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Best First Cars For New Drivers 2024

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Best first cars for new drivers 2024

  • The best cars for new drivers
  • We list the best first cars
  • Find the ideal first car for sale

Have you got your first taste of freedom on the road? If you've just passed your driving test you'll want an affordable, safe and cheap to run first car, so here's our rundown of the best cars for new drivers. 

Passing your test and being let loose on the roads is an exciting time, with a real sense of freedom opening up new destinations and adventures. But there are some harsh realities to face when you're young, inexperienced and have a limited budget. 

Buying a brand new car as your first car is a luxury that most new drivers don't have. But if you've saved up or are lucky enough to have help from your parents' you'll be wanting something that isn't too old, with the latest safety equipment and technology. Leasing a nearly-new car might be a great option, too. 

We've selected ten cars that'll be perfect for if you've just passed your test. Our selection is based on a mixture of sensible and fun traits, but most importantly these cars must be cheap to insure and tax, economical and safe. 

That doesn't mean they need to be dull or basic, however. All of our top 10 first cars for new drivers are comfortable, stylish, well-equipped and have enough performance and handling finesse to be enjoyable to drive. If you're looking to save money on a first car, check out the best new and used car deals we've found online.

Best first cars for new drivers

  1. Volkswagen Polo
  2. Volkswagen Up
  3. SEAT Ibiza
  4. Skoda Fabia
  5. Kia Picanto
  6. Ford Fiesta
  7. MINI Hatch
  8. Toyota Aygo X
  9. Peugeot 208
  10. Citroen Ami

1. Volkswagen Polo

Used prices from £8000

VW Polo 2023 review: front driving

The Volkswagen Polo makes a great first car for new drivers. It feels like a small car that’s grown up, so while it's restrained on the outside it feels premium on the inside, with a dashboard that features squidgy plastics and a large infotainment screen that can mirror the display on your smartphone.

It’s impressively roomy inside. You get plenty of space to stretch out up front but the Polo is also impressively roomy in the back. The boot is also large and well designed with an adjustable boot floor that means you don’t have to lift heavy luggage over a nasty lip.

The Polo’s comfortable ride and quiet cabin mean it feels like a big car on the motorway, but its small size and light controls make it easy to get the hang of if you’re a first-time driver. Choose the 95PS petrol engine for a perfect balance between fuel economy and running costs, but the base 75PS engine isn't too underpowered. 

The VW Polo has been around since 2017, so if your budget can't stretch to a new model there's lots of choice of lightly used examples around.

2. Volkswagen Up

Used prices from £6000

Volkswagen Up Review 2023: Rear View

The Volkswagen Up is a small car that feels big, but it's more affordable than the Polo. It’s available with a range of personalisation options that mean you can have it with a striking paint job and an uprated Beats Electronics stereo.

Whatever model you choose, the Up feels more spacious inside than other city cars. There’s noticeably more elbow room than in narrower small cars and the back seat is just big enough for tall adults. Even the boot is relatively large and most models have an adjustable floor that gives you somewhere to hide valuables.

The Up feels right at home in the city where its small size and accurate steering make it perfect for negotiating congestion and squeezing into tight parking spaces. The Up is only available with small petrol engines that are extremely cheap to run, although the 90PS model is worth considering if you do lots of motorway driving and can afford the insurance. 

Having been around for a decade now the VW Up is the most affordable car in this list, with prices starting from under £3,000.

3. SEAT Ibiza

Used prices from £7000

SEAT Ibiza Right Side View

The SEAT Ibiza is mechanically identical to the Volkswagen Polo, but SEAT differentiates its car by giving it a slightly sportier character, evidenced by its sharper styling and (ever so slightly) sportier drive.

It’s not quite as posh inside as the Polo, but the interior feels durable, has a very intuitive layout and the infotainment system can mirror the display of your phone. The SEAT only comes with five doors so your passengers get great access to the back seat and the boot will take a couple of larger suitcases.

The Ibiza’s light controls make it an easy first car to drive and it comes as standard with automatic emergency brakes that should give you added peace of mind. All the engines are great in town, but the 95PS petrol also copes well on the motorway and is cheap to run. 

In terms of buying the SEAT Ibiza is generally cheaper than the VW Polo, with prices starting from £6,500 for a 2017 model. 

