Best cars for 17-year-olds

Being 17 doesn’t have to mean suffering with a rubbish car - even if you're on a budget. Seems impossible? The list below begs to differ

James Wilson
Sep 17, 2020

Turning 17 unlocks the joys of driving lessons and opens the door to mile after mile of tarmac-based freedom. That is, once you've secured a full licence - until then, a suitable adult will have to accompany you on each and every trip.

And this highlights the challenge facing 17-year-olds car shoppers. You need a vehicle which is easy to drive and pass a test in - or at least to quickly get used to once you've passed your test - but then after getting a full licence you need it to be fun, cost as little as possible to fill up and come with the right equipment for a modern-day young adult (such as a USB port for smartphone charging).

Furthermore, cars for 17-year-olds need to be cheap to fix and repair - after all, many new drivers have a bump or two in their first year, some picking up just a scrape when parking and others causing more serious damage. The best cars will also need to hold their value relatively well and, of course, qualify for the cheapest of cheap car insurance. No small task, then.

Fortunately, there is a range of cars which are up to the challenge and they range from super affordable city cars to funky mini-SUVs. So read on for some of the best cars for 17-year-olds. To qualify for our list all cars had to be available from less than £150 per month or £15,000 if purchased outright. However, the majority are available for closer to £100 per month and under £10,000.

Best cars for 17-year-olds

1. Peugeot 108/Citroen C1/Toyota Aygo

Peugeot 108 Active deals from £4,650
Monthly finance from £82
Citroen C1 Feel deals from £4,490
Monthly finance from £91
Toyota Aygo x-play deals from £4,990
Monthly finance from £84

Grouping the Peugeot 108, the Citroen C1 and the Toyota Aygo together might seem odd at first, but it actually makes perfect sense as underneath they are all the same car, the only real difference is what they look like from the outside. No matter which one you choose, they are all cheap as chips to run, offer a relatively fun driving experience, and in the right specification come with all the equipment a new driver could want.

There isn’t a complicated choice of engines to look through - all come with small capacity petrols with power outputs that range from around 70hp to 80hp. There is good news for those who want an automatic gearbox, as these are available, too, albeit at a slightly higher price.

2. Fiat 500

Our pick Fiat 500 Lounge
Used deals from £5,000
Monthly finance from £84

Handily for used car shoppers, the Fiat 500 appears not to age. Fiat revived the 500 name in 2007 with a new model and since then the Italian city car has hardly changed.

Why would it, though? Even after being on sale for more than a decade it is still one of the most stylish small cars going. There was an update in 2016 but the differences are subtle and quite easy to miss, so don't worry if you can't afford one of the newer ones

Aside from the chic looks, the 500 is actually quite enjoyable to drive, with the right engine that is. Pick of the bunch is the plucky 'TwinAir; two-cylinder petrol which seems to suit the character of the 500 down to the ground, producing a characterful deep, throbbing sound when you work it hard, plus its fuel economy is more than respectable.

All models are three-door only and while both diesel engines and automatic gearboxes have been offered in the past, manual petrol versions dominate the market. That's no bad thing, as these are the best all-rounders.

FIAT 500 BUYERS' GUIDE

3. Toyota Yaris

Our pick Toyota Yaris Active
Used deals from £5,430
Monthly finance from £107

The Toyota Yaris was the only hybrid supermini on sale for a while, so was the best option for those wanting a small and somewhat electrified car by default. Times have changed, though, as carmakers are all competing against one another to lead the hybrid and electric car markets.

Even so, the Yaris hybrid remains a very competent vehicle and a great choice for younger drivers who want low-emission motoring and come with an automatic gearbox as standard. For a 17-year-old, entry-level Active models come with more than enough equipment, so they are worth hunting down - Bluetooth, automatic air-conditioning and a pre-collision warning system are all included.

One mark against the Yaris is that it isn’t very fun to drive, but then again, for those who rarely venture out into the country, this likely isn’t an issue. Also worth noting is that a non-hybrid petrol version is available as well which can be bought with a manual gearbox, unlike the hybrid.

TOYOTA YARIS BUYERS' GUIDE

4. Skoda Fabia

Our pick Skoda Fabia SE
Used deals from £4,999
Monthly finance from £101

The Skoda Fabia sometimes gets lost in the shadows of its closely-related sister cars (Skoda is part of the same company as Seat, VW and Audi) - the Volkswagen Polo, Audi A1 and Seat Ibiza. On paper, this makes no sense as the Fabia is well built, practical, decent to drive and affordable. Really, it is the thinking 17-year-old’s car of choice.

