Top 10 Best First Cars for New & Young Drivers

9 minutes Published: 06/06/2020
Rowan Harris

So, you’ve just passed your driving test. Congratulations! All that studying for your theory test and those endless hours of lessons after work or school/uni have finally paid off.

If you’re looking for your first car, chances are you're amongst the nation’s young drivers looking for something in the lowest insurance group, with little or no road tax (you’re in luck, road tax is included when leasing!), and low running costs. Certainly not an SUV then!

Instead, you’ll want something with a small engine. Think city cars, super-minis and hatchbacks. These can all be great cars for new drivers, but don’t expect them to have all the latest features. These are generally fairly stripped back, and a lot of the cheaper models won’t even have air conditioning.

Passed your test as soon as legally possible? Have a look at our best cars for 17 year olds. On a tight budget? Check out the best cheap cars around. If you just need something small and easy to drive, you should consider taking out a lease on one of our best small cars

1. Skoda Citigo Hatchback

RRP: £8,440 - £11,705
  • Doors: 3 - 5
  • Engine: 1.0
  • Fuel: P
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 95 - 105g/km

Pros

  • Great fuel economy.

  • Some of the lowest insurance costs.

Cons

  • Nothing fancy inside.

  • Lacking punch. 

Skoda Citigo is an incredible first car. You wouldn’t be mistaken for thinking this car looks VERY familiar. That’s because when it launched in 2011, it also launched alongside the almost identical and equally popular Volkswagen Up! and Seat Mii. 

The crucial difference? As you’d expect with a Skoda, it’s a fair bit cheaper, but far from inferior. It’s small, practical, and costs next to nothing to buy, lease or run. Most of the models fit into insurance group 1 or 2, so insurance is as cheap as you’re going to get. The MPG is excellent, so you won’t be eating super noodles for dinner the week before payday. 

Don’t expect to be blown away by the interior. Though it feels sturdy enough, you get a pretty run of the mill dashboard with none of the fancy touch screen infotainment systems or satellite navigation, but you probably have a top of the range smartphone that can do all of that anyway, right?

Our Rating:

2. Volkswagen Polo

RRP: £13,660 - £24,280
  • Doors: 3 - 5
  • Engine: 2.0
  • Fuel: P, D
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 206g/km

Pros

  • Boot space.

  • Plenty of room for passengers in the rear.

Cons

  • More exciting cars to drive.

  • One of the most expensive options on this list. 

The Volkswagen Polo consistently features in the top 10 most frequently bought cars in the UK year after year. It’s also Volkswagen’s second most popular car, second only to the VW Golf, but the Golf is also the more expensive option, so less suited to a first car. 

The Polo may be a bit more expensive than some of its rivals, but it’s a great choice for those looking for a little more practicality. There’s a decent sized lite boot and lots of head room for passengers in the back, so if you’re going to be moving to uni soon and need something that can get you and your mates to the supermarket each week, the VW Polo is a great choice.

All models also include an 8-inch touchscreen as standard, while SE trims and above pack Android Auto and Apple Carplay, making this a great choice for the gadget obsessed. Unfortunately it’s not the cheapest for insurance compared to a city car, but it’s by no means expensive.

Our Rating:

3. Ford Fiesta

RRP: £12,520 - £26,230 | From £120.73 per month to lease
  • Doors: 3 - 5
  • Engine: 2.0
  • Fuel: P, D
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 179g/km

Pros

  • Great optional extras.

  • Fun to drive.

Cons

  • You won’t stand out from the crowd.

  • Well-specced models are pricey. 

The Ford Fiesta is always one of the most (if not the most) popular cars in the UK. So, what is it that makes it such a popular choice?

For starters, it’s cheap. But it’s also not as boring to drive as a Citigo. The new Fiesta is sporty and fun and it’s not a car that your nan would drive. Take a look at the interior and you’ll find an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with smartphone mirroring as standard. If you really want to show off to your mates (and annoy your neighbours), you can upgrade to the Bang & Olufsen stereo sound system for some extra wobbly wub wubs.

Hopefully your mates are also pretty small, because this car doesn’t have the largest rear footwells and can be a little restrictive above, but if you’re only doing short trips that shouldn’t be too much of an issue.

Our Rating:

4. 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

  • Built to last.

  • Cheap as chips to run.

Cons

  • Not great for passengers in the back. 

  • The petrol engine options are dull. 

If you’re after a more stylish city car, the somewhat space-age Kia Picanto might be the one for you. It’s got a surprisingly large boot, which makes it one of the more practical city cars on the market, though rear passengers in the back might find themselves digging their knees into the seats in front as a result. 

The Picanto should hold its value quite well, which means it will also be cheaper to lease. It’s also cheap to run, with a solid fuel economy and low insurance groups. 

It’s got an absolutely massive 7 year, 100,000 mile manufacturer’s warranty as standard. It’s not every day that you see a warranty like that, and it says a lot about Kia’s cars in general. They wouldn’t be offering such a large warranty if they knew their cars weren’t built to last.

Our Rating:

5. 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

  • Holds onto its value (that means cheaper lease deals!).

  • Nippy in town.

Cons

  • Tiny inside. 

  • Boot space is non-existent. 

This car is probably as retro as you can get without actually buying a classic car. It’s got a rich history; the most recent incarnation still takes many of its design cues from the 1957 car of the same name, which means it also has a pretty vibrant cinematic history. If you still can’t quite put your finger on where you’ve seen this cutesy car before, let’s just say it had something to do with Michael Caine carrying out a certain job in a certain country. 

