At the forefront of the digital revolution, Millennials are proving to be a game changing generation. While they appreciate ancient history, e.g. the 1960s and 70s, this generation will also strike the nail in the coffin, not just to technology favored by the Baby Boomers who grew up in those decades (hasta la vista CD players), but to the social conventions of the day, e.g. marriage first, babies later.
What really distinguishes this generation is its open-mindedness and willingness to pursue the unconventional. It’s in this spirit that we compiled our Millennials Car Guide. Choosing among vehicles actually tested for at least a week by Decisive Latino, we selected nameplates that combine fun, affordability, fuel economy, and innovation. Tweet us @decisivelatino if you agree, or not.
Bang for the Buck
Hoping to captivate this market, Chevy studied Millennials intensely before introducing the 2012 Sonic in 2011.
Fuel efficient by virtue of its size, the subcompact, comes with a five-speed manual transmission matched to a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. It should achieve an EPA estimated fuel economy of 26 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 35 mpg on the highway. The available 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, however, will achieve an estimated 40 mpg on the highway, with a six-speed manual. I averaged 34.4 mpg on the test drive. A six-speed automatic is also available.
Offered in two body styles—a four-door sedan and a five-door hatchback—the Sonic provides hill-hold technology on all models that will help novices master the manual transmission and keep all models from rolling back on an incline.
StabiliTrak, electronic brake assist, anti-lock brakes, and OnStar are also standard. A free subscription to Onstar for six months is one thing but Chevy adds the MyChevrolet mobile app that gives owners, i.e. parents, remote access to the vehicle.
The entertainment system reflects the millennial affinity for new technology—a CD player is standard on the LT trim only.
Pricing for the 2014 Sonic starts at $14,995.
The 2015 Kia Soul compact five-door hatchback has captured its segment with the right combination of utility and fun. Redesigned for 2014, Kia designers opted to keep the same bug-like front fascia as well as the silhouette.
More substantive changes include a stiffer chassis that is longer and wider, adding interior room, and an improved ride vis-à-vis heavily revised front and rear suspension systems.
Also adding to the Soul’s upgrades is the standard Flex Steer system that allows the driver to select from three distinct steering settings, Comfort, Normal and Sport, for added oomph in certain situations, e.g. entering a freeway.
The base model receives the 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with gasoline direct injection (GDI), 130-horsepower and 118 lbs.–ft. of torque. A new, more powerful 2.0-liter four-cylinder is available as is a six-speed automatic with idle, stop, and go, and this combination also delivers the best EPA city/highway estimated fuel economy, 24/31 mpg. A six-speed manual is only available on the base model.
Techies will appreciate the optional UVO infotainment system with Pandora preloaded into the headunit and accessible through the touch screen and Voice Command.
Pricing for the 2015 Soul starts at $15,900.
Named for the famous racer and car builder Karl Abarth, the Fiat 500 Abarth emerged in 2012. This sporty version of the 500 retains its cute appeal but revs ups its performance so that the driving experience sets it far apart from its siblings.
It gets power from the 1.4-liter MultiAir turbo engine with 160 horses, matched to a five-speed manual transmission. While the 2015 model year will add an optional six-speed automatic transmission, Millennials may want to embrace the simpler manual technology, it’s worth it.
The 500c cabrio or open-top version was added last year.
Parents will appreciate the 35 active safety features including side curtain and knee airbags, and electronic stability control, while Millennials will like its fuel economy, an EPA estimated city/highway of 24/38 mpg, and wonderful engine rumble.
It also comes with an AM/FM stereo with CD player and auxiliary input jacks, air conditioning, a leather wrapped cluster brow with accent stitching, and the Blue & Me hands-free communication system. The Beats by Dr. Dre audio system is optional. The test model included fabulous red leather seats.
Pricing for the 2015 Fiat 500 Abarth starts at $23,045.
Redesigned for 2013, the Accord and its two-door sibling, the Coupe, brought Honda back to the plus side when it came to design and technology. For Millennials, the Coupe offers a more age appropriate version of a car that continues to win accolades for reliability and value.
Powered by either the standard four-cylinder or optional V6, the Accord Coupe offers a choice between a six-speed manual or automatic transmission and the continuously variable transmission (CVT).
The CVT earns the best fuel economy, a city/highway EPA estimated 26/29 mpg. The test model came with the optional automatic and averaged 23.8 mpg.
Standard features on the new Accord include Bluetooth HandsFreeLink with audio streaming, USB/iPod integration, a rearview camera, an audio/information screen, and an Eco Assist driving system. The instrument cluster is backlit and fades from white to green to indicate fuel-efficient driving. It’s a nice touch.
New technology also includes the available lane change warning system that engages a camera view in the center console display screen when switching lanes on the right. The tip of the driver’s side mirror provides a better view into the left lane.
Pricing for the 2014 Honda Accord Coupe starts at $24,415.
Scion may be the one brand that set its sights on the younger generation from the get-go, although at the time is was Generation X. Its no haggle pricing and opportunities to customize the interior, from lighting choices to sound systems, has brought a younger buyer to its parent company, Toyota. Affordable yet distinctive, Scions should appeal to Millennials, particularly, the tC.