The current generation Fabia was launched in 2014 and refreshed in 2018 - part of Skoda’s revamp involved slimming the engine range down to just 1.0-litre petrol options - though three power outputs are available (roughly 60hp, 95hp and 110hp).

Aside from the most powerful models, all engines come with a five-speed manual gearbox as standard - the 110hp versions come with a six-speed manual. While you might be tempted by the 110hp versions for added oomph, the 95hp is likely to be cheaper to insure and feels very nearly as quick on real roads.

SKODA FABIA BUYERS' GUIDE

5. Ford Fiesta

Our pick Ford Fiesta Zetec S
Used deals from £7,390
Monthly finance from £127

Despite being replaced by a new model, the previous generation Fiesta is still one of the best small hatchbacks for all-round greatness. It is reliable, well-built, relatively cheap to run (and repair), comfortable and are a firm favourite with UK motorists (which means there are plenty of used ones to choose from for a low price).

Ford created the Zetec S to appeal to those who want something a little more sporty feeling than the standard Fiesta but perhaps cannot afford the running costs of a performance-focused ST model. In reality, this translates to a perfect car for keen 17-year-old drivers.

Even in more basic versions, the Fiesta is great to drive, but with the 125hp EcoBoost petrol engine, sportier seats and firmer suspension Zetec S models are just the car to go and tackle a twisty B road in. It isn’t all go and no show, though - standard equipment on Zetec S models includes both Bluetooth and air-conditioning.

Ford also offered a diesel version of the Zetec S which is worth a look for those who are expecting to do high annual miles. It might also help you to cut your insurance bills, as should the still nippy 100hp petrol version.

FORD FIESTA BUYERS' GUIDE

6. Nissan Micra

Our pick Nissan Micra N Sport
Used deals from £12,395
Monthly finance from £191

Nissan’s latest Micra was something of a revelation when it came out - its biggest achievement has been successfully ditching the granny-mobile image of its predecessors, which were seriously bland.

Being that N Sport trim is one of the newer models on this list, it is also one of the most expensive. For the money, though, you get sporty styling, a somewhat punchy 1.0-litre petrol engine (producing 115hp) and equipment such as parking sensors, a reversing camera and heated door mirrors as standard.

Judged on driver enjoyment alone, the Micra cannot match the Fiesta Zetec S above, but it definitely has the upper hand when it comes to the interior. It's reasonably good to drive, too, as N Sport models get revised steering and suspension to help maximise fun behind the wheel.

NISSAN MICRA BUYERS' GUIDE

7. Citroen C4 Cactus

Our pick Citroen C4 Cactus Touch
Used deals from £5,995
Monthly finance from £111

Not all 17-year-olds want or need a small car as their chariot of fire, which is where the first-generation Citroen C4 Cactus fits in on this list - maximising comfort for you and your passengers over sheer speed and sportiness.

When it launched the C4 Cactus breathed new life into Citroen’s range thanks to its funky styling, striking interior and comfortable driving experience. Suddenly the French carmaker had a model in its lineup that stood out for good reasons.

Citroen offered the C4 Cactus with a range of petrol and diesel engines - a handful of which were also available with an automatic gearbox, although these aren’t a patch on the manual versions. There is no need to go chasing range-toppers for good equipment, as entry-level Touch models come with cruise control, electric front windows and digital radio.

CITROEN C4 CACTUS BUYERS' GUIDE

8. Dacia Duster

Our pick Dacia Duster Ambience
Used deals from £5,599
Monthly finance from £113

Dacia has taken the UK car market by storm with its low cost, no-frills vehicles. The first-generation Duster kicked things off when it first appeared on UK roads back in 2013 but since then the budget carmaker has added more models to its range - although none offer the same affordable SUV abilities as the Duster.

Part of the reason Dacias are so affordable is due to a lack of complicated technology (which means there's less to go wrong, too) but provided you avoid super-basic entry-level models, equipment such as a CD player/radio, Bluetooth and 60:40 folding rear seats are available.

Four-wheel-drive models were available when new, too but are significantly less common now as the front-wheel-drive versions massively out-sold them. It is a similar story with automatics, they are out there, somewhere, but manuals are ten a penny. Since this car is about maximum value, though, why pay more for a four-wheel drive or automatic version when manual two-wheel drive models are so affordable?

DACIA DUSTER BUYERS' GUIDE

 

Latest best cars & vans

  1. Luxury car finance deals

  2. Seven-seater plug-in cars

  3. Best nearly new car deals

What our customers say