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Consumer Reports: Stick with a sedan for new drivers

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SEATTLE - Another school year means another round of new drivers on Northwest roads and highways. Even for families with older college-bound drivers, Consumer Reports says your teen's first car should be simple - and safe.

Auto expert Mike Quincy recommends parents skip the fast, flashy sports cars and the high, heavy trucks and SUVs. Instead, stick with a reliable sedan, like the Subaru Legacy.

"It's a very nice sedan that did well in Consumer Reports testing," Quincy says. "Good handling, good visibility, standard all-wheel drive, and it's available with lots of active safety features."

Other cars to consider include the Mazda 3, Honda Civic, and a late model VW Golf or Jetta, Quincy says.

But don't make a common mistake when buying a used car, he adds. While you can save money, make sure you buy a used vehicle from a reputable dealer. To avoid losing important safety features, stick with recent model years.

"Keep the year 2012 in the forefront of your thinking," Quincy says. "That's the year all models had standard stability control. It's a lifesaving technique that can keep the car on the road when it might otherwise skid off."

As for those exciting sports cars?

"It's way too much power for inexperienced drivers," Quincy says, adding it will likely drive the cost of insurance significantly higher.

Many parents might prefer the height and weight of a larger vehicle, such as a truck or SUV. Quincy calls that a bad idea, too.

"They have a higher center of gravity, which gives them a higher propensity to roll over," he says. "They have clumsy handling and longer stopping distances... For a teenage driver, it's a really bad choice."

However, smaller SUVs - also known as crossovers - may be a good choice. Crossovers offer some of the space and height of a larger vehicle, with the stability and control of a smaller car. Consumer Reports recommends the SUV Toyota RAV4. The new 2016 model starts at around $24,000.

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