QotW: What’s the best JNC for a new driver?


Last week we asked which JNC would get you the most dates. Let’s say the advice dispensed by our readers worked and netted you a mate. First comes love, then comes marriage, now it’s 16 years later you have a teen getting behind the wheel for the first time.

What’s the best JNC for a new driver?

The E70 Corolla might be the perfect ride for a new license holder. It’s unassuming, mechanically simple, and reliable as an oak tree. It comes in a variety of body styles and is common enough that you won’t feel guilty if the newb puts a ding in it. And yet, it has all the underpinnings of an AE86 so your budding Takumi Fujiwara can learn RWD dynamics in a well-balanced chassis without the perils of too much power. Best of all, it’s a sensible, economical Corolla, making for an easy sell to your non-car enthusiast spouse.

What say you, dear reader? As always, the most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a toy. Click through to see the winner of the last QotW, “Which JNC will get you the most dates?” 

155_Subaru BRAT 1978_Subaru BRAT

To answer, you guys provided the most entertaining comments we’ve seen in a while. Your tales of love and loss, from dickie‘s against-the-grain nomination of an FJ80 Land Cruiser to Kevin‘s story about the S30 Z in which even his made-up fantasy date flames out hilariously, made it near impossible to pick a winner. More than several of you pointed out JNCs are great for attracting men, so for all three of our female readers out there, take note!

However, our winner this week was Tboned, who went with the unconventional choice of the Subaru BRAT. It may not be the most realistic choice, but his comment made us laugh the most.

When considering the perfect JNC to entice ladies to a date with you, what should be considered? As we all know, but hate to admit, pulling the handbrake around corners at high speeds, does not actually moisten the ladies’ panties. Sorry, teenage boys. She probably wouldn’t be all that impressed by the pile of paperwork you have completed to have your dream Hakosuka imported. No matter how much it costs you. An old RX-7 or 240Z probably wouldn’t do anything but remind you of her uncle that never really grew up nor had kids of his own. A TE72 might impress her, until the day she learns it’s just a fancy way of saying “old ass corolla”.

But what about something rare, unique, and fun, all at once? Not big on power, nor style necessarily. Maybe even invoking images of a mullet that never fully grew in. But a car with its own brand of style, with 4 wheel drive, a go anywhere attitude, and both a coupe and an open top at the same time? I dare say, the 1st generation Subaru BRAT brings many things to the table that are sure to impress. Perhaps the girl you wish to court is outdoorsy? 4wd truck? Check. Or maybe she likes the nightlife? Pay your buddy in beer, and the two of you could be sitting in the back seats, with nothing but each other and the gleaming lights of the night to keep you company in the open air. The BRAT is small, truck. It’s not aggressive. It’s cheery and inviting, and has a smiling face that’s always happy to see you. Like a puppy with its tail wagging eagerly. A BRAT just wants to play and it’s small enough to go anywhere and do anything.

Girls don’t care about how fast your car is, or how rare, or “sought after” it is by collectors. And that’s not what the BRAT is. It’s a cute, cuddly little scamp that just wants to please, no matter what it is you ask it to do.

The BRAT is a puppy. And everyone knows; chicks totally dig puppies. You’re also unlikely to be the original owner of a BRAT. So it’s a rescue as well?? Double points!

So my vote, is for the 1st generation Subaru Brat. The cheery little puppy dog of the JNC world.

Omedetou, your comment has earned you a set of decals from the JNC Shop!

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28 Responses to QotW: What’s the best JNC for a new driver?

  1. Wes B says:

    I think some of you might not qualify my choice as JNC yet… but my choice is gen 1 Miata! A new driver should know how to really DRIVE a car, so what better choice is there! Fuel injection, cheap parts, and for the most part too slow to really get into any serious trouble. I’d want any new driver I bring into the world to be an auto enthusiast just like his daddy, so I would get Wes B Jr. a Miata 🙂

  2. NSXType-R says:

    Personally, I’d say the second generation Accord, as I grew up around one. I was picked up from the hospital when I was born in that very same Accord, and I ended up learning how to drive in that same car around 16 years later. Sight lines are awesome in the car as the greenhouse takes up the whole upper portion of the car. It was incredibly helpful to see where everything is when I was learning how to park. That car also brought me to school events, high school graduation, etc. There was just enough power to get around but not be enough to be too slow.

    Sure it’s a rust bucket now, but it still runs fine. How cool is it to say that you drive a 30 year old car?

