Top 10 Best Cars for Students in 2020

8 minutes Published: 11/06/2020
Emily Hanson

Ahh, student life. We remember it well: 20% off discounts, sleeping in until 2 pm, throwing up on a bi-weekly basis from excessive Blue WKD consumption.

And of course, constant reliance on terrible public transport. Whether it’s a bus to uni sitting next to a complete maniac (there’s always at least one on every bus) or an unreliable train ride to your parents, public transport can be a nightmare. 

So, if your bank account is looking reasonably healthy and you’re not living on beans and toast, why not consider leasing a small car? 

Imagine having complete freedom to go wherever you please, whenever you please. No more arriving late to lectures or waiting around at a dodgy bus stop. It can all be yours for less than £150 a month!

1. Fiat 500 Hatchback

RRP: £10,835 - £18,900
  • Doors: 3
  • Engine: 1.4
  • Fuel: P, D
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 149g/km

Pros

  • Really stylish looking little car.

  • Inexpensive to buy and run.

Cons

  • Will be too cramped for many.

  • Equipment on the base trim is lacklustre.

The average Fiat 500 driver might face a slight stereotype - girl/boy in their young twenties, rushing home from work/uni to watch the latest episode of Love Island and drain a bottle of Prosecco. 

If this sounds like you, more power to you. If not, the Fiat 500 is still worth considering. As one of the cheapest cars on this list, the Fiat 500 is also one of the smallest.

This isn’t a bad thing though. It’s dirt cheap to run, with really low insurance groups, and very easy to drive. Due to its small size, parking is a breeze. If you don’t need a lot of space and want something that’s dead easy to navigate around town, check out the Fiat 500. 

2. Seat Ibiza

RRP: £12,915 - £22,300
  • Doors: 3 - 5
  • Engine: 2.0
  • Fuel: P, D
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 193g/km

Pros

  • Only beaten on space by the Honda Jazz.

  • Technology on all trims is good.

Cons

  • Not as fun to drive as a Ford Fiesta.

  • Some of the interior plastics feel a bit cheap.

Easily SEAT’s best-known car, the Ibiza is still as relevant in the UK small car market as it’s always been. SEAT has really upped the game the last few years and has been challenging top rivals, like the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo. 

Always popular with young drivers, the SEAT Ibiza is perfect for the student who needs a little bit more space - they might regularly carry passengers to sports training, or regularly go home to their parents with a full boot of clothes washing to do. 

Where the SEAT truly shines though, is in its tech and interior design. The car looks stunning and looks way more expensive than it is. The Ibiza is great value for money, with even the entry-level trim offering plenty of tech to keep you and your friends happy. 

3. Skoda Fabia Hatchback

RRP: £10,300 - £18,905 | From £178.87 per month to lease
  • Doors: 5
  • Engine: 2.0
  • Fuel: P, D
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 88 - 187g/km

Pros

  • Really cheap to lease.

  • Smooth and refined drive. Cruise control is great.

Cons

  • Not as ‘cool’ as competitors like the Seat Ibiza.

  • Could be more exciting to drive.

The latest Skoda Fabia doesn’t look too different from previous years. With just a minor facelift, there are no huge design changes.

We can’t blame Skoda for this - when you’ve created an award-winning car, there’s going to be no urgency to overhaul it. The design is refreshingly unpretentious. The Fabia is great value for money and features some brilliant design choices - the interior cabin and dashboard looks more like what you’d expect from a Volkswagen than a Skoda. 

4. Hyundai I10

RRP: £9,195 - £16,965
  • Doors: 5
  • Engine: 1.2
  • Fuel: P
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 141g/km

Pros

  • Good fuel economy makes for low running costs.

  • Really affordable car - overall, the i10 makes for some cheap motoring!

Cons

  • Dull compared to slightly more expensive rivals.

  • Entry-level 1.0-litre engine lacking in power - will be fine for new drivers but the lack of power is noticeable on the motorway.

The pint-sized Hyundai i10 offers some unbelievable value for money. It comes with a 5-year warranty, so if you decide to lease the i10, you’ll never need to worry about the car failing (or taking it for an MOT if you lease for 3 years or less).

The i10 has everything you need. It’s easy to drive, cheap to run, and has decent enough tech. Of course, when you’re paying this little, you’re not going to be sitting in luxury. That being said, the i10 is surprisingly well built. The interior is solid, while not being particularly exciting. 

Design-wise, the car makes sense - it’s far from ugly, and you won’t be embarrassed driving around in it. Cheap and cheerful, the i10 is perfect for a student!

5. Kia Picanto

RRP: £9,255 - £15,150
  • Doors: 3 - 5
  • Engine: 1.2
  • Fuel: P
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 95 - 143g/km

Pros

  • Sporty styling works well - the Picanto is a great looking car.

  • Really spacious for a city car.

Cons

  • Lacking a bit of power.

  • Few engines have poor emissions results, meaning higher road tax (unless you lease, and then you don’t pay it…).

The Picanto used to be a proper granny car. Grim looking in every way, oozing practical and sensible city driving but lacking… everything else. 

These days, the Picanto actually looks good. For a small car, the space is impressive - drivers of 6ft and taller will find it comfortable to drive. For a city car, the rear space is excellent too. Kia has done away with the three-door model, so all Picantos come with a practical 5 door model.

Once a manufacturer that was perpetually behind the times tech-wise, Kia has made an effort in recent years to get back on track, so you’ll likely be happy with the tech offerings in the Picanto. Combine this with dirt-cheap running costs and you can’t go wrong picking the Kia Picanto as your student car of choice. 

