Best first cars for 17 year olds

Turning 17 and passing your driving test is a challenge, but picking the best car can seem even harder. It needn't be with one of these cars

James Wilson
May 31, 2022

If you've just turned 17, chances are that you're excited about getting behind the wheel, and perhaps purchasing your first car. There's nothing quite like having the keys to your own car; it opens the door to mile after mile of 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 looking to buy a car. You need a vehicle that's easy to drive - or at least to something you can quickly get used to once you've passed your test - but after getting your licence there are a range of needs it will have to meet. You might want something that's fun to drive, or perhaps something that's going to cost as little as possible to run, or maybe you're a tech connoisseur and you're keen to drive something with all the latest features, such as wireless phone charging.

Something else that might be of interest is how cheap the car is to repair. It's not unusual for inexperienced drivers to have the odd bump, or pick up a scrape when parking, so having the option to fix any such damage cheaply might well be part of your thought process. The best first cars for 17-year-olds must also qualify for cheap car insurance, as it's no good having insurance that costs more than the car itself.

Fortunately, there is a range of cars that are up to the challenge and they vary 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 less than £10,000.

Best cars for 17-year-olds

1. Peugeot 108/Citroen C1/Toyota Aygo

Peugeot 108 Active deals from £6,350
Monthly finance from £0*
Citroen C1 Feel deals from £5,790
Monthly finance from £144*
Toyota Aygo x-play deals from £5,695
Monthly finance from £146*

Grouping the Peugeot 108, the Citroen C1 and the Toyota Aygo together might seem odd at first, but it actually makes perfect sense because underneath the distinct bodywork they're all practically identical, with the same engines, the same parts and the same engineering.

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 that's an option, too, albeit at a slightly higher price.

2. Fiat 500

Our pick Fiat 500 Lounge
Used deals from £4,500
Monthly finance from £0*

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 2015 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 turbocharged 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 pretty good, meaning low fuel bills.

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. Go for one of the newer models and you'll be limited to petrol power with a manual gearbox, but its mild hybrid technology does give a minor boost in fuel economy.


3. Toyota Yaris

Toyota Yaris Hybrid front three quarters view

Our pick Toyota Yaris Active
Used deals from £7,000
Monthly finance from £0*

The Toyota Yaris was the only self-charging hybrid supermini on sale for years, so was the best option for those wanting a small and somewhat electrified car by default. Times have changed, though, as car makers 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 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 countryside, this likely isn’t an issue. Also worth noting is that a non-hybrid petrol version is available as well and that can be bought with a manual gearbox, unlike the hybrid.


4. Skoda Fabia

Our pick Skoda Fabia SE
Used deals from £6,995
Monthly finance from £175*

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.

This version of the Fabia was launched in 2014 and updated 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 model, 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 its quicker acceleration, the 95hp version is likely to be cheaper to insure and feels very nearly as quick on typical roads.


5. Ford Fiesta

Our pick Ford Fiesta Zetec S
Used deals from £6,390
Monthly finance from £0*

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 who perhaps cannot afford the running costs of a high-performance 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 the perfect affordable small car to enjoy on twisty B roads. 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 mileages, as this could save you a lot in fuel costs. It might also help you to cut your insurance bills, as should the still nippy 100hp petrol version.


6. Nissan Micra

Our pick Nissan Micra N Sport
Used deals from £11,495
Monthly finance from £0*

The latest Nissan Micra was something of a revelation when it came out - its biggest achievement has been successfully ditching the stale image of its predecessors, which were seriously bland and often driven by OAPs. This is actually something you might not mind being seen out in.

Being that the Micra in N Sport trim is one of the newer cars 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 slick interior. It's reasonably good to drive, too, as N Sport models get revised steering and suspension to help maximise the amount of fun you can have behind the wheel.


7. Citroen C4 Cactus

Our pick Citroen C4 Cactus Touch
Used deals from £6,991
Monthly finance from £224*

Not all 17-year-olds want or need a small car as their first set of wheels, 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 was launched, the C4 Cactus really stood out, thanks to its funky styling, striking interior and comfortable driving experience. More useful still for new drivers, are the padded plastic side panels fitted on older models, as these should do a better job of dealing with any bumps than pure metal doors.

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 as good to drive as the manual versions. There is no need to go hunting for range-topping trim levels to get good levels of standard equipment here, as entry-level Touch models come with cruise control, electric front windows and a digital radio.


8. Dacia Duster

Our pick Dacia Duster Ambience
Used deals Limited stock

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 car maker 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 Access 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 two-wheel-drive versions massively out-sold them, being cheaper and providing better fuel economy. It is a similar story with automatics; they are out there, but manuals are far more common and a better choice overall. Since this car is about maximum value, why pay more for a four-wheel-drive or automatic version when manual two-wheel-drive models are so affordable?


*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta:

48 monthly payments of £192
Deposit: £0
Mileage limit: 8,000 per year
Optional final payment to buy car: £2,923
Total amount payable to buy car: £11,926
Total cost of credit: £2,426
Amount borrowed: £9,500
APR: 9.9%

BuyaCar is a credit broker, not a lender. Our rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances.


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