The Best Cars for New Drivers

Ellie Dyer-Brown, 4 months ago

5 min read

  • Car ownership
  • Review
A blue Peugeot 208 from 2021.

WhoCanFixMyCar discusses which cars are the best for new drivers.

After months of learning to drive, the excitement from passing your test is unbeatable - especially when that means it’s time to find your first car. Many new drivers want something that offers the best of both worlds - it needs to be safe, affordable and reliable, but it also needs to look and feel good.

Fortunately, plenty of cars out there satisfy all these needs, so you don't have to 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

Top five best cars for new drivers

Other models to consider

Which car should you buy?

Before you buy

Methodology


Top five best cars for new drivers

1. Toyota Yaris

Toyota Yaris 2

The Yaris is a little self-charging hybrid car that packs a big punch. It’s renowned for being easy to drive and maintain - especially since it boasts outstanding reliability. As well as offering excellent ride quality, it's also fuel efficient, making it one of the best value first cars out there.

Find out about common problems with the Toyota Yaris.

  • Reliability: 2nd place, 99.3%

  • Lowest insurance group: 3

  • Annual maintenance: £427.47


2. Hyundai i10

Hyundai i10

Hyundai's i10 model is a great choice for your first car - it's quiet, efficient, and packed with plenty of kit as standard. The only thing that lets it down is its three-star Euro NCAP rating; if safety is a top priority, there are better options.

  • Reliability: 3rd, 98.6%

  • Lowest insurance group: 2

  • Annual maintenance: £428.05


3. Kia Picanto

A yellow Kia Picanto

Fun to drive and highly practical, the Kia Picanto is a nippy city car that handles well and is sure to save you money on fuel thanks to its frugal petrol engine options.

  • Reliability: 8th, 97.5%

  • Lowest insurance group: 3

  • Annual maintenance: £427.36


4. SEAT Ibiza

A white SEAT Ibiza

The SEAT Ibiza is undoubtedly one of the best small cars, offering strong engine options, a spacious cabin and a good-looking, sporty exterior that has made it popular with many young drivers.

  • Reliability: 18th, 87.3%

  • Lowest insurance group: 3

  • Annual maintenance: £426.77


5. Vauxhall Corsa

A red 2022 Vauxhall Corsa

The iconic Vauxhall Corsa consistently makes it onto lists like these because it has so much to offer. It's inexpensive, smart looking and efficient, with very reasonable maintenance costs. However, reliability is one area where the Corsa fails to impress.

Read about common problems with the Vauxhall Corsa in this guide.

  • Reliability: 17th, 91.2%

  • Lowest insurance group: 3

  • Annual maintenance: £429.97


Other models to consider

Suzuki Swift

A grey Suzuki Swift from 2021

Like the Yaris, the sporty-looking Suzuki Swift is known for being dependable, coming in first place out of 18 small cars in WhatCar?'s reliability survey. Unfortunately, it's let down by comparatively high insurance and maintenance costs.

Find out about common problems with the Suzuki Swift.

  • Reliability: 1st, 99.5%

  • Lowest insurance group: 9

  • Annual maintenance: £442.89


Skoda Fabia

Skoda Fabia

If finding a car that's affordable to buy, insure and run is your priority, look no further than the Skoda Fabia. It comes with a relatively low price tag but doesn't look cheap, which is one of its greatest strengths.

This guide discusses common problems with the Fabia.

  • Reliability: 14th, 94.3%

  • Lowest insurance group: 1

  • Annual maintenance: £432.14


Volkswagen Polo

VW Polo 2020

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

Find out about common problems with the VW Polo.

  • Reliability: 12, 94.9%

  • Lowest insurance group: 1

  • Annual maintenance: £433.04


Peugeot 208

A blue Peugeot 208 from 2021.

The latest generation of the Peugeot 208 is a seriously good-looking car. It's comfortable, quiet and stylish - what's not to like? Well, there are a few areas where it could be improved; namely, reliability and insurance costs.

  • Reliability: 10, 87%

  • Lowest insurance group: 5

  • Annual maintenance: £431.02


Dacia Sandero

Dacia Sandero

Finally, we come to the Dacia Sandero - the cheapest model on this list. Considering what you pay for it, it's a very decent small car with a lot to offer, including a spacious interior and a comfortable ride. The Sandero can't be beaten on value, though its average maintenance costs aren't as impressive.

  • Reliability: 9, 96.8%

  • Lowest insurance group: 4

  • Annual maintenance: £434.32


Which car should you buy?


Before you buy

Many new drivers opt for used cars with a considerably lower price tag than brand-new models. If this is the route you decide to go down, there are a few things to consider before making the final purchase.

Pre-purchase inspection

MOT-and-inspection-DT (1)

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 issues during viewings - so paying a little extra for an inspection is definitely worthwhile.

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 purchase, research how much it’s likely to cost for the one you’re interested in. This guide covers everything you need to know about car insurance, including how to get it cheaper.

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


Methodology

We compared ten popular small cars using three data points:

  • Reliability

  • Insurance group

  • Annual maintenance costs

Reliability

WhatCar?'s reliability survey ranks vehicles using feedback from drivers. We used scores from the small car category.

Insurance group

Since each model can fit into different insurance groups depending on the engine configuration, we focused specifically on the lowest possible insurance category for each car.

Annual maintenance costs

This is where WhoCanFixMyCar's data came in. For each model, we calculated the average price of four key maintenance jobs: a full and interim service, an MOT and an aircon regas. We added these prices together to come up with a total annual maintenance cost.

Scoring

  • Our ranking of the best cars is based on a scoring system.

  • The better a model performs in a category (i.e. insurance group), the higher its score.

  • We looked at ten cars in total.

  • The maximum points a model can get in each category is ten.

For instance, the car with the cheapest annual maintenance cost gets ten points; the one that is most expensive gets one point.

In the insurance category, if two models have the same lowest insurance group, they get the same number of points. If a model has an insurance group higher than ten, it gets zero points.

After scoring the models in each category, we calculated their total score. The models with the highest scores made up the top five best cars.


Need car repairs but don't want to break the bank? Don't stress. We can help you find the right garage at the right price.

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Written by Ellie

Ellie Author Pic

Ellie is WhoCanFixMyCar’s Content Writer. She has a BA in English literature from Durham University, a master’s degree in creative writing, and three years of experience writing in the automotive industry. She currently drives a Suzuki Swift.

Find Ellie on LinkedIn.