If you're researching safe new cars for a teen driver in your family, you've come to the right place. We've listed eight excellent new cars that also happen to offer strong safety ratings and a wide range of high-tech safety features and gadgets. Best of all, we've made sure to only include affordable cars in our list, ensuring that you won't have to spend a fortune to keep your teen driver safe.

Dodge Dart

Don't be afraid to put the all-new Dodge Dart on your teen-driver shopping list. No, it's not as well known as compact car models such as the Honda Civic, Ford Focus and Mazda3, but the new-for-2013 Dart has grown on us for several reasons. One is safety: In addition to earning a Top Safety Pick rating from the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the Dart scored a perfect 5-star crash-test rating from the federal government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The sedan also offers handsome looks, excellent fuel economy and a practical interior -- not to mention the Uconnect system, which we happen to think is among the best infotainment systems in the industry. Best of all, the Dart starts at a reasonable $17,500 with shipping, and a well-equipped model is easily available for around $20,000.\\

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Ford Focus

There are many reasons why the Ford Focus is among the best compact cars on the market. One is driving experience: We think that the Focus manages to combine excellent handling and a supple ride. We also love its long list of available features, which includes Ford's dramatically improved MyFord Touch infotainment system, and high-tech safety gadgets, such as a backup camera and Ford MyKey technology (the tech lets parents set parameters for teen drivers). We also like the Focus' safety record, which boasts a perfect 5-star crash-test rating from NHTSA and a Top Safety Pick score from IIHS -- excellent scores for a car that starts around $17,800 with shipping.

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Honda Civic Sedan

The compact Honda Civic has long been an excellent choice for new drivers, and that certainly remains the case today. Safety is one reason: In addition to earning a perfect 5-star overall crash-safety rating from NHTSA, the Civic earned a coveted Top Safety Pick+ distinction from IIHS. The Civic is also offered with a wide range of safety features, such as a backup camera, electronic stability control, and the optional Honda LaneWatch system, which uses a camera on the exterior mirror to let you see what's in the passenger-side blind spot. There are also a lot of other reasons to consider the Civic for a teen driver, including reasonable pricing (it starts around $19,200 with shipping), excellent fuel economy, and a legendary reputation for reliability and durability.

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Hyundai Elantra

The Hyundai Elantra is a compact sedan with bold, eye-catching styling and a futuristic interior. The Elantra also offers an excellent safety record: In addition to earning a Top Safety Pick rating from IIHS, the compact sedan also snagged a perfect 5-star safety score from NHTSA. Best of all, the Elantra offers an excellent value. For a base price of around $18,200 with shipping, the small sedan touts cruise control, a USB port and iPod interface for music, air conditioning and standard alloy wheels. A few thousand more dollars will buy a wide range of modern gadgets, including Hyundai's Blue Link technology -- an infotainment system that boasts entertainment and connectivity features along with technology that helps parents to monitor their teen driver's behavior on the road.

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Kia Soul

The Kia Soul is a compact hatchback with four doors and an efficient 4-cylinder engine under the hood. Offered with a starting price of just $16,000 with shipping, the Soul is surprisingly safe for a small, reasonably priced car, offering a 5-star overall crash-test rating from NHTSA. The Soul also comes with a long list of standard safety features, including curtain-side airbags, front-side airbags and anti-lock brakes. Best of all, the Soul boasts impressive practicality and headroom thanks to its wagonlike body style and tall roof design.

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Mazda3

It feels like we're always recommending the Mazda3 regardless of the topic. We like its styling, we like its handling, and we love its long list of standard and optional equipment. Best of all, the Mazda3 offers an excellent safety record. In addition to being one of the few compact cars to earn a Top Safety Pick+ rating from IIHS, the Mazda3 also earned a perfect 5-star safety rating from NHTSA. It's also one of the few cars in its segment available with features such as adaptive cruise control and forward-collision alert with crash-prevention assist. Best of all, the Mazda3 starts at a reasonable $17,900 with shipping, and it comes in sedan or practical 5-door-hatchback body styles.

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Mazda CX-5

The Mazda CX-5 is one of our favorite compact crossovers and one of the best safe new cars available on a budget. It's sporty, offering some of the best handling in its segment; it's reasonably priced, with starting figures around $22,400 with shipping; and it comes with a long list of equipment. Standard features include a USB port, keyless entry, air conditioning and 17-inch alloy wheels, while options include adaptive headlights, leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control and heated front seats. The CX-5 especially stands out for its safety record, earning a coveted Top Safety Pick+ designation from IIHS and a perfect 5-star crash-test rating from NHTSA.

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Subaru Forester

If you're looking to buy your teen driver a crossover, it's hard to go wrong with the Subaru Forester. Featuring standard all-wheel drive, durable construction, and a long list of features and options, the Forester is an excellent value, especially considering its reasonable base price of $23,000 with options. Our favorite part is the Forester's safety record: In addition to earning a perfect 5-star overall rating from NHTSA, it also received a Top Safety Pick+ designation from IIHS. Part of the reason for that designation is the Forester's optional EyeSight system, which can bring the car to a complete stop in order to avoid an accident.

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author photo

Doug DeMuro has a wide range of automotive industry experience, from work at a Ferrari dealership to a manager for Porsche North America. A lifelong car enthusiast, Doug's eclectic vehicle purchases include a Porsche 911 Turbo, an E63 AMG wagon, an old Range Rover and a Mercedes Benz G-wagen.

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