Best cars for learner drivers

Trying to pass your driving test? Take a look at our round-up of the best cars for learner drivers

James Wilson
Feb 3, 2022

Learning to drive is a properly exciting time for those able to do it. Getting out on the road unlocks the freedom to travel far and wide, visit new places and enjoy road trips with your friends and family, but first you're going to need to get hold of your first car.

As a learner driver, choosing the right first car is really important, because there are a few things that'll probably take priority when it comes to making a purchase. Because you're a new driver, you're going to be facing some pretty steep insurance costs, so finding a car that's cheap to run and cheap to insure is likely to be a good place to start - we've listed 10 such cars below.

The good news is, even the cheapest cars on the market these days come well equipped and most are generally easy to drive. When it comes to standard equipment you can expect (for the most part at least) niceties such as air-conditioning, Bluetooth and distinctive LED lights, while many also feature parking sensors if you take comfort from a bit of extra help.

For those learners who enjoy the thrill of driving, some cars on this list offer class-leading levels of fun behind the wheel, irrespective of their sensible power levels. While you won’t be breaking any acceleration records when learning to drive, the prolific use of turbochargers, hybrid and electric technology these days means that even the smallest and most affordable cars feel quite spritely.

To help you see the wood from the trees, below are ten of the best cars for learner drivers available here in the UK. As we're focusing on value for money, we have chosen predominantly used vehicles boasting frugal engines and sitting in a single-digit insurance group, offering the kind of equipment learner drivers will appreciate – such as Bluetooth for safe and legal hands-free calls.

Best cars for learner drivers

1. Ford Fiesta

Best all-rounder for learner drivers

Ford Fiesta front three quarters view

Our pick Ford Fiesta 1.1 Zetec 85hp
Used deals from £9,000
Monthly finance from £0*
Insurance group
 5E

The Ford Fiesta was updated back in 2017 but, if your budget doesn’t quite stretch to the newest model, the older version is a cracking purchase, too. The updates in the latest version include a heavily improved interior, with a central touchscreen infotainment display where there used to be lots of buttons.

Screens alone do not make a great car for learner drivers. What makes the Fiesta an ideal first car is the fact it's very easy to drive, and simple to operate. There are no gimmicks here; everything is designed to be straightforward and functional. It's also economical and cheap to insure, plus it comes with enough seating and cargo space for four young adults, so the inevitable post-driving test road trip will be comfortable for all those on board, too.

When it comes to which model to get, a five-door Zetec variant equipped with the 85hp 1.1-litre petrol engine is one of the most compelling options. Largely thanks to the lower power output (when compared to Ford’s 'EcoBoost' engines) keeping insurance and running costs down.

2017 FORD FIESTA BUYERS' GUIDE

2008-2017 FORD FIESTA BUYERS' GUIDE

2. Kia Rio

Best car with a long warranty for learner drivers

Our pick Kia Rio 1.25 1 83hp
Used deals from £7,750
Monthly finance from £0*
Insurance group
6

While the Ford Fiesta stands out as a car that does everything a first car needs to do very well, the Kia Rio excels in one particular area: its warranty. As standard all Kia models come with a 100,000-mile seven-year warranty - meaning learner drivers can pick up a three-year-old motor and still have four years of manufacturer cover remaining, with no worries about crippling repair bills if something fails.

A long warranty isn’t all the Rio has going for it. It was updated in 2017, and Kia sharpened the supermini’s looks and bolstered its standard equipment list. On the subject of standard equipment, air-conditioning, electric door mirrors and Bluetooth are all included.

Pick of the range for learner drivers is probably entry-level ‘1’ models powered by Kia’s 1.25-litre petrol engine. That said, if you have the budget for a ‘2’ or ‘3’ specced Rio, you can get even more kit and a more powerful 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine for modest increases in insurance and running costs.

KIA RIO BUYERS' GUIDE

3. Renault Twingo

Best city car for learner drivers

Our pick Renault Twingo 1.0 SCe Iconic 70hp
Used deals Limited stock
Insurance group
3E

The Renault Twingo is ideally suited to those learner drivers spending a lot of their time in busy towns and cities. The reason is rear-wheel-drive, which allows the front wheels to turn at a sharper angle, making it incredibly manoeuvrable – its turning circle is amongst the tightest on the market.

In 2018 Renault restructured the Twingo range, so the best variant for learner drivers depends on what age of car you are looking at. Post-2018, Iconic spec is a standout option, while pre-2018 Dynamique models are the ones to go for.

Equipment is relatively good across the range, even entry-level Play models boast hill-start assist, USB connectivity and speed limiter. If you want a unique little car that reflects your personality, the Twingo came with a raft of options when new, so a little hunting on the used market should find some quirky colour combinations.

RENAULT TWINGO BUYERS' GUIDE

4. Nissan Micra

Best reliable car for learner drivers

Nissan Micra front three quarters view

Our pick Nissan Micra 1.0 IG Acenta 71hp
Used deals from £9,900
Monthly finance from £0*
Insurance group
 1E

In case you didn’t know, the Nissan Micra has undergone something of a transformation. Previous generations would have been high up on our ‘best cars for grandmas’ list but the latest model is a world away from its ancestors.

Not only does it benefit from a major styling overhaul, but the latest version of the Micra is also practical, well-built and reasonably good fun to drive. Pick of the bunch are 1.0-litre IG 71 Acenta models – which are in group 1E for insurance.

All models come with Bluetooth as standard, as well as autonomous emergency braking and lane departure warning. Acenta spec means motorists are treated to air-conditioning and a seven-inch touchscreen media display.

