- First cars for young drivers don't have to be small and uncool
- Choose from city cars, superminis and even a crossover
- Read through our list of the best first cars
Buying your first car can be a daunting task, particularly with such a wide variety of choice on used car forecourts. If you’re a young driver looking to buy your first car, or if you’re buying your children their first run-around, we’ve chosen our favourites in a range of budgets and needs, from city cars and hatchbacks to larger, more practical cars.
Which first car should you buy?
Our Cars for Sale section will have the latest deals on new and used cars for young drivers. And when you come to sell your current car, make sure you get a free car valuation with us to ensure you get the right price. Don't forget to visit our finance section for a quote too - we work with more than 20 lenders to give our customers access to more than 100 different lending options.
We've chosen a range of cars for young drivers that will suit any budget, including a few used cars as well as new ones. Plus, there are lease prices too. Scroll down to read about all of our best cars for new drivers, or click on the quick links below to jump to your favourites:
1. MINI Hatch
2. Volkswagen Polo
3. Honda Jazz
4. Skoda Citigo
5. Kia Picanto
6. Fiat 500
7. Vauxhall Adam
8. Smart Fortwo
9. Hyundai i10
10. Ford Fiesta
11. Toyota Aygo
12. Renault Twingo
13. Dacia Sandero
15. Citroen C1
16. Suzuki Alto
17. Peugeot 108
Despite its chunky size, the second-generation MINI Hatch (2006-2013) isn’t especially space-efficient with back seats best reserved for kids and a boot smaller than a handbag. Its appeal isn’t in its space efficiency, though – it lies in its ability to put a smile on your face when you drive it. Plus its premium image is hard to ignore. We’ve gone for the entry-level 1.6-litre First with a back-to basics approach to MINI driving - ideal for young drivers. There’s not much in the way of standard kit, evidenced by the 15-inch steel wheels, but its simplicity is a first-car virtue. MINI promises 56mpg.
Pick of the range: 1.6-litre First 3dr
Insurance group: 8-19
Used price: £1,415 - £10,140
Fuel economy: 43 - 74 mpg
Suitably upmarket, the VW Polo has long been favoured by young drivers who want to cut a sophisticated dash. Nevertheless the Polo represents great value on the used market as few others in the class can equal its spaciousness and high-quality build. For new drivers taking to the motorway, the stability of the Polo should inspire confidence. With a 59bhp 1.2-litre engine it’s not going to win any traffic light grands prix but it helps keep costs down, with claimed economy of 51mpg. BlueMotion models maximise economy, but are tricky to find. We’d choose the mid-range Match specification for a blend of useful equipment like air-con, Bluetooth connectivity and remote central locking.
Pick of the range: 1.2-litre Match 5dr
Insurance group: 3-23
Used price: £2,270 - £15,460
Fuel economy: 47 - 83 mpg
Magic seats in the rear give you plenty of practical space when the back row isn’t needed; the Honda Jazz is a clever little car, with masses of space thanks to its MPV-like profile. While it’s very comfortable and decently equipped, the interior plastics feel on the cheap side. Economical at 52mpg, but insurance for young drivers is a pricey group 13.
Pick of the range: 1.2-litre i-Vtec 5dr
Insurance group: 13
Used price: £1,705 - £11,745
Fuel economy: 55 - 61 mpg
It might not be the sharpest-looking city car on sale but the Skoda Citigo’s squared-off stance liberates plenty of space inside for four passengers, with a useful 251-litre boot to swallow shopping. More plentiful on the used car scene than its SEAT Mii sister car and notably less expensive than its Volkswagen Up sibling, all Citigos are powered by three-cylinder, 1-litre petrol engines in 59bhp and 74bhp outputs. Stick mainly to cities and the less powerful one will prove adequate, although its 14-second 0-60mph time feels lethargic on the open road. Emissions dip under 100g/km if you stick to GreenTech models. >Go for a mid-range five-door SE for practicality and additional equipment such as remote control central locking and air-con. Look out for models with the removable touchscreen sat-nav and infotainment pack; you can retrospectively fit one for about £300.
Low running costs, a body shape perfectly suited to city driving and an interior that is built to last help make the Kia Picanto an ideal car for young drivers. Its controls are light making it exceptionally easy to drive, while its low running costs mean you’ll have more cash in your pocket to spend on things you like. Stick to the 1-litre versions for the best economy – Kia claims the Picanto EcoDynamics will achieve 68mpg with CO2 emissions of 95g/km. Don’t expect the handling characteristics to put a smile on your face though, and performance isn’t dazzling either, with a 0-60mph sprint in 13.9 seconds. Three-door versions are best avoided to maximise practicality. Boot space is a bit mean at just 200 litres, though. We’d opt for a mid-range ‘2’ specification to gain air-conditioning, remote central locking and Bluetooth connectivity to stream music and make calls on the move safely.
