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If your college kid needs a car, consider these leases

This photo provided by Mazda shows the CX-3, a good choice for a student who wants a small SUV but prioritizes gas mileage over space. It offers great safety ratings, too. (David Dewhurst/Courtesy of Mazda North America Operations via AP)
September 13, 2017 - 8:54 AM

If your college kid is in need of a car, here are some vehicles with excellent current lease deals that will fit both parental and college-driver requirements. Edmunds chose the cars to meet three key criteria:

EXCELLENT REVIEWS: Edmunds editors chose these vehicles as among the best in their segment.

TOP SAFETY RATING: Each vehicle on this list is a Top Safety Pick+ , a designation by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). To qualify as a 2017 Top Safety Pick+, a vehicle must earn good ratings in the five crashworthiness tests, earn an advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention, and an acceptable or good headlight rating, according to the IIHS. Cars with this designation are the best vehicle choices for safety within size categories, the IIHS says. Each car also earned an overall five-star rating in the 5-Star Safety Ratings system from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration .

While subcompact and compact cars are sometimes touted for young, college-bound drivers, this list focuses instead on midsize sedans and small SUVs. Safety is the reason. Although new small cars are safer than small cars have ever been, larger, heavier vehicles are still safer than small ones. It's a matter of physics: Bigger and heavier is safer than smaller and lighter. Large vehicles weigh more and have longer hoods and bigger crush zones, which give them an advantage in frontal crashes. And because price also is of paramount concern to parents and students, the list skips the more expensive large sedans, large SUVs and luxury vehicles.

AFFORDABLE LEASES AND LOW COST OF OWNERSHIP: This list focuses on leasing because the monthly payment for a leased new car is typically lower than the monthly payment for a financed car. Also, the car will likely be under warranty for the duration of the lease, so parents and young drivers don't have to worry about the cost of upkeep or expensive repair bills. Contrast that with buying an older, out-of-warranty used car for your son or daughter. The car might have a low price, but its reliability and repair costs could be hard to predict.

The nationally advertised leases shown below are all $1,999 to start and have a payment of either $199 or $189 per month. All leases are for three years and 36,000 miles. With a little bit of negotiation, it may be possible to shave a few dollars off the monthly payment or due-at-signing cost shown.

A final word about leasing: It's not for everyone. Leasing has constraints that buying doesn't. The driver-to-be needs to understand and abide by the lease's conditions to avoid the high cost of exceeding the mileage limits or the excess wear-and-tear charges that come into play if the driver treats the car badly. It's a good idea to have a frank talk about those factors before signing a lease agreement.

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SEDANS:

2017 Honda Accord

REVIEW HIGHLIGHTS: It's nearly impossible to ignore the 2017 Honda Accord's across-the-board excellence. Whether you're prioritizing interior space, fuel economy, value or an engaging driving experience, the Accord does it all.

THE DEAL: $1,999 due at signing; $189 per month.

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2017 Kia Optima

REVIEW HIGHLIGHTS: The Optima offers lots of bang for the buck compared to rivals, including an easy-to-use infotainment system. Bluetooth, a backup camera, selectable driving modes and a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel are standard.

THE DEAL: $1,999 due at signing; $189 per month.

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2017 Mazda 6

REVIEW HIGHLIGHTS: The Mazda 6 has great fuel economy, handles well, and has a responsive engine and transmission.

THE DEAL: $1,999 due at signing; $199 per month.

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2017 Toyota Camry

REVIEW HIGHLIGHTS: The Camry is comfortable and easy to use. It also has a great reputation for being durable and reliable. Some rival sedans might be a little flashier or sportier, but the Camry remains an honest and worthy pick.

THE DEAL: $1,999 due at signing; $199 per month.

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SMALL SUVS:

2017 Mazda CX-3

REVIEW HIGHLIGHTS: The CX-3 is on the small side, but sometimes less is more, especially in places where parking is a concern. If interior space isn't a priority, this is a good pick. It's stylish, fun to drive, easy to park, and gets an estimated 31 mpg in combined city/highway driving in most trim levels.

THE DEAL: $1,999 to start; $189 per month.

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2017 Toyota RAV4

REVIEW HIGHLIGHTS: For 2017, the Toyota RAV4 gains a host of driver assistance features as standard equipment, including a forward collision mitigation system, lane departure warning, automatic high beams and adaptive cruise.

THE DEAL: $1,999 due at signing; $199 per month.

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EDMUNDS SAYS: Having a child in college can be a challenge. But knowing that your young scholar is driving around in a safe, budget-friendly and reliable car gives you one less thing to fret over.

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This story was provided to The Associated Press by the automotive website Edmunds . Matt Jones is a senior consumer advice editor at Edmunds: Twitter @supermattjones.

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Related links:

Edmunds: How to Lease a Car http://edmu.in/2eLt9fl

Edmunds: Should You Lease or Buy Your Car? http://edmu.in/2oMq59z

Edmunds' New Car Buying Guide http://edmu.in/2uiP8VW

News from © The Associated Press, 2017
The Associated Press

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