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Best First Cars for New Drivers

June 30, 2016

Picking a first car is never easy, especially as it can often be a compromise between what you want and what your parents want (especially if they’re subbing some of the money). Everyone’s heard the horror stories of cheap bangers that break down every 500 yards, or that kid with rich parents who got him a £20,000 beast with a 6-litre V8 for his birthday – only for him to have rolled it into a ditch a week later.

No-one wants to invest in a car that’ll just cut out within its first year, but a high-end model often comes with equally high road tax rates (and even higher insurance premiums). For this reason, buying reliable but cheap first cars is the best way to save yourself some money while keeping one eye on safety and longevity.
Good first cars aren’t hard to find if you know where to look. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of perfect first time cars – focusing on the models that are cheap to run, easy to drive, practical and safe. They may not be Ferraris, but they’re all great first cars for easing you onto the road.

Citroën C1/Peugeot 107

First released in 2005, the C1 and 107 were designed by PSA Peugeot Citroën in conjunction with Toyota, meaning that Citroën C1, Peugeot 107 and Toyota Aygo are all essentially the same car, with minor differences. The C1 and 107 are slightly cheaper than the Aygo, making them the obvious choice for new drivers on a budget. Their 1.0-litre engines are cheap to run and easy for less experienced drivers to handle. As well as featuring in a low road tax band, these models also tend to be pretty cheap to insure – an ideal first car!

Prices start from £8,145.

● Read our full Citroen C1 review

Fiat 500

The 500 comes with a wide variety of engine options, most of which are between 1.2 and 1.4 litres. But the real star of the bunch is the 0.9-litre TwinAir, which is so efficient that Fiat claim it’s the world’s greenest petrol engine − an ideal choice for environmentally (and financially) conscious drivers. The Fiat 500 comes with seven airbags and has the EuroNCAP’s top five-star rating for safety, making it a great choice for parents buying a first car for their children. With 14 colours to choose from, and the option to add stickers and key covers to your bundle, there’s no doubt the Fiat 500 is the best first car to buy for a style-conscious teen.

Prices start from £11,050.

Ford Fiesta

The Ford Fiesta is not only the UK’s favourite car but also Britain’s first choice when it comes to the best cars for first time drivers. Coming in at just over £10,000, the Studio is a great entry-level model. Fantastic handling and performance make the Fiesta a treat to drive and, thanks to its high-tech features, it’s a safe choice, too. Enjoy the best of both worlds with the clever MyKey system. This feature can give new drivers all the independence they’re looking for, while also keeping them safe – with the ability for parents to restrict the maximum speed and stereo volume. You’ll have even more peace of mind when you consider that the Fiesta boasts seven airbags, ESP and an optional autobrake system!

Prices start from £10,345.

● Read our full Ford Fiesta review

Smart ForTwo

Super stylish, highly economical and incredibly easy to park thanks to its small size, the Smart ForTwo is the perfect first car for city dwellers. You have the option of petrol, turbodiesel and all-electric models, all of which offer good mileage and low emissions. One bonus with the Smart ForTwo is that you’ll be able to avoid becoming the designated taxi driver among your mates, as it only fits one passenger.

Prices start from £11,125.

Ford Ka

One of the UK’s best-selling cars, the Ka has a lot to sway first time drivers. Now into its second generation, the Ka is one of the better looking starter cars around, and also one of the most comfortable. The optional rear parking distance sensors make reverse and parallel parking as easy as 1-2-3 – even in the tightest of spaces! The Ka’s innovative technology means you can even avoid the embarrassment and engine damage that comes with stalling – as the Ka is able to keep still without the handbrake, so even hill starts won’t be daunting. The presence of a rear anti-roll bar, highly absorbent springs and well-tuned dampers adds up to surprisingly good driver comfort for such a cheap little car.
Oh, and apparently the correct pronunciation is with a short ‘a’ sound – like ‘cat’, but minus the ‘t’ (just in case you were wondering…).

Prices start from £8,995.

● Read our full Ford Ka review

Renault Clio

The Renault Clio has existed in various incarnations since 1990. Now in its fourth generation, it’s not hard to see why the Clio has been a firm favourite with first-time drivers for nearly a quarter of a century. Bigger than many other cars on this list, the Clio is highly practical, with plenty of room for you and your friends. It’s towards the higher end of most first-car budgets, but you get what you pay for: the Clio comes with higher end features, such as electric front windows and door mirrors, Bluetooth compatibility, a USB port and keyless entry and ignition. There’s also the option to upgrade to a touchscreen infotainment system, which is well worth a look.

Prices start from £11,145.

Hyundai i10

Hyundai have managed to pack a lot into the i10’s little frame. Its small size and lightness make it an easy car to control – and it’s cheap to run, thanks to great fuel efficiency and low costs. The i10 is also top of the class when it comes to reliability – something Hyundai is so confident in that they offer five years of unlimited-mileage warranty, annual ‘healthy checks’ and RAC cover at no extra charge. Hyundai’s first-class aftersales service leaves you safe in the knowledge that there’s no need to call on Mum and Dad if you find that you’ve run out of gas – an easy mistake to make for the newly qualified! The small frame of this city car makes it an ideal runaround for the town, while retaining all the comfort and quality of a higher-end motor – and there’s no doubt it’s one of the best cars for first time buyers.

Prices start from £7,995.

Renault Twizy

A bit of a left-field choice, the Twizy is an all-electric, one-seater ‘car’ that is technically classed as a ‘heavy quadricycle’. They’re cute, fun and very, very cheap to run – only costing around £2 per 100 miles. On the downside, their range is limited to just 30-60 miles depending on conditions and driving style – but if you’re a city dweller looking for something economical, eco-friendly and endearing, the Twizy is fantastic. Renault is also looking to introduce a speed-limited version that would be available for anyone over the age of 16 to drive without the need for a driving licence.

Prices start from £6,895.

MINI Cooper

A more expensive option, with prices for the 3-door hatch starting at around £14k, the MINI Cooper is the best first car for drivers with a bigger budget. The hefty price tag is well worth the investment if you’re looking for a car that’s fun enough for young drivers but with the maturity of a more experienced road user. Save on upgrading in the near future by investing in a MINI now – this reliable engine will serve you all the way through your 20s. The Cooper’s 1.5-litre engine raises the performance stakes, too. Handling hills in first-gear because your car is packed with passengers will be a thing of the past once you buy this British beauty! Low running costs, including insurance and road tax, make this fun, fuel-saving motor an ideal choice for drivers looking ahead.

Prices start from £14,075.

Getting the money together for a decent first car can be challenging, and the wide variety of finance options available might be hard to wrap your head around. Let the car finance experts at The Car Loan Warehouse help you find the money you need for the car you deserve at a rate you can afford. It’s car finance without the hassle.
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About The Author

Jon Le Roux is co-founder and company director of The Car Loan Warehouse. Being a mad engineering and motorsport enthusiast, I spend more hours than is healthy, watching, reading or talking about cars, boats, motorbikes…..basically anything with an engine.