4. Skoda Fabia

Used prices from £6000

Skoda Fabia

Ok, it doesn't have the most youthful image. But if you want a small car that does it all, and does it all well, then the Skoda Fabia should be very near the top of your list. The latest version, released in 2021, is more stylish than ever, with sleek looks and an incredibly refined and comfortable driving experience.

It comes with a choice of frugal engines, too, so fuel bills will be minimal, and insurance costs are low, too. Inside it's spacious enough for you and three friends (four for short journeys) and the boot is massive compared to the competition. 

Skoda is famous for adding clever features to its car and the Fabia is no exception, with nifty features like an ice scraper in the fuel flap, an umbrella in the driver's door and a USB socket in the rear-view mirror to power a dashcam. It's a car that just makes driving life less stressful, and it's all the better for it.

This latest-generation Fabia is relatively new, but used versions are available for as low as £13,000.

5. Kia Picanto

Used prices from £6500

Kia Picanto

When it comes to all-rounders, not much can match the Kia Picanto. It might not excel at any one thing, but it's excellent or very good and just about everything, which makes it a doddle to drive and own. Massive warranty? Yep, seven years. Affordable to buy? Impressively so. Good to drive? Yes, comfortable and nippy, and happy in town or on the motorway.

The Picanto also has rock-bottom running costs when it comes to insurance and fuel economy thanks to its choice of small 1.0-litre or 1.25-litre engines. There's a dizzying amount of trim levels to choose from and all are well-specced.

Although the Picanto is small it's got enough room for two passengers in the back and the boot is a decent size at 255 litres.

Used versions are plentiful and start at around £7500.

6. Ford Fiesta

Used prices from £6000

Ford Fiesta Review 2023 Driving

The Ford Fiesta is a small car with fun character and smart looks. It’s roomy, great to drive and available with an excellent range of engines. This is why it's such a good first car.

Inside, you get a smart design dominated by a large touchscreen infotainment system that’s right in your line of sight and easy to use. It comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto so you can use your phone's navigation and music apps on the car’s big screen. For the ultimate practicality, we’d go for a five-door model which gives your passengers better access to the reasonably roomy back seat.

The best bit about the Fiesta is its ability to put a smile on your face on a twisty road. Its steering feels accurate and positive as the car hunkers down into corners and there’s no shortage of grip. Choose one of the petrol EcoBoost models and you’ll get perky performance and cheap running costs, although insurance might limit you to the non-turbo models which do need working to get the best out of them.

This generation of Fiesta has been around for a while now, which means there are some affordable examples around. Check out heycar's classifieds for a dealer-sold used Ford Fiesta with a warranty. 

7. MINI Hatch

Used prices from £8000

MINI Hatch 3-door Review 2023: exterior front three quarter photo of the MINI Hatch 3-door on the road

The latest MINI hatchback injects much of the charm of the original model but in a thoroughly modern package. It's available with a huge range of customisable options so you can give it its own unique personality.

Choose the uprated infotainment system and it even communicates with you using coloured LEDs in the screen bezel, giving the car genuine personality. It also feels nice inside and has a sculpted, sporty design. There’s loads of room up front, but the back seat is tight and, if you opt for the three-door MINI hatch, it’s a squeeze to get into. The boot is also small.

All that will be forgotten when you experience the MINI’s energetic responses and limpet-like grip – it really is great fun on a twisting road and even the basic One model is nippy. Plus, its cheap running costs won’t turn that smile into a frown every time you need to fill up. 

You'll pay a bit of a premium for the desirable MINI over some other cars in this list, but it's been on sale since 2014 meaning as little as £7,000 will get you in one. 

8. Toyota Aygo X

Used prices from £12,000

Toyota Aygo X Review 2023: front static

If your parents know anything about cars they'll no doubt be encouraging you into something known for reliability, like a Toyota. The Aygo has been around for several years and is a very popular and likeable first car, and one of the cheapest cars to run and insure money can buy.

The older models are decent enough, but if you're leasing or lucky enough to have a bigger budget then we'd highly recommend stepping up to the new Toyota Aygo X. It's more desirable thanks to its rugged baby SUV styling, classier interior and added refinement. 

All Toyota Aygos made in the last few years get smartphone integration as standard, but the touchscreen in the Aygo X is more advanced, as is the level of fit and finish on offer. You can also get neat features such as an opening fabric roof to enjoy the summer days, although that does impact on rear seat space which is pretty tight for adults. 