Pick of the range: 1-litre EoDynamics '2' 5dr
Insurance group: 2-12
Used price: £1,945 - £10,145
Fuel economy: 50 - 68 mpg
Despite its 1950s-inspired retro looks, the Fiat 500’s allure remains strong, even eight years after the modern iteration’s introduction. It’s decent enough to drive, although front-seat occupants fare better than the pair in the cramped back and the 185-litre boot’s smaller than most rivals’, too. But that matters little to those beguiled by the 500’s charm and customisation packs. Keep things simple with the 1.2-litre petrol offering 55mpg and 119g/km of CO2 emissions, teamed up with Lounge specification.
Pick of the range: 1.2-litre Lounge 3dr
Insurance group: 5-15
New price: £12,010 - £15,160
Lease this car from new: From £123 per month
Used price: £1,380 - £12,150
Fuel economy: 44 - 83 mpg
Finding a used Vauxhall Adam won’t be diffcult, the tricky part is finding one you actually like. The Adam comes with more personalisation options than any other car on sale – Vauxhall claims no two identical examples have yet been ordered. Once you’ve run the gauntlet of choosing one in a colour scheme and interior you can live with you’ll have a distinctive and exclusive city car. The downside? They’re not great fun to drive and the back seat’s rather cramped. Pick the Glam trim for more generous equipment but the 1.2-litre petrol’s not the cheapest to run.
Pick of the range: 1.2-litre Glam 3dr
Insurance group: 3
New price: £15,700 - £15,700
Lease this car from new: From £266 per month
Used price: £3,395 - £12,170
Typical used monthly cost: £84 - £300
Fuel economy: 47 - 60 mpg
Never has a car been so perfectly designed for city-centric driving than the diminutive Smart ForTwo. A pair of seats sit ahead of a tiny boot with the engine sitting below where your shopping goes. That’s only part of the story, the rest is about the Smart’s ability to whizz about between buses, pinching tiny parking spaces and being generally inexpensive to run. We’d go for the mid-range Pulse specification fitted with the 1-litre powerplant, providing a claimed 65mpg and CO2 emissions of 97g/km. On a longer run out of town it’s less enjoyable with a bouncy ride and lifeless steering. Urban confines make it shine.
Pick of the range: 1-litre Pulse MHD 2dr
Insurance group: 3
Lease this car from new: From £153 per month
Used price: £4,135 - £14,420
Typical used monthly cost: £102 - £356
Fuel economy: 62 - 68 mpg
After the success of the previous i10 in the UK, Hyundai decided to upgrade the look and feel of this new model in order to make it something people desired. It comes with a five-year, unlimited mileage warranty and four-star Euro NCAP rating, thanks to electronic stability control, tyre pressure monitoring and six airbags. Claimed fuel efficiency ranges from 45mpg to 70mpg.
Pick of the range: 1.0 SE 5d
Insurance group: 1-7
New price: £9,895 - £14,425
Lease this car from new: From £130 per month
Used price: £2,910 - £11,990
Typical used monthly cost: £72 - £296
Fuel economy: 45 - 70 mpg
With a range of good engines, exciting handling and the practicalities of a much larger car, it’s easy to see why the Ford Fiesta is the best-selling car in the UK. The Fiesta was awarded a top five-star rating by Euro NCAP and received particular praise for its programmable ‘MyKey’ system, which allows parents to set maximum speed and stereo volume limits for their children. There is a broad spectrum of engines ranging from economical to fast.
Pick of the range: 1.0 EcoBoost (125bhp) Zetec S 3d
Insurance group: 3-31
Used price: £1,545 - £14,215
Fuel economy: 43 - 88 mpg
Much like the Skoda Citigo, the Aygo shares its platform with two other small and economical city cars, the Peugeot 108 and Citroen C1. We’ve picked out the Aygo because of its distinguished looks and personalisation options. Euro NCAP gave the Aygo four stars, and as Toyota was also responsible for engineering the car, we would expect reliability to be a strong point, especially with a standard five-year warranty.
Pick of the range: 1.0 VVT-i X-Pression 3d
Insurance group: 5-8
New price: £9,695 - £14,680
Lease this car from new: From £124 per month
Used price: £3,150 - £11,495
Typical used monthly cost: £78 - £284
Fuel economy: 67 - 68 mpg
In the world of the city car you have to try quite hard to be revolutionary. Renault moved the engine of its new Twingo into the boot in order to make more space in the cabin and enable a much tighter turning circle for nifty u-turns in narrow streets. Moving the engine has allowed more of the front area to be devoted to crash safety, and Euro NCAP has given the Twingo four stars for safety. Fuel economy is good too, with both engines promising more than 60mpg.
