that a parent provide their prospective scholar with a Caliber? On what grounds, counselor? Drink driving! “A big part of college is tailgating, and this car would be perfect to fill with party supplies. It has a cooled beverage storage bin that holds four 20-ounce bottles or cans with illuminated cupholders in the front.”

2009 Ford Focus – Back to Eco-Weenieism 001: “This environmentally conscious car has Earth-friendly seating with bio-based foam cushions derived from plant seeds and can get up to 35 mpg highway with a manual transmission.” Who knew cars had a conscious. Hal. Open the penalty box doors. Hal?

2009 Chevrolet Cobalt sedan – “As far as assistance goes, this car is stacked. OnStar is standard for one year when purchasing or leasing a Cobalt. In addition, the Cobalt is backed by a 100,000- mile/five-year transferable powertrain limited warranty, plus roadside assistance and courtesy-transportation programs.” That joke writes itself.

Used cars will do the trick, too – So, here’s our list of the best cars for college-bound children and BTW everything else is OK, too. And just ’cause Toyota didn’t get a shout-out, here it is! “Consumer Reportsalso ranked Japanese brands such as Toyota and Honda as “reliable” used cars with some newer safety features built into them.”

My take: buy them a pre-owned sedan that’s reliable, slow and safe. Your take?

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

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  • Ronman Ronman on Jul 21, 2009

    Anything works really, the bigger the engine, the bigger the brick you'll have to stick Under the throttle pedal...

  • B-Rad B-Rad on Jul 24, 2009

    My take: Don't buy them shit! Especially not a new car. Instead, guide them while they try to find a fairly reliable, used car that floats their boat and is within their budget. Kids don't need a car in college, we just want one.

  • Steve Biro Frankly, while I can do without Eyesight and automatic start-stop, there is generally less B-S with Subarus in terms of design, utility and off-road chops than with many other brands. I just hope that when they adopt Toyota’s hybrid system, they’ll also use Toyota’s eCVT.
  • The Oracle These are all over the roads in droves here in WNC. Rarely see one on the side of the road, they are wildly popular, capable, and reliable. There is a market for utilitarian vehicles.
  • Stephen My "mid-level" limited edition Tonino Lambo Ferraccio Junior watch has performed flawlessly with attractive understated style for nearly 20 years. Their cars are not so much to my taste-- my Acura NSX is just fine. Not sure why you have such condescension towards these excellent timepieces. They are attractive without unnecessary flamboyance, keep perfect time and are extremely reliable. They are also very reasonably priced.
  • Dana You don’t need park, you set auto hold (button on the console). Every BMW answers to ‘Hey, BMW’, but you can set your own personal wake word in iDrive. It takes less than 5 minutes to figure that that out, btw. The audio stays on which is handy for Teams meetings. Once your phone is out of range, the audio is stopped on the car. You can always press down on the audio volume wheel which will mute it, if it bothers you. I found all the controls very intuitive.
  • ToolGuy Not sure if I've ever said this, or if you were listening:• Learn to drive, people.Also, learn which vehicles to take home with you and which ones to walk away from. You are an adult now, think for yourself. (Those ads are lying to you. Your friendly neighborhood automotive dealer, also lying to you. Politicians? Lying to you. Oh yeah, learn how to vote lol.)Addendum for the weak-minded who think I am advocating some 'driver training' program: Learning is not something you do in school once for all time. Learning how to drive is not something that someone does for you. It is a continuous process driven by YOU. Learn how to learn how to drive, and learn to drive. Keep on learning how to drive. (You -- over there -- especially you, you kind of suck at driving. LOL.)Example: Do you know where your tires are? When you are 4 hours into a 6 hour interstate journey and change lanes, do you run over the raised center line retroreflective bumpers, or do you steer between them?
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