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Cars and tech for the road back to school

You need tablets and laptops in the classroom, but how are you getting to school? These cars and accessories will smooth the way.

Wayne Cunningham
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Wayne Cunningham
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1 of 14 Wayne Cunningham/CNET

Fiat 500X

The 500X combines Italian style with crossover utility and all-wheel-drive safety. Roomy enough to pack a dorm room's worth of stuff, it should also get you home safe when coming home for the holidays. Priced in the mid-20s, the 500X is beyond the typical college budget, but those with a healthy trust fund or wealthy parents should consider it.

Scion iA
2 of 14 Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Scion iA

A quality build, good fuel economy and a starting price of $15,700 are all attributes combining to make the Scion iA a perfect first-time car, which in turn make it a solid choice for students from high school to college. As a bonus, the sedan body sports a stylish swept-back look.

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3 of 14 Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Chevy Trax

Student hoarders should definitely give the Chevrolet Trax a gander, as its 48.4 cubic feet of cargo space can hold everything that's become important to them. For safety's sake consider that OnStar telematics come built-in, a back-up camera is standard and the Trax earns a five star rating from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.

Honda Fit
4 of 14 Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Honda Fit

The Fit is a perennial good choice for students, boasting a flexible interior with room for cargo and passengers along with an economical and reliable driveline. The latest generation maintains the prior virtues, but freshens the look so you can be driving something stylish around campus.

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5 of 14 Wayne Cunningham/CNET

Mini Cooper Hardtop

The Mini Cooper may not be the most practical ride for getting you to college, but it certainly is stylish. Its modest dimensions won't hold a lot of stuff for the dorm room but it might be a good fit for a stuffed parking lot, and its fuel economy certainly works on a student budget.

VW Golf TSI
6 of 14 Antuan Goodwin/CNET

VW Golf TSI

With its hatchback design and generally roomy interior, the Golf is an all-around good choice for transportation. Add in a starting price well under $20k and an economical 1.8-liter engine, and you've got a car well-suited for the college student. A standard touchscreen in the dashboard brings a modern touch to the interior.

Jeep Renegade
7 of 14 Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Jeep Renegade

If your college is less accessible than most, maybe up in the wildernesses of Wisconsin or the Rocky Mountain range, you might need that extra oomph the Jeep Renegade can supply to get you there. And it doesn't hurt that the Renegade can carry ample items in its cargo area.

GMC Canyon
8 of 14 Antuan Goodwin/CNET

GMC Canyon

From a photo, the Canyon may seem on the large size for a crowded college campus, but this pick-up truck is actually sized for an urban environment. Its available crewcab means plenty of passenger room, while its bed will make you the most popular person on campus as you help friends haul just about anything.

iSimple BluClik
9 of 14 Antuan Goodwin/CNET

iSimple BluClik

The ubiquitous smartphone can serve a driver well with navigation and audio, but operating a phone while driving is unsafe and often illegal. BluClik brings Bluetooth phone remote control into the car that not only gives you media controls, but also access to your phone's voice commands. It's a simple trick to upgrade your car for modern campus life.

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10 of 14 Wayne Cunningham/CNET

Aukey Bluetooth car kit

Not all students, or their parents, can afford a new car, so look at upgrading an older one. Aukey's Bluetooth car kit makes useful smartphone features such as hands-free calling and navigation available while you keep your hands on the wheel.

Garmin Nuvi Advanced 2689 LMT portable navigation
11 of 14 Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Garmin Nuvi 2689 LMT portable navigation

Finding your way around your new college town can be a challenge. The Garmin Nuvi 2689 LMT remains relevant with a smartphone connection and self-contained maps, not only helping you find lecture halls, but also the necessary cafes of campus life.

Alpine iLX-007 aftermarket head unit
12 of 14 Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Alpine iLX-007 aftermarket head unit

iPhone users will get the features of their phones most relevant for driving integrated safely in the dashboard with the Alpine iLX-007. One of the first head units to enable Apple CarPlay, the iLX-007 upgrades any car with well-integrated iPhone features, letting student drivers navigate and communicate safely.

Powerall Element portable jumpstarter
13 of 14 Josh Miller/CNET

Powerall Element portable jumpstarter

A ride scraped together on a student budget might not be all that reliable, so the Powerall Element should be part of any car emergency kit. This slim lithium-ion battery pack can jump-start a car and includes an integrated LED flashlight. Better yet, its USB ports let you charge personal electronics such as tablets and phones.

Bolt Power K3 Mini
14 of 14 Josh Miller/CNET

Bolt Power K3 Mini portable jumpstarter

With similar features to the Powerall Element, the Bolt Power K3 Mini can jump-start a car and recharge a multitude of personal electronics. Its integrated LED flashlight can be set to a steady beam or emergency flasher, just as useful stuck on the side of the road as for an impromptu dance party light.

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