Pick of the range: 0.9 TCE Dynamique 5d
Insurance group: 2-11
New price: £10,750 - £13,455
Lease this car from new: From £189 per month
Used price: £2,995 - £10,235
Typical used monthly cost: £74 - £252
Fuel economy: 54 - 67 mpg
The most attention-grabbing fact about the Sandero is its price - from £5,995 new – which is second-hand car money. Which then means a used Dacia Sandero can be found from just £2,220. It also has a spacious interior and a bigger boot than a Ford Fiesta. The trade off, however, is that it’s not the most engaging vehicle in terms of straight line speed or handing. Safety isn’t compromised by the rock-bottom price tag, as the Sandero has a four star Euro NCAP rating. Fuel economies range from 48mpg to 74mpg with a diesel engine.
Pick of the range: 0.9 TCe Ambiance 5d
Insurance group: 2-12
New price: £6,995 - £11,395
Lease this car from new: From £120 per month
Used price: £2,005 - £8,555
Typical used monthly cost: £49 - £211
Fuel economy: 48 - 80 mpg
The MG3 is the first supermini offering from the reborn manufacturer, with plenty of appealing features for the young driver. MG sells this as a blank canvas, offering one million different possibilities for buyers to customise their car with decals, paint jobs and body kits. Inclusion of air-conditioned climate control and Bluetooth as standard means the roomy interior stands out too. The engine does have to be worked hard for torque, but handling is excellent for a car of this size and class. Letting it down is its sub-50mpg economy. Overall, if you’re looking to personalise your car, and want something reasonably exclusive, the MG3 is a good bet.
Pick of the range: Time 1.5 5dr
Insurance group: 4
New price: £9,495 - £12,795
Lease this car from new: From £156 per month
Used price: £2,510 - £9,960
Typical used monthly cost: £62 - £246
Fuel economy: 48 - 51 mpg
The C1 is seriously well equipped, with DAB radio, air conditioning, and running lights as standard. Topping that, it’s fitted with Citroen’s 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system with smartphone connectivity. It also scores well in the economy stakes, capable of 68.9mpg and emits just 95g/km of CO2. The 1.0-litre engine is sprightly around town and surprisingly easy to drive. However the car is also in a higher insurance group - from group 6 - but with low running costs and a distinctive design it remains a persuasive offering.
Pick of the range: 1.0 Feel Vti 3dr
New price: £9,635 - £14,105
Used price: £2,910 - £10,090
Typical used monthly cost: £72 - £249
Fuel economy: 65 - 74 mpg
Insurance group: 6 - 13
The Alto is another budget option. A sprightly, manoeuvrable drive that has a capacious 254-litre boot, the Alto is a competitive option. It’s cheap on the road too; 85g/km of CO2 and it does an impressive 65.7mpg. It doesn’t have the equipment to rival the others here, but you do get a MP3 connection as standard. For a five-door, economical and stylish car, the Alto trumps the Dacia for these prices.
Pick of the range: SZ 1.0 5dr
Used price: £1,180 - £5,180
Fuel economy: 55 - 65 mpg
Insurance group: 4
A modern, stylish choice, the 108 has plenty of substance too; with 68.9mpg and a boot capacity at 196 litres. It’s another car offering infinite personalisation, but really, some more equipment would be appreciated. Central locking and a USB port are its only claim to fame, with the Picanto providing far more as standard. However, the Peugeot is a more fashionable motor, and just as good to drive around town.
Pick of the range: 1.0 Access 3dr
New price: £9,690 - £14,985
Lease this car from new: From £152 per month
Used price: £2,765 - £9,945
Typical used monthly cost: £68 - £245
Fuel economy: 65 - 74 mpg
Insurance group: 6 - 13
What’s your car finance budget?
If you’re looking to buy your first new car on main dealer finance by Personal Contract Plan or Personal Contract Hire, we have a range of articles listing the best cars for your budget:
If you're looking for to borrow money and get a great cash-price deal, then visit our Car Finance Calculator tool to work out your monthly payments.
Young driver insurance
If you're buying your first car, the thought of how much it's going to cost to insure can be scary. Sometimes, the insurance quote can be more than the old banger cost in the first place. Make sure you're getting the best possible deal on young driver insurance by checking with an insurance aggregator, such as mustard.co.uk where you can compare quotes from different companies.
Should you buy a used first car, or lease a new one on PCH?
If you’re thinking of buying your first car, or if you’re buying one for your children, then deciding whether to buy used or lease a car is an important decision. Read our article on the best cars you can lease for just £90 per month, and watch our video below explaining everything about PCH.
*Prices correct at the time of publication and are all subject to change.