Best cars for first-time drivers

Took your driving test a little later in life and looking for your first car? Here's some of the best value desirable and easy-to-drive cars

Lewis Kingston
Jul 29, 2020

Not everyone takes their test as soon as they hit 17 years old – and, if you’re older and have just got your licence, it can be tricky to settle on a suitable car. After all, most articles on the best cars for new drivers are aimed at a younger audience. Consequently, the cars in question might not be ideal for you.

It might also be the case that you’ve more money to spend, so you’re seeking something perhaps a little better equipped, larger or more comfortable. The last thing you want to do is end up with something that you quickly outgrow, but you also don’t want to get something that’s costly to run or repair.

Your first car should be easy to enjoy and live with, so you can start racking up the miles and getting to grips with motoring in earnest without concerns about costs. Ready to get going? Read on for our shortlist of some of the best cars for new drivers.

All the cars featured on this list are examples found on BuyaCar, so you can be sure to find something like it available to order for delivery in up to 10 working days. So you won't have to wait long for your car to arrive.

Best cars for first-time drivers

1. Seat Leon

Our pick Seat Leon 1.2 TSI 110hp SE Dynamic Technology 5dr
Insurance group 12E
Used deals from £9,190
Monthly finance from £137

The third-generation Seat Leon has long been a great choice for those who want a practical, straightforward and efficient car. You might find insurance a little more expensive than some smaller hatchbacks, but compensation comes in the form of plenty of space, lots of equipment and flexible, willing engines that won’t leave you wanting - meaning a Leon should last you a long time.

The 1.2-litre 'TSI' engine is one of the best options, offering a blend of excellent economy and decent performance; it can also be had with either a manual or slick automatic transmission. Go for an SE Dynamic Technology version and, as well as numerous safety features such as hill hold control - which prevents you from rolling backwards when you pull off on a hill, you’ll benefit from stress-reducing rear parking sensors.

SEAT LEON BUYERS' GUIDE

2. Ford Fiesta

Our pick Ford Fiesta 1.0T EcoBoost 100PS Titanium 5dr
Insurance group 10E
Used deals from £9,599
Monthly finance from £151

If insurance costs are proving a sticking point, then have a look at a current-generation Ford Fiesta - as the 1.1-litre 70hp Style version, in particular, has an insurance group of just two, meaning it should be cheap to insure. Even more powerful versions, such as the 95hp 1.0-litre Trend, typically have a sensible insurance group of 10. Regardless of the engine you go for, you’ll get a compact and affordable hatch that’s both easy to live with and great to drive.

It’s also a very safe car, with a five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating. We’d recommend going for a Titanium version, if you can, because it comes with lots of useful equipment - including traffic sign recognition, sat-nav, rain-sensing wipers and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror.

FORD FIESTA BUYERS' GUIDE

3. Suzuki Vitara

Our pick Suzuki Vitara 1.6 SZ5 5dr
Insurance group 11E
Used deals from £9,890
Monthly finance from £175

Worried about potholed country lanes, or want something that’s easy to get in and out of? The Suzuki Vitara could be a great option. Besides ease of access and rough-road capability, it offers lots of space, good reliability and pleasing performance. The 1.6-litre petrol engine is surprisingly efficient in the real world, too.

The SZ5 version has a comparatively low insurance group of 11 and it also comes with stacks of equipment - including a blind spot monitor, lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition, LED headlights, front and rear parking sensors and adaptive cruise control. All in, the Vitara is a safe and easy-to-drive compact crossover.

SUZUKI VITARA BUYERS' GUIDE

4. Kia Carens

Our pick Kia Carens 1.6 GDi 133bhp ISG ‘2’ seven-seat
Insurance group 13E
Used deals from £10,750
Monthly finance from £178

Small hatches and crossovers are all well and good but, if you have a higher headcount in your family, you’re going to need something more capacious. The Kia Carens, for example, offers seating for seven and a vast amount of interior space.

It also comes with masses of creature comforts; standard fit-features in ‘2’ trim include automatic lights, dual-zone climate control, a digital radio and a rear-view camera, which all helps make it easier to live with and drive.

The 1.6-litre petrol version has a comparatively low insurance group of 13, too, and the Carens also awarded the maximum five-star rating in Euro NCAP crash tests - so worries about safety should be few and far between.

KIA CARENS BUYERS' GUIDE

5. Volkswagen e-Golf

Our pick Volkswagen e-Golf 5dr
Insurance group 15E
Used deals from £8,954
Monthly finance from £140

If you’ve no need to cover hundreds of miles every day, or are looking to minimise running costs, you might well consider an electric car. They’re quiet and easy to drive, for starters, which means – as a learner – you can more easily concentrate on what’s going on around you. They’re not cheap but, taking into account the lower running costs, the finances can work out in their favour.

The e-Golf is a good entry point; it marries the practicality, straightforward nature and quality of a Golf with a fuss-free electric powertrain. It can even cover up to 144 miles on a single charge, and has a lower insurance group than alternatives such as the Nissan Leaf.

VW E-GOLF BUYERS' GUIDE

6. Fiat 500

Our pick Fiat 500 1.2 Lounge 3dr
Insurance group 8D
Used deals from £4,500
Monthly finance from £84

You might glance at the line-up of popular city cars and deem them all a little dull. Fortunately, cars such as the Fiat 500 serve up that flair and character you might well want in your first car. More to the point, due to the Fiat’s small size and light steering, it’s easy to manoeuvre and park - giving you a useful bit of breathing room.

The entry-level 1.2-litre engine is a good option for around-town work, but it’s worth considering the quicker and more flexible turbocharged 0.9 'Twinair' if you have longer trips or cross-country driving in mind. Aim for a Lounge model, too; these come with upgrades including cruise control, rear parking sensors and a five-inch media system with Bluetooth connectivity.

FIAT 500 BUYERS' GUIDE

7. Skoda Octavia

Our pick Skoda Octavia 1.0 TSI 115hp SE
Insurance group 14E
Used deals from £9,200
Monthly finance from £147

Long motorway drives and daily commuting can be tiresome in smaller cars. Consequently, if you need something a little plusher and more refined, you should consider a car such as a Skoda Octavia. It’s not the most exciting-looking car on the planet, for sure, but you’ll soon forget that when you’re cruising along in the quiet, comfortable cabin.

Standard equipment in Octavias is generous and includes an extensive array of safety features, but go for an SE version and you’ll also get upgrades including a driver fatigue sensor, rear parking sensors and cruise control. Many will also appreciate the Skoda’s impressive practicality and the refined and economical turbocharged 1.0-litre petrol engine. Need more space? Take a look at the estate version.

SKODA OCTAVIA BUYERS' GUIDE

8. BMW 1 Series

Our pick BMW 1 Series 118i 1.5 SE 5dr
Insurance group 18E
Used deals from £10,495
Monthly finance from £160

Spend some time trawling through quotes, and pick the right car, and you could strike an insurance deal that allows you to drive something more upmarket. Get your first year’s no claims discount and, in the second year, costs could also tumble - helping bring down your average expenditure. If the figures pan out, BMW’s second-generation 1 Series could be worth a look.

It’s a comfortable and quiet car that’s well equipped; even in basic SE specification, the BMW comes with climate control, a digital radio, Bluetooth, sat-nav and keyless start. The petrol 118i is also efficient yet suitably quick - making it more fun to drive and preventing you from rapidly getting bored of it as your driving skills develop.

BMW 1 SERIES BUYERS' GUIDE

 

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