Fifth-best back-to-school car: 2013 Honda Civic
Base price:
$17,965

Honda ( HMC) gave its flagship Civic an unusually extensive update for 2013 after critics and consumers panned a 2012 complete redesign, and Allan says young drivers will love the revamped model's added technology.

For instance, the 2013 Civic comes standard with Pandora ( P) radio and voice-activated text messaging, which many rivals offer only as options.

The base Civic coupe also comes standard with manual transmission and a 140-horsepower four-cylinder engine that combine to produce a good 28 mpg/city and 36 mpg/highway (optional automatic transmission adds 3 mpg to highway mileage).

There's also a $19,745 Civic HF sedan that gets 29 mpg/city and 41 mpg/highway and a $24,360 Hybrid Civic sedan that offers 44 mpg/city and 44 mpg/highway.

Whichever version you choose, Allan says the Civic's long-standing reputation for reliability will serve any college kid well. "The last thing you want to deal with when you're away to school is car trouble," he says.

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