  3. E-AT_me says:

    I’m going to have to say an EF Civic. Yes, these JUST started becoming nostalgic, but there are so many out there and parts are still very plentiful.

    My first ride was a 1990 CRX Si, and that was 14 years ago. I now have a 1991 Civic Si with 280k on the clock and it just keeps ticking. With the 13 inch snow tires I have on it, it even made it to work this morning in 6 inches of snow even though it’s lowered. Too many of them are getting snapped up quickly by idiots, though, so they are starting to get hard to find. I know i just contradicted myself, but compared to some other cars that are going to be on this list, they are everywhere. Good examples are starting to fetch a big premium but they still pop up about once a month with low miles and no rust.

    Yes, they aren’t what most people would consider “nostalgic”, but their is no denying the fact that EF’s are good, cheap, reliable, and awesome cars.

  4. dickie says:

    great choice, nothing says romance like injection molded jumpseats in a pseudo-pickup bed. could just be me, though. congrats Tboned!

    so if i were to hand down a Japanese classic to a new driver, especially someone i cared about, it would have to be something 1) moderately safe to drive, and 2) not prohibitively expensive to repair or replace.

    continuing with my theme of recently-certified nostalgics, i’d say 1989 Toyota Cressida would be at the top of my list. i am admittedly biased, but i can say from firsthand experience that these are survivors in all manner of new vs. old vehicular confrontations. i’ve seen one completely destroy a new Honda Civic sedan and drive away with minor scuffs on the (park bench) bumper. no airbags means no 25+ year-old explosive devices pointed at your face. automatic seat belts means there’s less of a chance of your kid being ejected through the windshield at-speed and a nice little insurance discount – important when you’re paying for coverage on a teenager.

    despite what you might find on Craigslist were you to search for one in buying condition, actual trading price on these things is still at realistic levels. one in my local area was listed at $4,000 and spent a few months generating hate-filled emails to the seller before it dropped to the much more realistic $400 price that it sold for. parts are still relatively easy to come by if you have access to a pick-n-pull or similar high volume yard. the ownership community’s turnover rate is relatively high meaning you can find at least a few complete partouts at any given time if you spend 5 minutes searching their sites.

    the last and possibly best reason that this car would be great for a first time driver is that it’s going to require a lot of work to keep running. i can picture myself watching my son blow his stack when the inevitable headgasket failure occurs. i will sit blank-faced and Bunta-like as he fumes about the piece of junk he inherited from me, subtly goading him into replacing the M-turd and auto transmission under the hood with a more suitable powerplant that he paid for himself. by the time the car is complete, he will have made the journey from wet behind the ears kid to established mechanic and driver.

  5. Walter says:

    “First comes love, then comes marriage, now it’s 16 years later you have a teen getting behind the wheel for the first time.”
    In sixteen years time? A first generation Prius. By then it will be a JNC and perfect to teach them how to drive!

  6. Censport says:

    Nobody has said “a Panda AE86 and a tofu delivery route” yet? I’m shocked.

  7. AndyB says:

    What best JNC for a new driver?? Exactly what I was a new driver in ofcourse! A 2nd or 3rd gen Leone/Loyale!!! There is nothing better for a beginning driver than a Subaru, mark my words!
    Reliable ’til kingdom come, even without proper maintenance. (And sometimes, hardly any real maintenance at all..) And they stick to the road, no matter if they are two or four wheel drive. Oh and best of all for a first-timer, Leone’s are SLOW! (Just don’t tell your kid that!) As far as they are concerned, you can still smoke the narrow little radial tires, and whip it hard around sharp corners.
    Yes, at first you are gonna have to drag your teen kicking and screaming to get him/her behind the wheel, due to the inherent ugliness of these vehicles. (Which doubles as an aid to early adulthood birth control!) But as soon as they get it on (or off) the road, they will fall in love! The beautiful growl of the boxer motor. Being able to pack all their friends, snowboard gear, and the dog too! The fact it can climb the same muddy hill along side all their truck sporting buds. And finally, these things are so darn simple inside and out, the little snot can practically work on it him/herself. Most basic parts are still widely available well.
    You as a parent will be the most happy that despite rain, snow, land-slide, hell-fire, zombie-apocalypse, or the next ice-age, your prince/princess is gonna make it home safe every time!
    Probably after pulling their classmate’s E70 Corolla out of the ditch along the way. 😛

  8. Styles says:

    Well, the E70 is my choice as well. The first car I got to use was my Mum’s KE70 DX Corolla wagon. That car took all the abuse I could throw at it as a learner, then when I got my licence to drive unaccompanied it suffered a whole lot more abuse at my young and unsympathetic hands.