Redesigned for 2014, the super sporty coupe includes a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine with 179 horsepower and can be matched to either a six-speed manual transmission or an updated six-speed automatic with Dynamic Rev Management technology, adopted from the FR-S. On the test drive, the manual scooted through traffic and enhanced the four-cylinder’s acceleration nicely.
Inspiring more aggressive driving, the tC still managed an above average fuel economy of 27.3 mpg.
It’s a fun car and the new exterior adds to its appeal. The long list of standard features includes a panoramic sunroof, a 6.1-inch LCD touchscreen, Bluetooth and HD radio, a leather trimmed steering wheel, and cruise control.
The three-door liftgate configuration adds versatility.
Pricing for the 2015 tC starts at $19,965.
Green and Groovy
No list of vehicles for Millennials could exclude hybrids, but in this case, we searched outside the box among the vehicles actually tested and we chose the Sonata Hybrid.
Lightweight and thermally stable, its lithium-polymer battery pack is expected to last through the normal lifespan of the car. Combined with an electric motor, hybrid starter generator, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, and a six-speed automatic transmission, the hybrid is expected to achieve 36 mpg in the city and 40 on the highway. The test model, or Limited, averaged 39.5 mpg and at the end of a week loan, and 457.3 miles traveled, it still had more than one-quarter of a tank left.
It also includes colorful displays on a 4.2-inch TFT display that lets the driver scroll through a variety of screens, from seeing the hybrids inner workings, to watching your Eco score grow.
By nature, hybrids tend to live at the higher end of trim levels, and with that, offer more standard features.
Fancy ones like a rearview camera, chrome exterior door handles, dual-zone air conditioning, touchscreen color audio, HD radio, integrated Bluetooth, and the Hyundai Blue Link Telematics system are standard.
Pricing for the 2014 Sonata Hybrid starts at $26,810.
Mazda adopted its own fuel-efficient technology, SKYACTIVE, to lower its carbon footprint and compete with hybrids. The latest version of the Mazda3, sedan or compact five-door hatchback, adds impressive styling, or Kodo “soul of motion” to its advantage.
The first Mazda model to include SKYACTIVE technology, the Mazda3 begins its the third-generation, lighter and lower than its predecessor.
Powered by two engine choices—a SKYACTIV-G 2.0-liter and a larger SKYACTIV-G 2.5-liter—it also comes with a choice of two transmissions—a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic.
Optimum fuel efficiency comes from the automatic on the sedan with an EPA city/highway estimate of 30/41 mpg. The test model, Mazda3 Grand Touring hatchback, achieved an average mpg of 28.3.
It also had a beautifully appointed interior with two-toned leather seats and red accent stitching.
Mazda was the first to offer a blind spot monitor on a compact and it’s still available on the 3 with the GT Technology package that also includes regenerative braking and active grille shutters for better fuel efficiency.
Available in a sedan or the five-door, we recommend the later for its added versatility.
Pricing for the 2014 Mazda3 five-door starts at $19,740.
Subaru will redesign the Legacy for 2015. Whether you prefer the look of the 2014 or the new model, what’s underneath makes the Subaru a good choice for Millennials and one that parents will approve.
All Subarus come with Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive (AWD), and while it may hinder fuel economy slightly, what it adds in safety and on-road confidence give it an advantage over its competitors.
Powered by the standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder BOXER engine, the 2015 Subaru Legacy should achieve an EPA city/highway fuel economy rating of 26/36 mpg. The optional 3.6-liter six-cylinder should achieve 20 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway. The test model, Legacy 2.5i Sport averaged 26.1 mpg.
Both are matched with the Lineartronic CVT (continuously variable transmission). The six-speed manual, unfortunately, is no longer available.
While Subaru seemed to lag behind in technology, it’s caught up with the Legacy offering the highly rated EyeSight driver-assist front crash prevention system. Other optional technology includes the Rear Vehicle Detection System featuring Blind Spot Detection, Lane Change Assist, and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.
Unique creature comforts include heated cloth seats.
Pricing for the 2014 Subaru Legacy starts at $21,090. The 2015 pricing starts at $22,490.
While some Millennials can afford to buy their own car, most will need help from Mom and Dad. Affordability and quality will always be considered but parents may also want to minimize temptation. The Nissan Rogue fits the bill plus it’ll come in handy when relocating during the college years.
First introduced for the 2008 model year, the all-new 2014 Nissan Rogue offers optional third-row seating, expanding its passenger volume to seven. Every seat except the driver’s folds down and the class-exclusive Divide-N-Hide Cargo System enhances its versatility with 18 adjustable variations (two-row models) between the cargo and occupant areas.
Parents will also appreciate available safety features like the blind spot and lane departure warning systems, and forward collision warning. The rearview camera is standard, but Nissan’s 360-view camera, or Around View monitor, is also available.
Configured in AWD or front-wheel drive, the latter should achieve the best city/highway fuel economy from the 2.5-liter four-cylinder and CVT of 26/33 mpg. The test model averaged 27 mpg.
Standard features include air conditioning, AM/FM stereo, steering wheel controls, remote keyless entry, and a drive computer.
Pricing for the 2014 Rogue starts at $23,650.