Best first cars

With low insurance costs, a cheap price and reasonable safety, these are the best first cars that you can buy

John Evans BuyaCar team
Mar 4, 2019

You never forget your first car, so why spoil the memory by getting one that you'll regret?

That might seem easier said than done, as the chances are you'll be on the lookout for a car that's cheap and economical, preferably safe and spacious enough for friends too. Most importantly, you'll want a vehicle that's cheap to insure.

We've scoured the market to find five used cars and five new cars that fit the bill. They are all in low insurance groups, which means that your premiums will be among the lowest available, although the cheapest policies usually require your car to be fitted with a black box so driving can be monitored.

 

You can click below to search for all deals on cars in low insurance groups, or scroll down to find our pick of the best. The images below are general shots of the cars and not necessarily the specific model mentioned.

 

Best first cars: used

Buying a used car offers big savings over a new model and choosing one that's around three years old is usually a decent compromise: at this point, cars have usually lost a large chunk of their value, but the safety technology and equipment is generally quite recent and there may still be some cover offered by the original warranty. Here are five great options for a first used car.

Skoda Fabia SE 1.0 MPI 75

Best first car for safety and luggage space

Insurance Group 3 (Skoda Fabia SE 1.0 MPI 75)
Latest used deals from £5,795
Finance from £96 per month

Skoda’s Fabia offers more options than most small cars because it’s available as a hatchback or as an estate car, with a larger boot. So if you do head away on camping trips or long road trips, then you shouldn’t need to cram luggage between your rear passengers.

Anyone in the back should be reasonably comfortable, thanks to a decent amount of legroom, while a five-star safety rating, awarded by Euro NCAP in 2014 provides plenty of reassurance. The cheapest option is normally an entry-level S model with a lethargic 60 horsepower (hp) engine, which is in insurance group 2. Current prices start at £5,899. Upgrading to a 75hp MPI model in SE trim provides more power and improved equipment (including air conditioning and alloy wheels), and is just one insurance group higher.
Skoda Fabia buying guide

 

Peugeot 208 Active 1.2 VTi PureTech 68

Best first car that doesn't look like one

Insurance Group 6 (Peugeot 208 Active 1.2 VTi Puretech 68)

One of the major appeals of the Peugeot 208 is that it doesn’t appear to be basic. The design still looks modern, the car feels solid and the interior is designed around a dashboard touchscreen.

That touchscreen isn’t included with entry-level Access A/C models, though, where it’s replaced with an awkward looking old-fashioned radio (which does have Bluetooth). These Access A/C cars have air conditioning and are cheap, with prices starting at £5,800.

You’re likely to be more satisfied with Active models, which have alloy wheels and a leather steering wheel in addition to the touchscreen, and are only one insurance group higher. The key to keeping insurance costs low is to opt for the 1.2-litre VTi engine with 68 horsepower, although it’s not particularly zippy.
Peugeot 208 buying guide

 

Hyundai i10 1.0 SE

Best first car for value

Insurance Group 1 (Hyundai i10 1.0 SE)
Latest used deals from £4,961
Finance from £89 per month

It's cheap enough as a new car, but a second-hand Hyundai i10 is a bargain. Thanks to the car’s five-year warranty, you can pick up a model that’s virtually half price, and which still has two years of cover remaining,

The current model, which first went on sale in 2014, has a comfortable ride, spacious interior and nimble steering, which makes it easy to zip around town.

The entry-level S model is cheap and falls into the lowest insurance group one, but the same can be said for the better-equipped SE model, which adds features that you're likely to want, including air conditioning, remote central locking and a height adjustable driver's seat.
Hyundai i10 buying guide

 

Fiat Panda Easy 1.2

Best first car for interior space

Insurance Group 4 (Fiat Panda Easy 1.2)
Latest used deals from £4,890
Finance from £82 per month

Cheap to buy, insure and run, the Fiat Panda can also accommodate a car-load of towering teenagers, thanks to its boxy shape, which offers a surprising amount of legroom and headroom in the back.

The cheapest Panda to buy and insure is the entry-level Pop, which starts at £4,380 but the cost of upgrading to an Easy version is minimal, and it means that you’ll gain air conditioning, remote central locking and a height-adjustable driver’s seat.

Fuel economy from the car’s 1.2-litre engine is reasonable but the catch comes when you press the accelerator: performance is best described as slow.
Fiat Panda buying guide

 

Vauxhall Corsa 1.2 Sting

Best first car for a cheap price

Insurance Group (Vauxhall Corsa 1.2 Sting)
Latest used deals from £5,250
Finance from £90 per month

Three-year-old Vauxhall Corsas are cheap, and none more so than Sting versions. These are bold, with white alloy wheels and twin white stripes that run from the bonnet, over the roof and onto the bootlid. They are only available as a three-door hatchback, so the shape is sporty too, with a roof that swoops down at the back.

However, the Corsa Sting with the least powerful 75 horsepower engine falls into the low insurance group 2, so it's no surprise that the reality of driving it doesn't quite live up to the car's image. As with most cars on this page, you'll need to be patient as it accelerates up to speed, and it does get noisy at motorway speeds.

