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The best cars for new drivers

Ellie Dyer-Brown, 4 months ago

5 min read

  • Advice
  • News
SuzukiSwift-iStock

WhoCanFixMyCar discusses which cars new and learner drivers should consider buying

After months of learning to drive, the excitement that comes from passing your test is unbeatable - especially when that means it’s time to find your first car.

While mum and dad are likely to be thinking about safety, price and reliability, there are a few other things that might be higher up a new driver’s list of priorities, such as appearance, reputation, speed or tech.

Fortunately, there are plenty of cars out there that satisfy all these needs, so there’s no need for a compromise.

Whether you're a learner driver or a new driver who has just passed their test, WhoCanFixMyCar is here to help you find a car you'll love.

Contents

The seven best cars for new drivers

Before you buy

Which is the cheapest car for first-time drivers?

Which is the cheapest car to insure for new drivers?

The best car for learner drivers


The seven best cars for new drivers

Ford Fiesta

The Fiesta is Britain’s best-selling car for a reason. It’s heaps of fun to drive (appropriately, the name ‘Fiesta’ means ‘party’ in Spanish), with a spacious cabin and plenty of tech, but it’s also safe, scoring five stars in Euro NCAP tests.

Ford Fiesta models from between 2002-2008 have a reputation for being extremely reliable, but some more recent versions drag the overall score down thanks to exhaust and suspension problems cropping up.

Price: ~£17,000 

Insurance group: 5-30

Reliability score: 3.5/5 

Ford Fiesta
Ford FiestaPrice
Full service£168.31
Interim service£107.43
MOT£40.64
Total£316.38

Toyota Yaris

The Yaris is a little self-charging hybrid car that packs a big punch. It’s renowned for being easy to drive and easy to maintain - especially since it boasts outstanding reliability. 

As well as offering great ride quality, the Toyota Yaris is also extremely fuel efficient, making it one of the best value first cars out there.

Price: ~£20,000 

Insurance group: 2-15

Reliability Score: 5/5

Toyota Yaris 2
Toyota YarisAverage price
Full service£166.88
Interim service£107.72
MOT£41.45
Total£316.05

Suzuki Swift

Most small hatchbacks exist in the shadow of the Fiesta - this is the unfortunate truth of a segment that has been dominated for many years by Ford. And, while the Swift can’t beat the Fiesta’s popularity, it’s certainly one of the better rivals out there. 

The 2021 model has a five star ANCAP safety rating, plus, like its rival the Yaris, the Swift is also known for being a dependable car. Add to that its unique styling and enviable fuel economy and you have a truly great first car.

Price: ~£16,000

Insurance group: 9-11

Reliability score: 5/5

SuzukiSwift-iStock
Suzuki SwiftAverage price
Full service£168.99
Interim service£113.68
MOT£40.13
Total£322.80

Volkswagen Polo

CarWow named the Polo “Car of the Year” in 2018, and this stylish supermini is undoubtedly still enjoying its (very long) moment in the spotlight today. Volkswagen has always been excellent at putting drivers under its mechanical spell, and with the Polo it’s no different. 

As far as first cars go, it's stylish, sporty, economical and an all-round pleasure to drive. If you opt for an 1.0 litre, 80 horse-power engine it will be fairly cheap to insure, too. 

Price: ~£17,000

Insurance group: 3-30

Reliability score: 4/5

VW Polo
Volkswagen PoloAverage price
Full service£167.48
Interim service£106.17
MOT£41.13
Total£314.78

Vauxhall Corsa

The Corsa has been a popular first car for new drivers for a long time now owing to it being stylish, responsive and, most importantly, cheap to run. It isn’t as reliable as some of its rivals - for example, the Yaris or Swift - but it still performs reasonably well in reliability surveys. 

Price: ~£17,000

Insurance group: 1-32

Reliability score: 3.5/5

Vauxhall Corsa
Vauxhall CorsaAverage price
Full service£167.99
Interim service£106.40
MOT£40.64
Total£315.03

Renault Clio

We know what you’re thinking - French cars don’t exactly have a good reputation for being reliable. However, Renault is just about managing to break away from this widely-held belief thanks to the Clio

Recent iterations of the Clio have transformed its outdated exterior into something much more attractive, appealing at last to style-conscious drivers. Not only is the Clio good looking, it also comes in a range of small, affordable engine sizes with bonus features like automatic headlights and wipers.

Price: ~£18,000

Insurance group: 5-39

Reliability score: 4.5

Renault Clio
Renault ClioAverage price
Full service£167.60
Interim service£106.50
MOT£40.40
Total£314.50

Fiat 500

The 500’s retro design is iconic and quirky, so if you’re looking for something a little bit different, this might just be it. (As long as you can handle a cabin the size of a tin of sardines.)

Jokes aside, Fiat’s recipe of charm, value and fuel economy is clearly a winning one. Plus, with the introduction of the 500e and the 500L, there are options for both environmentally-conscious drivers and those who require more space than the original 500 allows. 

Price: ~£13,000

Insurance group: 5-38

Reliability score: 3

Fiat 500
Fiat 500Average price
Full service£167.61
Interim service£106.63
MOT£40.89
Total£315.13

Before you buy

Many new drivers opt for used cars which come with a considerably lower price tag than brand new models (though, unfortunately, used car prices are up by 30% compared to just a few years ago).

If you’re going to buy a used car, there are a few things to think about before you make the final purchase.

Pre-purchase inspection

Buying a car, even a used one, is a big purchase. How can you be sure it won’t break down as soon as you take it home? The last thing you need is a hefty repair bill on top of the cost of the car itself. 

That’s where pre-purchase inspections come in. Unless you have a good working knowledge of car engines, it can be difficult to spot problems yourself - especially since some disreputable dealerships attempt to hide problems during viewings - so it’s definitely worthwhile paying a little extra for an inspection.

A mechanic will check the car for you to ensure there are no nasty surprises that only make themselves known after you’ve got the car home. 

Insurance costs and road tax

The cost of insuring and taxing cars varies from model to model, so before you make a purchase, do some research into how much it’s likely to cost for the particular model you’re interested in. 

Another annual expense comes in the form of an MOT, which must be carried out every year on all cars that are three years or older. Find out how much an MOT is likely to cost here.

Which is the cheapest car for first-time drivers?

The cheapest of these cars to buy brand new is the Fiat 500, which you can pick up for around the £13,000 mark. However, the 500 doesn’t score as well as some other models for reliability.

In terms of annual maintenance costs (based on servicing and an MOT), the cheapest model is the Renault Clio with an average price of £314.50 according to our data from 2021. The Clio also has a good reliability score and is relatively affordable to insure. 

Which is the cheapest car to insure for new drivers?

The cost of your insurance will depend on a number of factors, including whether you have done any additional driving qualifications, where your car is going to be parked, how far you’re going to drive it, whether you have a blackbox installed and a whole host of other things. 

That being said, based on insurance groups alone the cheapest car to insure on this list should, in theory, be the Vauxhall Corsa.

The best car for learner drivers

When it comes to choosing a driving instructor, you might want to factor into your considerations the type of car that you'd like to learn in.

All of the above cars are excellent to have lessons in, but our top pick is the Renault Clio. It has large dials that are simple to read, an easy-to-navigate cabin and the windscreen allows for excellent visibility.


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