So, it’s not hard to see why the Fiat 500 and the Mini, which played the starring role in the film, have managed to retain their popularity to this day. You’d struggle to meet someone who doesn’t remember Charlie Croker’s famous line. Anyway, we digress…

The entry-level Fiat 500 is one of the cheaper small cars on the market, and thanks to its enduring fame, there’s always a demand for resale. As such, it holds on to its value pretty well. That’s great if you’re buying of course, but also a fantastic reason to lease, as it means the leasing costs will be much lower! Unfortunately, there are more practical cars on the market, but it’s very stylish nonetheless.

Our Rating:

6. 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

  • Lots of space.

  • Lots of fun.

Cons

  • Cheap feeling interior.

  • If you want the best possible fuel economy, look elsewhere.

When you hear the word Ibiza, you probably think of the sun-drenched Spanish party island with its vibrant nightlife and hordes of drunken revelers. The Seat Ibiza is just as fun, only you don’t have to be drunk to enjoy yourself… in fact, we’d strongly advise against it. 

That’s not to say you wouldn’t make a great designated driver on a night out. There’s plenty of room in the rear footwells and you should be able to fit three in the back fairly comfortably so the party can carry on. Where the Seat Ibiza really comes into its own is handling. It makes easy work of tight manoeuvres through town and is responsive at higher speeds. There’s also very little body lean, so you’ll feel much more in control on tight corners.

It stands up pretty well against its main rivals and the standard trim comes with a feature-packed 6.5-inch infotainment system and automatic emergency braking system (AEB).

Our Rating:

7. 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

  • Stylish, with lots of customisation options available.

  • 5 year warranty as standard.

Cons

  • Not much room for rear passengers.

  • Interior feels a bit cheap. 

With sharp styling and plenty of paint and personalisation options available, the Toyota Aygo is definitely a city car for the style-conscious. 

What’s more, Toyota produces some of the most reliable cars on the market, so you shouldn’t have to worry about running into any issues in the short-term. If you needed any extra reassurance, the car comes with an above average 100,000 miles, five-year warranty. This makes it one of the best cars to lease, as you won’t need to pay extra for an extended warranty!

Unfortunately, it’s quite cosy in the back seats with very little leg or head room. Don’t be mistaken, Toyota hasn't included a big boot to make up for this. You can’t carry that much in the back, as the boot space is small even by city car standards. 

Our Rating:

8. Volkswagen UP

RRP: £8,940 - £16,310
  • Doors: 3 - 5
  • Engine: 1.0
  • Fuel: P
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 95 - 110g/km

Pros

  • Great safety features with 5* Euro NCAP rating.

  • Lots of options for customisation.

Cons

  • A bit more expensive than the Skoda Citigo.

  • Pretty grim in the backseats.

If you’re one for customising your car, the VW Up! is one of the best first cars around. There’s a range of seat fabrics to choose from, including faux leather, a choice of five different dashboard colours and the option to add alloy wheels up to 16 inches in diameter. 

There’s 8 different upgrade packs in total. You can also opt for everything from a height adjustable boot floor for easier storage, sportier suspension to a Beats audio pack, which adds a 300W seven-speaker sound system with a subwoofer for booming bass. Don’t get too excited though, there’s hardly room for a party in the back, with only two seats and fairly restricted leg room. 

Just like the Citigo, you get a car rated 5 stars for Euro NCAP, which is pretty impressive for a city car. 

Our Rating:

9. Hyundai I10

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

Pros

  • Bags of boot space.

  • Plenty of space for rear seat passengers.

Cons

  • Entry level trim is very basic.

  • Uninspired exterior design. 

It has a spacious interior, with plenty of room in the back.  The Hyundai i10’s boot is one of the largest for a car of its size, and the five-door body makes for plenty of space for a couple of taller people sitting in the back of the car.

Reliability is also one of this car’s strong points. Hyundai cars are frequently cited as being amongst the most reliable; the fact that the car comes with an unlimited mileage five-year warranty suggests that Hyundai is pretty confident that their little car can handle anything you could throw at it. 

The i10 is one of the quietest cars, shutting out wind and road noise with ease. It soaks up the shock from even the largest of potholes so is fairly comfortable on the motorway. It's also one of the cheapest cars to insure. Depending on which model you opt for, you could end up with an insurance group 1 car. 

Our Rating:

10. 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

  • Slick new look.

  • One of the most comfortable and adjustable small cars for taller drivers.

Cons

  • One of the more expensive options.

  • Running costs aren’t as good as competitors.

The new Nissan Micra is a big improvement from the old model, which was frankly, quite ugly and old fashioned. And it’s not just the exterior that looks nice. Step inside and you’ll find a nice blend of soft-touch materials and robust dashboard buttons which make it feel a little bit more upmarket than its competitors

It’s got lots of room in the front, with a height adjustable driving seat as well and a steering wheel that adjusts for both reach and height, so even the tallest of drivers should have no issue getting comfortable in this car. 

The Micra also has a pretty decent litre boot, and the rear seats should squeeze in all but the tallest of passengers relatively easily, so this could even make a fairly respectable family car if you’re an older first time driver. 

Our Rating:

Summary

Face it, you’re probably not in a position to be driving an Audi for your first car. With that being said, you can still be in a new car if you opt for leasing, which lets you drive one of the best first cars around for a low fee each month.

All of the cars featured on our list are fairly cheap to run, cheap to lease, and have plenty of features to make you feel you’re in a more expensive car. 

You’re a first-time driver - worried about insurance costs? Check out our best cars for 17 year olds. If you’re on a tight budget, consider one of our best cheap cars, or have a look at our best small cars. To make your first car search easier, you can check all of our small car lease deals, city car lease deals, lease deals under £100, and lease deals between £100 and £200.