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The best new cars for back to school in 2018

Roadshow's editors pick their top recommended cars and SUVs to head back to campus.

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Emme Hall

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2018 Honda Fit
1 of 31 Nick Miotke/Roadshow

The best cars for back to school

Sure, you've got to get your books all squared away before you head back to high school or off to university, but what you really want are wheels.

Here are our Roadshow's editors' picks for practical college cars that won't break the bank.

2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback XSE
2 of 31 Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

Tim Stevens' pick: 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

A hatchback is almost a necessity when going to college. Moving in and out of dorms and apartments every year means a lot of hauling, and you'll probably be making a few runs to a big box volume discount store. 

The 2019 Corolla hatchback will handle all that with aplomb.

2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback XSE
3 of 31 Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

The new Corolla features Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 as standard, even on the lowest trims. That means you get an amazingly comprehensive suite of driver assistance packages in an incredibly affordable car, starting at just $19,990.

2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback XSE
4 of 31 Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

I saved this one for last, but don't discredit how much fun driving the new Corolla is. That'll ensure it's engaging enough to keep you entertained, and with an available manual transmission, you can ensure the art of three-pedal driving lives on for another generation.

Nissan Leaf SL
5 of 31 Tim Stevens/Roadshow

Chris Paukert's pick: 2018 Nissan Leaf

If you've got access to a Level 2 charger, fuel prices will be lower than other new cars, and when you're a college or high-school kid on a budget, that's important. Plus, like most EVs, the Nissan Leaf is fun to drive.

Nissan Leaf SL
6 of 31 Tim Stevens/Roadshow

If you relish getting street cred with both green fiends and tech geeks at school, this is the way to do it. And there's plenty of room for your new friends in the Leaf, too.

Pricing starts just shy of $30,000 before delivery, but federal tax credits can bring that down to around $22,500.

Nissan Leaf SL
7 of 31 Tim Stevens/Roadshow

Parking is a pain on school campuses, but very often, EVs like the Nissan Leaf get preferential treatment with designated spots, sometimes with free juice!

2018 Honda Fit
8 of 31 Nick Miotke/Roadshow

Emme Hall's pick: 2018 Honda Fit

College kids are more than likely going to move around -- a lot. The Fit can haul everything from your bike to the floor lamp you bought at Ikea, all while being easy on your wallet at the pump. 

2018 Honda Fit
9 of 31 Nick Miotke/Roadshow

Plus, the Fit is available with a six-speed manual transmission and starts at just over $16,000.

2018 Honda Fit
10 of 31 Nick Miotke/Roadshow

Lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise are available on all trim levels of the Honda Fit but those wanting Apple CarPlay or Android Auto will need to jump up to the Sport trim. 

2017 Kia Soul Turbo
11 of 31 Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

Antuan Goodwin's pick: 2018 Kia Soul

The Kia Soul's spectrum ranges from very affordable (starting below $17K for the base model) to surprisingly fun (for the $23K Turbo model), but it's always a good value.

2017 Kia Soul Turbo
12 of 31 Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

This boxy compact has a very spacious cargo area that's perfect for getting moved in or out of a dorm room and for active-lifestyle types.

2017 Kia Soul Turbo
13 of 31 Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

Kia's UVO3 infotainment suite is pretty sweet, but there's Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility if you prefer to BYOTech.

2018 Volkswagen Golf 5-Door
14 of 31 Volkswagen

Manuel Carrillo's pick: 2018 Volkswagen Golf

If you pick the Volkswagen Golf's 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder powerplant, you'll have a $20,910 car that drives like it's double that price.

2018 Volkswagen Golf 5-Door
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With 52.7 cubic feet of cargo space with the second row folded, you'll likely be able to move into that new dorm room with just one trip.

2018 Volkswagen Golf 5-Door
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The Golf comes with Volkswagen Car-Net App-Connect (Apple CarPlay) standard, and what student doesn't want CarPlay and Android Auto standard?

2017 Honda Civic Hatchback
17 of 31 Honda

Jon Wong's pick: 2018 Honda Civic Hatchback

Entry-level Civic LX and Sport trims are available with a six-speed manual transmission, which combined with a responsive chassis create a fairly entertaining ride. 

2017 Honda Civic Hatchback
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The Honda's hatchback body provides 46.2 cubic-feet of cargo space with the rear seats folded, which surely will come in handy to move stuff and people. 

2017 Honda Civic Hatchback
19 of 31 Wesley Allison

A $21,045 base price including $895 destination is solid value for a practical and stylish hatchback.

2017 Mazda3
20 of 31 Nick Miotke/Roadshow

Kyle Hyatt's pick: 2018 Mazda3

The Mazda3 looks great, especially in hatchback form, and it handles well. Think of it as a practical Miata. 

2017 Mazda3
21 of 31 Nick Miotke/Roadshow

The Mazda3 is built well, with premium materials and comfortable seats. Plus, it has a good warranty and offers up excellent fuel economy.  

2017 Mazda3
22 of 31 Jon Wong/Roadshow

I find the Mazda Connect infotainment interface is easy to use, but it still lacks Apple CarPlay and Android Auto options. 

Grand Touring models come standard with items like blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, and are available with lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist and adaptive cruise control. 

2018 Hyundai Kona SUV
23 of 31 Chris Paukert/Roadshow

Jake Holmes' pick: 2018 Hyundai Kona

The Hyundai Kona is a great-driving small SUV with space for your friends, decent fuel efficiency, available all-wheel drive and a low entry price.

2018 Hyundai Kona SUV
24 of 31 Chris Paukert/Roadshow

Bold styling is far cooler -- dare I say more Instagram-able? -- than many competing small crossovers.

2018 Hyundai Kona SUV
25 of 31 Chris Paukert/Roadshow

The easy-to-use infotainment system packs Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, ideal for phone-toting drivers, plus many active-safety driving aids are offered.

2018 Subaru Crosstrek
26 of 31 Subaru

Steven Ewing's pick: 2018 Subaru Crosstrek

The 2018 Subaru Crosstrek starts at $21,795 for the base 2.0i model, but the sweet spot in the lineup is the mid-tier $22,595 Premium model. 

2018 Subaru Crosstrek
27 of 31 Emme Hall/Roadshow

Subaru's symmetrical all-wheel drive system is on tap, now with "Active Torque Vectoring," a brake-based system that uses light pressure on the inside wheel when turning to help the vehicle rotate around a bend. 

2018 Subaru Crosstrek
28 of 31 Subaru

The  StarLink infotainment system features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity standard. 

There are also a whole bunch of native apps like Pandora, Aha, iHeartRadio, Yelp and SiriusXM. 

2019 Mazda CX-3
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Andrew Krok's pick: 2019 Mazda CX-3

The Mazda CX-3 offers the benefits of a crossover in a small physical footprint.

2019 Mazda CX-3
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It's a blast to drive, and it's small enough to not stand out in urban environments.

2019 Mazda CX-3
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Autobrake is standard, even on the least expensive trim. A front-wheel-drive CX-3 Sport starts at $20,110 while a top-of-the-line all-wheel-drive Grand Touring model starts at $26,415.

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