    Packing the mighty 4K engine, a 4-speed and leaf springs out the back it was utterly reliable. That car took me all over the place, local trips around town, mid-night country road hooning, gravel road rally action, it soaked it all up. Even managed to get it doing 140kmh one morning, the little 4k on the edge of valve-bounce, howling along Aucklands north-western motorway.

    What a car, definitely the ideal starter JNC.

    Eventially the KE70 was replaced with an EE90 Corolla, which was every bit as dependable, and even a little faster, but somehow just not as much fun!

  9. Muhammad says:

    I’d say datsun 1200 ute sedan or coupe

  10. Jason says:

    To find the best new driver JNC one must dive deep into the mind of a 16 year old boy (or tomboy, as any 16 year old princess is only interested in a shiny new BMW or Mustang convertible). It was many, many, years ago, but I seem to remember lusting after the second gen CRX Si, a car which I eventually bought. As a new driver it taught me many important driving skills, understeer, tragic understeer, and catastrophic understeer. The last of which required a new front bumper, radiator and hood. However, with a solid 130hp on tap, it was by no means fast, but quick enough to develop driver skill.

    Now from a parental standpoint it was a great car. There was no back seat, which I’m sure was a relief to my girlfriends parents in high school. This also limits the amount of idiots, i mean “friends”, that can fit in the car. Nothing like the 1984 Caprice Classic my buddy had, leading to many late nights and lots of toilet paper spread across lawns. In addition, when the little tike goes away to college, anything able to fit in a dorm room will fit in the back of the car. It also works great for beer runs, as I’m certain a keg can fit in the back, two once he turns 21 and doesn’t need someone to buy it for him.

    Add to all this that most of these cars routinely make it well past 250,000 miles with little work needed, they get a solid 38+mpg on regular fuel, low insurance cost, and they’re a great choice for a new driver.

    Now lets just hope you can buy one for little tommy for less then what they cost new in 1988…

    • Ben says:

      Having a little girl adds extra to the equation. My choice for her JNC car (and it will most likely be a JNC by then) would be the 1999 Subaru Forester RX. It was my first new car and probably the best I ever had. Power was just right for driving around and cruising the highway. Plenty of room, particularly as my girl is following her mother in terms of packing ‘light’ to go away anywhere (Several suitcases later), and the added bonus of safety (airbags, ABS etc) and of course reliability.

  11. Randy says:


    Are you kidding me?

    You spent how many nights and weekends fixing it up, picking just the right wheels, and even risking your significant other’s “significance?” You hunted down those factory louvers, and spent 6 hours polishing the exhaust tip. You re-pinstriped it twice because it wasn’t “perfect.”

    You’re gonna put a 16-year-old behind the wheel of this, with all their inexperience, and as Jason mentioned, the “friends.”

    NO, No, No, no, no. “No JNC for you (yet).”

    Until they get the experience to NOT make every day an adventure for your wallet, your insurance agent, and your soul, they get something NOT classic. Ten-year-old Corolla / Civic / Sentra / ??? Maybe a pickup; maybe a Sube, if you’re in the snow belt. They need to get experience of not just driving, but in maintaining their car. You saw the Sube commercial, where the daughter has to be able to change a flat. They need to know more than to park it behind Daddy’s car, so he’ll notice the empty tank and fill it up.

    Sorry guys, but JNCs are NOT for everyone. At this stage, they need a disposable vehicle that’s in good condition, but doesn’t qualify as “Classic.”

    • Emmanuel says:

      That is a great idea as well. A 2000 – 2004 Ford Focus sounds like a winner in that case. Though, not a JNC but very much disposable.

    • Wes B says:

      I have to agree! Good post 🙂

    • mason says:

      hello, i am currently 15 getting my liscence in a couple months and plan on getting a JNC. My parents say the same things as you, they say i need a “practical” first car. BUT for me cars are my life and i cant imagine life with out them, i put cars before anything else. some kids might be going on to get a degree in restoring classic cars(thats me). And we need a classic car to learn how to restore and modify. so for some kids a JNC is perfect for us. and you adults that are in the hobby should be happy that there is a younger crowd that is into classic cars and keeping them on the road and preserving history on wheels.