If you avoid revving the engine hard, then you should be able to return around 40mpg. Like the rest of the Corsa range, the Sting is comfortable, agile in corners and feels well made. But then, there's a decent chance that you know this already: enough driving instructors own them.
Vauxhall Corsa buying guide

 

Best first cars: new and nearly-new

Unless they’re a Dacia Sandero, below, most new cars are expensive. However, good finance offers can help ease the pain. BuyaCar always has good deals on new cars so don't be put off by what may appear to be a high list price. Still too expensive? Then check out deals on nearly new cars or cars no older than 12 months. There are big savings among these and they’ll still have the balance of their new car warranty.

Seat Ibiza SE 1.0 MPI

Best first car for latin flair

Insurance Group 2 (Seat ibiza SE 1.0 MPI)
Manufacturer price £15,495

Nearly new deals from £10,495 / £161 per month

The Seat Ibiza is one of the best small cars in its class, thanks to a spacious interior, efficient engines, a good level of standard equipment and a five star safety rating.

Insurance premiums are cheapest if you pick the least powerful 1.0 MPI engine with 80 horsepower that puts the car in insurance group 3. Its predecessor, the 75hp engine, has been withdrawn although is still available if you buy used, and falls into insurance group 2.

SE cars have everything you really need, including air conditioning; 6.5in touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; and automatic emergency braking. SE Technology cars are also in insurance group 2 and add a larger touchscreen and bigger alloy wheels.
Seat Ibiza buying guide

 

Volkswagen Move up! 1.0 S/S 5dr

Best first car for small size and spacious interior

Insurance group 1 (VW Move up! 1.0 60PS S/S)
Manufacturer price £10,860

Nearly new deals from £7,290 / £126 per month

It's cheap to run, compact and easy to manoeuvre, but can still carry four people in safety. The up!'s merits might be sensible and practical, but few cars match the standards of the small Volkswagen.

The Move up! Start-Stop (shortened to S/S) with a 1-litre, 60 horsepower engine, is in the lowest insurance group 1. The start-stop technology will turn off the engine when stopped in traffic to save fuel. Other standard equipment includes alloy wheels, air conditioning, digital radio and wireless Bluetooth connectivity for your mobile phone. A Take up! version costs £1,000 less, but the lack of air conditioning and Bluetooth alone, makes the car considerably less attractive.

Despite its small engine, the up! is zippy, as well as economical. It's virtually identical to the Skoda Citigo and Seat Mii which were all developed together to save costs. Although the VW is slightly more expensive than those cars, it holds its value well, helping to keep finance payments low.
Volkswagen up! buying guide

 

Ford Fiesta Style 1.1Ti-VCT 85PS

Best first car for parental supervision

Ford Fiesta

Insurance Group 2 (Ford Fiesta Style 1.1Ti-VCT 70PS)
Manufacturer price £10,545

Although Ford's Ka+ is a cheaper first car option, drivers are better off with the new Fiesta. It's more expensive than the smaller Ka+, though, especially since the cheapest and version, the lower-powered Fiesta Style 1.1Ti-VCT 70PS, is no more. On the other hand, you'll benefit from some of the latest technology, including the safety equipment which earned the Fiesta a five star Euro NCAP rating last year.

There's enough space in the back for adults to sit comfortably and a decent boot too. Parents may be impressed by Ford's MyKey system, which allows them to programme a second key that limits the car's functions for any young drivers in the family. It can restrict the car's performance, the volume of the stereo and ensure that the driver is wearing a seatbelt.

For the cheapest insurance, a used Style 1.1Ti-VCT 70PS is the one to go for since it sits in insurance group 2, where the more powerful Zetec 1.1Ti-VCT 85PS is in group 5. Style has air conditioning, Bluetooth, electric front windows and a system that helps prevent the car from drifting out of its lane on motorways by nudging the steering automatically.
Ford Fiesta buying guide

Dacia Sandero Essential SCe 75

Best first car for low prices from new

Insurance group 2 (Dacia Sandero Ambiance SCe 75) Manufacturer price £7,795

2018 deals from £4,190 / £76 per month

If you're looking for the cheapest new car you can get, then it's impossible to beat the Dacia Sandero, which starts at just £6,995, and is spacious, being roughly the same size as a Vauxhall Corsa.

Your cash doesn't buy you much in the way of image, style or even equipment, which is why the mid-range Sandero Essential is the best buy. It may cost £800 more than the cheapest Access version, but it does at least come with front electric windows, a radio and air conditioning that are missing from Access cars.

Dacia has recently changed its trim levels so, for example, where there was once an Ambiance SCe75, there is now the Essential SCe75. There’s not too much difference between them, so if your budget is stretched, a used Ambiance SCe 75 for around £7000 may be a better buy. The vehicle's petrol engine is economical and the car's four star safety rating, awarded after independent crash testing by Euro NCAP, is respectable.
Dacia Sandero buying guide

 

Kia Picanto 1 1.0

Best first car for a long warranty

Insurance group (Kia Picanto 1 1.0 66bhp 5dr) Manufacturer price £8,905

nearly new deals from £7,775 / £131 per month

Good reliability has to be the top of anyone’s list of priorities and the Picanto can promise exactly that. Its seven-year warranty, the longest in the industry, is proof but so is more important owner feedback that suggests people are happy with their Picanto.

But it’s not as if this quality comes at a high price. Our example, the basic Picanto 1, costs less than £9000. Your money buys a surprisingly spacious five-door city car with one of the biggest boots in the class.

It’s fun to drive with tidy handing and a ride that’s composed if a little firm. The 1.0-litre 66bhp engine has to be worked hard (the 1.25 is more powerful) but if your driving is mainly around town, it’s fine.
Kia Picanto buying guide

       
                

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