6. Vauxhall Corsa Hatchback

RRP: £8,940 - £26,425 | From £143.22 per month to lease
  • Doors: 2 - 5
  • Engine: 1.8
  • Fuel: P, D
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 203g/km

Pros

  • Generous amount of equipment on standard trims.

  • Lots of engine choice.

Cons

  • Interior build quality isn’t the best.

  • A bit shaky at high speeds.

The Corsa has to account for a huge percentage of people’s first cars. Everyone has a mate with a Corsa that drives it like it’s a Ferrari.

Always associated with youthfulness and fun, the Corsa is a great car for a student. It’s not just a fun choice, but a sensible one, too. The latest Corsa is packed with state of the art safety tech, so your Mum can worry a little bit less. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included, so no more looking for the AUX cable to play some tunes.

For a start, the Corsa is pretty cheap - significantly less than the likes of the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Golf. While it doesn’t drive quite as well as these competitors, it comes really close, and for the price, you really can’t complain.

7. Suzuki Swift

RRP: £10,824 - £21,350
  • Doors: 3 - 5
  • Engine: 1.6
  • Fuel: P, D, H
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 176g/km

Pros

  • Spacious cabin and a decent boot.

  • Fun to drive.

Cons

  • Steering could be a bit more responsive.

  • Plastics on the dash feel quite cheap.

The Swift is another reformed ‘granny car’. While the latest iteration is still the furthest thing from ‘Swift’, it’s actually a nice little car.

With a great MPG and falling into the low car insurance groups, it’s still a sensible option. The Swift’s body (a little bit like a chunky Fabia) means that there’s plenty of space on the inside. Seating 5 adults comfortably, the Swift is a lot bigger than it appears.

The Swift body features an angular, sporty design, and it stands out from the (often drab) crowd.

Middle of the road in terms of price, the Swift is a great option for students who want something that’s verging on premium, but not willing to pay the big bucks.

8. Toyota Aygo Hatchback

RRP: £9,515 - £14,930
  • Doors: 3 - 5
  • Engine: 1.4
  • Fuel: P, D
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 93 - 109g/km

Pros

  • Incredible fuel economy.

  • Fairly nippy around town.

Cons

  • The cabin is tiny and noisy.

  • Tech offerings on the base trim way behind rivals.

Toyota’s smallest and cheapest car, the Aygo is a brilliant city car. For 9 grand, you know you’re not going to be getting outrageous performance or ground-breaking tech, so get that notion out of your head! For a cheap car though, the Aygo is exceptional.

So, what makes the Aygo a good student car? Fuel economy and reliability.

The Aygo’s excellent MPG makes it the most fuel-efficient car on this list by a considerable margin. Let’s be real, you’re a student - the cost of a full tank of fuel would feed you for six months so you can’t go spending a fortune at the petrol pumps.

Toyota cars have a reputation of indestructibility, and the Aygo is no different. This tiny car is built like a tank and is ultra-reliable, so you won’t have to worry about regular repair costs.

9. Nissan Micra

RRP: £11,800 - £22,565
  • Doors: 3 - 5
  • Engine: 1.6
  • Fuel: P, D
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 163g/km

Pros

  • Sporty styling and performance.

  • Interior cabin is simple but efficient.

Cons

  • Engine options are lacking power.

  • Rear space is poor.

The old Micra was a grim affair all round. With Mr Bean looks and with the power of a hairdryer, it was definitely a car exclusively for those over 60.

10 years ago, you’d be mortified driving your Mum’s Micra into the uni car park. If you drive the latest model in, you’ll walk in with a swagger and a smug smile.

You’d be forgiven for thinking the latest Micra is a whole new car - it’s really that different.

With sporty angles, and with much more space in general, the new Micra is a brilliant looking car. It’s also much more exciting to drive than the previous versions. The Micra’s sporty handling tackles corners with ease, giving you a little buzz on those country roads.

10. Honda Jazz

RRP: £13,900 - £22,435
  • Doors: 5
  • Engine: 1.5
  • Fuel: P, H
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 82 - 139g/km

Pros

  • Still incredibly spacious.

  • Really simple to drive and park.

Cons

  • More expensive than it used to be.

  • Engines are a bit loud.

The older Honda Jazz model is another car that a young driver would have been embarrassed to be seen in. That’s not to say it’s ever been a bad car, but it has most definitely been an ugly one.

The Honda Jazz has always been like a gateway to Narnia, with an incredible amount of space in supermini hatchback form.

In recent years, Honda has capitalised on what made the last Jazz so good - built like a tank, good fuel economy, great safety ratings. All in all, the Jazz remains a sensible purchase.

Thankfully though, they have also improved the design. The exterior now has sporty curves and is genuinely a smart-looking car. Honda’s also reworked the interior, with a great infotainment system and all of the tech you’d ever need.

Summary

Students! Don’t settle for rubbish public transport or 4-hour train rides back home to your parents (usually a 1-hour train ride, with a 3-hour delay because there’s a stray leaf on the tracks).

You might think that a new car is out of your budget, but you will be surprised what might be within your reach.

If you opt for a lease deal, you’ll pay one monthly price, and that includes road tax. Also, if you take out a lease that’s 3 years or less, you won’t need to worry about taking the car for an MOT. Much less stress than financing a dodgy used car!

For city driving, check out our best city cars and our full list of city car lease deals. For an idea of affordable cars that are perfect for new or inexperienced drivers, take a look at our best first cars, and best cars for 17 year olds lists! And on a student budget, you'll be happy to know we've organised our lease deals under £100 and lease deals between £100 and £200 to filter out those pesky pricier models!