NISSAN MICRA BUYER'S' GUIDE

5. Dacia Sandero

Best new car for learner drivers

Our pick Dacia Sandero 1.0 SCe Essential 75hp
Used deals from £7,895
Monthly finance from £0*
Insurance group
5E

While affordability is key to a learner driver, that doesn’t mean your options are limited to used cars only. The Dacia Sandero is so fantastically cheap new (prices start at under £10,000) many might as well purchase one fresh off the production line for the benefit of a longer warranty.

The cheapest Access trim has been removed from the range as of 2020, which is just as well because they were sold with the square root of nothing in terms of equipment. This isn’t an exaggeration, available equipment included wind-up front and rear windows and that is about it. Buyers will likely prefer paying the extra for Essential models – which bring air-conditioning, electric front windows and a radio, while still comfortable undercutting rivals.

Top-spec Comfort versions come with cruise control as well as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, but the higher list price of Comfort spec may well mean a used purchase is the better option.

DACIA SANDERO BUYERS' GUIDE

6. Ford B-Max

Best practical car for learner drivers

Our pick Ford B-Max 1.0 Ecoboost Zetec 100hp
Used deals Limited stock
Insurance group
9E

Not all learner drivers can afford their own car, they may well have to share a set of wheels with a more seasoned motorist – often called Mum or Dad. If this is the case then the Ford B-Max is a perfect option. Not only does it pack enough practicality to be the family workhorse, but the fact it's based on the Ford Fiesta means it is also good to drive.

Some models will exceed the single-digit insurance group criteria mentioned above, so be careful with your selection. Buyers who go for Zetec trim with the 100hp 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine should be fine.

While standard equipment for Zetec models is good (digital radio, air-conditioning and a heated front windscreen are all included) the party-piece of any B-Max is the sliding rear doors which do not feature a central door pillar – perfect for getting passengers, child seats and luggage in the back.

FORD B-MAX BUYERS' GUIDE

7. Volkswagen Polo

Best quality car for learner drivers

Our pick Volkswagen Polo 1.0 SE 65hp
Used deals from £10,500
Monthly finance from £0*
Insurance group
1E

The Volkswagen Polo is an incredibly grown-up supermini, thanks to its refined driving experience, classy cabin, space for five (plus luggage) and low running costs. That's not restricted to just the latest-generation Polo (launched in 2018) either; the previous version had the same attributes.

If your budget will stretch to a new shape Polo, it's well worth it thanks to the updated cabin and technology on offer. For example, all models come with an eight-inch central touchscreen media display, which includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. Elsewhere, the impressive equipment continues with air-conditioning and autonomous emergency braking.

VW also came up with a Beats edition of both the current and previous generation Polo, aimed squarely at younger motorists. There's no improvement in performance, but an uprated sound system and more sporty styling are present. Alternatively, SE spec comes without the extrovert looks of Beats models but still offers decent levels of equipment. As for engines, the 65hp 1.0-litre petrol engine is ideal for learner drivers.

VOLKSWAGEN POLO BUYERS' GUIDE

8. Kia Picanto

Best car for learner drivers that's easy to park

Our pick Kia Picanto 1.0 2 66hp
Used deals from £8,400
Monthly finance from £0*
Insurance group
 2

Much like those learning to drive, the Kia Picanto has been on a journey of improvement. The first Picanto (launched back in 2004) was a bit boring. The model which came after was better, but still a bit bland in places. Kia’s latest attempt (launched in 2017), however, is better equipped and better built than its predecessors and some of its rivals.

Learner drivers should look for a 66hp 1.0-litre ‘2’ model which has air-conditioning, Bluetooth and electric mirrors as standard. Alternatively, entry-level ‘1’ variants are very affordable indeed and still offer electric front windows, a height-adjustable driver’s seat and a two-speaker stereo system.

Like the Kia Rio above, all Picanto models come with the seven-year warranty as the Kia Rio above, which will help learner drivers avoid any nasty unexpected costs should things go wrong.

KIA PICANTO BUYERS' GUIDE

9. Seat Arona

Best crossover for learner drivers

Our pick Seat Arona 1.0 SE 95hp
Used deals from £12,490
Monthly finance from £0*
Insurance group
9E

SUVs and crossovers are a dime a dozen at the moment, so it makes sense that there's at least one suitable for learner drivers. The Seat Arona is built on the same platform as the Ibiza supermini, and it shares its all-round polish.

When Seat launched the Arona back in 2017, it decided to pitch it as a slightly more upmarket offering than the Ibiza. The effects of which mean all models come well equipped – air-conditioning, Bluetooth and cruise control are all thrown in. Naturally, this means insurance prices are a touch higher too. No such thing as a free lunch after all.

Which is the best model for learner drivers? One of the sweet spots in the range is the SE trim with the 95hp petrol engine. Alternatively, SE Technology models are the next rung up and bring sat-nav plus wireless phone charging – both of which are handy for long trips after you've got your driving licence.

SEAT ARONA BUYERS' GUIDE

10. Toyota Yaris

Best hybrid for learner drivers

Our pick Toyota Yaris 1.0 VVT-i Active 69hp
Used deals Limited stock
Insurance group
5

Toyota and its sister company Lexus have a long history of building cars to last, and its models often perform well in Auto Express' Driver Power survey.

The option of a hybrid version is probably the biggest draw to the Yaris, as very few mainstream rivals offer such a package. As a result of its electrification, the Yaris is very economical and only available as an automatic – those looking to learn in a manual might want to seek out a 1.0-litre petrol Yaris (which is not a hybrid).

When looking at the best model to buy, second-hand Active models are a fine option for learners, bringing Bluetooth, collision warning and air-conditioning as standard. Steel wheels are also standard, avoiding expensive alloy wheel repairs if you scrape the kerb while parking.

TOYOTA YARIS BUYERS' GUIDE

*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.

 

Latest best cars & vans

  1. Best premium cars

  2. Nice cars

  3. Electric cars with a 300-mile range