      • Randy says:

        Oh, we ARE happy that there’s a following generation who’s interested in preserving that aspect of history, and you MAY be more focused and mature than even a number of “adults.”

        Think of your first car as an eventual sacrifice to the machine gods.

        Here’s the thing – You don’t have the experience to get out of whatever stupidity that every driver encounters (admittedly, I wasn’t glued to the road when I hopped the curb at 30-ish, and in hindsight, steering with my teeth while taking off my jacket wasn’t exactly the birghtest move, either. I got lucky both times), or to read what some innattentive boob is about to do – including reading them though THEIR windows and mirrors, even when THEY aren’t using them.. You only learn this stuff by hopefully only close calls.

        Then there’s the daily-driver’s risks: I got rear-ended once — on a three-lane-outgoing bridge — in a RED car — sitting in rush-hour traffic — not the first car, stopping fast — sitting there. Bowed both quarter panels out, ’cause Joe B. was in a Grand Marquis. I guess I was in his blind spot… Stuff happens; that’s just reality.

        When you get into the realm of nostalgic/classic/antique vehicles, there’s the issue of parts availability. On a more recent post there’s that Mitsubishi Galant. Here, it was a Colt. Under either name, parts are not exactly plentiful, which means that if something goes bad, mechanically or bodily, you’re stuck until parts are found. (Body parts are probably harder to get; they always seem to be.)

        Are your friends going to be as careful with your investment as you are? I learned the hard way with a girlfriend and her “friends” about that aspect – their absolute lack of respect for anyone else’s property; notably mine. Are they going to be as aware as you are of every cost and effort you put in, or is one of them the idiot who walks over people’s cars? No Starsky-and-Hutch moves across the hood, huh? There are people I’ve known for DECADES that I don’t particularly want in my DAILY DRIVER.

        I couldn’t care less about “practical” cars – you can tell your folks I said that – the issue isn’t practicality; the car is going to see abuse, and any classic, etc., may be more than you want to deal with on a daily basis, or to see it degrading from the morons at school who’ll bump into it, or prang it up because they can’t control opening their OWN doors. Give those around you the credit they’re actually due.

        The best advice I can give anybody who’s looking at a classic anything, be it the ever-popular Datsun 510, a first-gen 240-Z, or whatever, is: Let it be the toy. For the everyday, and with all the above, get something that’s not special; an appliance that you can get the parts for, and that you don’t mind practicing on; something that if it gets totalled, it won’t leave you in tears after all your work, and that you can replace within a week; something you don’t mind if parts roll around and dent it up, or if it smells like pizza. If you screw up pounding out a fender on a Civic, no big deal. Might cost money to replace it, but parts are available. Some flaming boner creases the door of your baby; that’s flat-out depressing. You’re thinking of someone right now. At school, or one of your friends, or your sister…

        If you want to get a Nostalgic, then maybe like a Miata, Celica, or something that’s reasonable to live with, day-in, and day-out. Maybe a pickup, though you’ll be amazed how many people suddenly need stuff hauled.

        At 15, you have a sick amount of time to obsess over a vehicle, which means you have the same sick amount of time to save money to buy it for CA$H. No financing; no interest; YOURS.

        I wouldn’t recommend putting cars “before anything else.” It’s AN interest, and if you go into restoration work, it’s a seriously valuable skill, though it ain’t what you see Chip Foose doing, or on “Pimp My Ride,” etc. If I may suggest, maybe put learning how to [whatever] on cars up pretty high, if that’s your calling. FWIW, you actually sound a bit like I was back then. I even used a picture of my mother’s then-car in an art class (still can’t draw worth nothin’), so I do get where you’re coming from.

        So what has your attention? Everybody has a leaning; what’s yours?

      • Randy says:

        Oops – it was the ’74 Lancer; not a Galant… Points the same though – parts.

  12. Emmanuel says:

    S12 Nissan 200SX. These cars are fairly priced and don’t seem to be stolen as often as other popular cars like the Civic or 240SX. Inexpensive. RWD (if you are into RWD) and still fun to drive.

    For FWD, I would have to say, the 1989 to 91 Toyota Corolla GTS.