On the road the Toyota Aygo X is a fun and plucky little car. It gets the same 1.0-litre petrol engine with a modest 72PS as the older Aygo, but its eager nature means using all the performance is no hardship. It'll feel a bit underpowered on a motorway, but learning how to maintain momentum and make the most of what little performance you have is an important skill to make you a better driver. 

The Aygo's light weight and agile handling means it's enjoyable to zip about town, while an available CVT automatic gearbox takes the stress out of traffic jams. You'll be doing at least 50mpg, too. Prices for the Aygo X start at just over £15,000, but there are some competitive leasing deals around.

9. Peugeot 208

Used prices from £6000

Peugeot 208 Review 2023 Back View

The Peugeot 208 is the freshest looking car on this list – it's styled like a yawning lion from the front while the slashed tail lights are like claw marks. Even basic models get alloy wheels.

Some serious effort has gone into making the interior look striking and feel upmarket. You get a large digital instrument binnacle that takes the place of conventional analogue dials and a centre screen that can mirror the display of your smartphone. You also get air-conditioning as standard. There’s space inside for four adults, although the rear doors are quite small, and you get a boot that is large for this size of car.

The 208 is very comfortable at low speeds and on the motorway and it’s an easy car to drive in town. Basic cars come with a 75PS petrol engine, but if you can afford the cost and insurance it is worth upgrading to the 99PS model which is still economical but much more relaxing at speed. 

Older Peugeot 208s are more affordable, whereas you'll need £10,000 or more to get in a latest generation model, but leasing deals are your friend here. 

10. Citroen Ami

Used prices from £6000

Citroen Ami Review 2023: dynamic

No, we're not having you on: the Citroen Ami is an excellent first car for city dwellers. Even better than that, you can drive it on a scooter licence from just 16, so you won't need to wait until you've passed your driving test. 

With prices starting from under £9,000 it's also the most affordable new car here, and it's even electric so running costs will be incredibly low (it'll cost you a few quid to charge it up at most). There are of course limitations to consider, and they're quite big. 

For starters, it'll only do 47 miles on a charge. But that's actually plenty because the top speed is just 28 miles an hour. It's classed as a quadricycle, which means it isn't technically-speaking a car and that means it's not subject to any safety tests. What's more it's quite basic; the only equipment you get is a basic heater and a Bluetooth speaker to connect to your phone. 

Still, it's tiny size and light weight makes it fantastic fun around town, and your parents will no doubt approve of it being far safer than a 50CC moped. Unlike a moped it'll keep you dry and (fairly) warm, too, and with monthly payments on lease deals in double digits you won't get a new 'car' for less. 

Best First Car FAQs

Phill Tromans

Written by

Phill Tromans

To get the safest car possible, check the latest Euro NCAP crash test results to see which car was awarded five stars for safety. Even small cars come with plenty of safety features but it’s worth keeping an eye out for automatic emergency braking. It can slow the car automatically if it senses an imminent collision and, as a result, makes cars cheaper to insure.

The obvious answer is a second-hand car. Chances are, it’ll probably already have a few scuffs and scrapes so you won’t feel so precious if you damage the paint. Once you’re a confident driver, you can always trade it in for something nicer a few years down the line. Want a cheap brand new car? The cheapest is the spacious Dacia Sandero which costs just £7000. 

When you’re learning to drive it makes sense to get a small car that you’ll find easier to place on the road and squeeze into parking space. That said, even a tiny car like the Volkswagen Up has enough space to squeeze in four adults, and the larger Polo feels genuinely roomy. 

Most small cars come with a choice of petrol and diesel engines that cost buttons to run, and insurance costs are low. Small cars are much better equipped than they used to be. Most come as standard with air-con and some form of an infotainment system. Many even get autonomous driving aids like active cruise control and lane assist. 

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Volkswagen Polo

1.0 TSI 95 Match 5dr

202152,691 milespetrolmanual
Deposit con. £250
£219mo PCP

Representative example: Contract Length: 36 months, 35 Monthly Payments: £218.50, Customer Deposit: £1,918.00, Total Deposit: £2,168.35, Lender Deposit Contribution: £250.00, Optional Final Payment: £6,242.50, Total Charge For Credit: £3,269.35, Total Amount Payable: £16,058.35, Representative APR: 13.5%, Interest Rate (Fixed): 13.51%, Excess Mileage Charge: 3.98ppm, Mileage Per Annum: 10,000