Ideally, your first car looks great, is cheap to run and are the wheels all your friends want to ride in when it’s time to head out of town. There’s a lot to choose from these days too – traditional combustion engines, electric vehicles, cute SUVs and easy to drive city cars. We’ve chosen our favourites to build a first car fantasy list for you.
Small, yet perfectly formed first cars
The Fiat 500 is one of the cutest cars you can drive. It comes with impeccable styling, it’s well balanced and the smaller size makes it great not only for getting around town but also for a road trip with the girls. The smaller engine also equals less insurance and good fuel economy, great0 news for new drivers. Electric models are also available these days, making them a perfect first car choice for environmentally conscious new drivers.
The older 2007 model had a healthy 5-stars from the Euro NCAP safety rating but got just three for the more recent 2017 release. It’s a similar story with reliability ratings and performance too – the older models were more comfortable, required less maintenance and even had a little more get up and go. New, you can expect to pay upwards of £13,000. Used models are as little as £1,000 but make sure you check them thoroughly before parting with your cash.
The Mini Cooper is a favourite with almost everyone, and for good reason too. It’s fun to drive, a great update of an absolute classic and some of the original Coopers are turning out to be good classic car investments. If you’re looking for a great looking set of wheels as your first car, it’s hard to go past any of the Mini Coopers.
It’s not the most economical small car you could buy, but she’s not one for constant maintenance either – perfect for when you’re starting out your motoring life and getting to grips with dipsticks and coolant levels. The 2014 models achieved a 4-star safety rating, 5 for the 2007 and 2017 models. For a new one, you’re looking at around £24,000, a used one could set you back upwards of £2,000.
Small, sophisticated and stable on the road, the Up! appeared on British roads in 2012 and achieved best in class status for pretty much every category it was sized up in. It comes in both petrol and electric options and newer models can sync to your smartphone sat-nav. It’s a city car through and through, easy to manoeuvre and park, but also capable on longer journeys.
It’s cheap to run, reliable and achieved a passable 3-stars in NCAP’s latest safety rating but a full five for the 2011 model. There are a few personalisation options with the Up! which can make finding a used model a little more difficult, but it is worth hunting around for one that suits your needs. There’s plenty of room in the back for a couple of weekend bags and if you’re heading off to uni, fold the seats down and you should be able to pack your life inside. New, you’re looking at around £12,000, used you can pick one up from £5,000.
Going electric with your first car
Kia Soul EV
A small SUV reminiscent of Mini Cooper styling, the Kia Soul EV is one of the best small electric SUVs on UK roads today. She’s not cheap, but she is worth every penny. You get a decent range from a fully charged battery – 280 miles – and you can get an 80% fast charge in under an hour with 100kW DC chargers. Alfa Power has added these to the UK network and you can find them with the Zap Map app.
In terms of range and price, the Hyundai Ioniq is comparable, but doesn’t come close in styling. It’s yet to be tested by NCAP, but indications are on track for a great rating. It’s the same story with reliability ratings – it’s still early days. However, the e-Nitro which is a little like the older sister of the Soul EV has shown to be extremely dependable. As with most electric cars, there are fewer moving parts and therefore less to go wrong. New, she’ll set you back a cool £37,000, used, upwards of £8,500.
The Smart forfour has distinctive styling that will stand out in any crowd – even the crowd of new first cars owners. The turning circle is tiny which makes it as easy to get about in the city as it does in a small country lane in Devon. The forfour is the older and slightly bigger sister of the fortwo and a reasonable alternative to the Up! or the Fiat 500. More recent models are fully electric.
You’ll get a massive choice of 40 colours and colour combinations. The high level of customisation can make finding the exact used model you’re dreaming of a bit of a nightmare. The petrol engines are just three cylinders which are great for getting around town but not so great for longer distances. NCAP gave her 4-stars for safety and the EQ, electric model, got the same. Reliability is so-so and space-wise you may find she’s a bit of a squeeze when it’s time to head to uni. New, you’re looking at around £22,000, used you’ll be digging in your pocket for £10,000.