  13. Shakozoku says:

    An AE92 Corolla. Why? Well because it sort of is my first car right now.. It’s cheap, as a matter of fact I found a one on Craigslist awhile ago for around $1100 in reasonable condition. They are very reliable, you can’t go wrong with a gas saving 4A-FE. Even though they are a pain in the neck to get in and out of because the door feels like an upside down triangle, I’m sure your teen wont mind, as he doesn’t have the same back pains as you do. They’re are FWD, so your beloved teen will not have any RWD shenanigans in an empty Walmart parking lot, so no surprise calls at 2:00 o’clock in the morning, unless he messed up a FWD backwards donut. Teen in a band? Needs to hall equipment between his friends’ garages? No problem, just search for the wagon version on craigslist, I guarantee you’ll find one for around an easy 800 bucks. If your teen doesn’t get persuaded by his buddy about buying a bent up 240SX missile car, he may want more out of the car, keep it, swap in a 4A-GE, make it hellaflush, stanced, or stellahance and slap on a whole bunch of trashy stickers on, he got from his local/weekly meet at KFC. These cars need more attention as they can easily become a competitor to a Honda if tuned well. Lots of AE92 Corollas are hidden around town. Go ahead, Get one for your new teen driver, you may be lucky enough to find a super uber rare All-Trac AE92!

  14. mister k says:

    cressy no question. there still replaceable if the kid trashes it

  15. cesariojpn says:

    The Toyota Camry V20 (1986–1990).

    Simple enough reasons: There are plenty of the cars still toiling in day to day service, so even if a budding noob somehow manages to crash/pimp out/repo’d/blow up/whatever to the car, it doesn’t adversely affect the population too much (unlike other models where a single crash will decimate the surviving population by like, 7.65%). Add to the fact that many still run on the roads, it attests to the bulletproof reputation of Toyota’s engineering (and the hardy 3S & VZ engines). Parts are easy and cheap to come by (i.e. a quick jaunt to NAPA/Pep Boys/Autozone/Pick-a-Part), and is a great starter car to practice future mods you might (not) want to do on future JNC ownership.

    Plus if you need to haul around some buddies or cargo, the spacious trunk and backseats (or the Station Wagon model) means you have plenty of room to haul around stuff. I’ve seen hoarders cars with shit filling the brim of the cabin to people hauling plants & other heavy items and the car still runs like a champ. And……if you have a family, it’s a great Family Car without pissing off the Missus!!

    Toyota reliability, an ample supply, and cheap parts makes the V20 Camry a perfect Noob car for a budding JNC.

  16. BadEngineer says:

    1980’s Toyota pickup, preferably in Marty McFly spec.

    As Top Gear proved, it’s damn near indestructible and they dropped it off a building. Moreover, it’s cheap and easy to run, fix, or drive. That low-range in the 4WD models makes learning stick painless – it’s how I learned. Then there’s that massive pickup bed to haul around apartments, bikes, surfboards, etc.

  17. OkieRA29 says:

    I am gonna have to go with the 3rd gen Celica. Even here in the midwest they are still readily available. It comes in coupe, hatchback and for the 90210 crowd… convertible. You can find it in trim levels from granny spec to full on turn burner. The 22RE is a great engine that will withstand pretty much anything your teenager can throw at it. As long as you replace the plastic timing chain guides the motor is good for at least 300K. Mine had almost 310K when I sold it. The 22RE has enough power to make it fun to drive, but not enough to wrap it around a tree at the first corner. The W58 is a stout transmission and will survive the gear-grinding, gut wrenching teaching moments with your young one. It is sporty without being flashy. Cool enough to drive to school, but not ssporty enough to attract the Po-Po.
    When the time comes to teach the little crumb-cruncher how to bust knuckles and spin wrenches, there are plenty of upgrades to be done. Just about any newer engine Toyota makes fits with little modifications. Most newer transmissions fit with just the smallest of modification. Need a new rear axle? Grab one from a Toyota Hilux. Need a V8? stab in a 1UZ, it fits. Want to feel the punch of Boost? JZ that puppy, it fits. Need a beefy R154? bang the transmission tunnel a bit and it was like it was made for it.
    Need to travel in time? lucky for you, everybody will think you can with your ‘delorean’

  18. pstar says:

    Hmm, I started to answer this question, but then I realized that all my picks are stuff that are currently on my “list” for a cheap, reliable, and slightly interesting commuter: Miata, MX3, 4th/5th gen Celicas. A grown ass man in a “teenagers first car”… but you know what, there really isn’t anything wrong with that. The idea that as you get older and more succesful, that you need to “upgrade” (in the conventional sense, not in our JNC enthusiast sense) has always been repellent to me.

    Oh yeah and the kids should get Geo Metros.

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