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Student Years: 2012 Ford Focus

MSRP: $18,790

Here’s what the Focus has going in its favor: “It looks cool, sports an upscale interior, rides and handles incredibly well and costs about the same as some of the more boring compact cars.”

The Kelley editors suggest opting for the five-door variant with extra cargo room, because you never know what—or whom—you might pick up on a good toad trip. Also, no small part in this decision is the Focus’ highway fuel economy, which runs up to 38 miles per gallon (40 MPG for the sedan with SFE Package).

Photo: ford.com