Top 10 Best First Cars

Nothing quite matches the excitement of getting your first car. Whether you’ve passed your test first time or made things official after several ‘practice’ attempts, it’s time to tear up the L plates and get behind the wheel of your very own first car.

If you’re looking for a guide to the best of the best first cars, you’ve come to the right place – we’ve put together a selection of models that deliver on price, value and reliability.

The cars we’ve picked out are perfect for new drivers, but they’re also well worth considering if you’re looking for something to learn in, too.

best first cars
Nothing beats the excitement of getting behind the wheel of your first car.

It’s easy to get swept away by looks when choosing your first car but of course, there’s much more to take into account. Running costs like MPG, drive quality, safety, size and price are all factors likely to affect your final choice.

Ideally, a first car should combine as many of these elements as possible, being compact enough to manage for new drivers, reliable, and economical to run.

We’ve put together a list of our top ten best first cars to give you an idea of which models tick off most boxes.

The top ten best first cars on the UK market in 2019 are reviewed below:

1. Skoda Citigo

If budget is a key concern, the Skoda Citigo should be high up on your list of potential first cars. With almost identical looks to the Volkswagen Up! and the Seat Mii, the Citigo undercuts both on initial outlay while delivering impressive value for money.

The three-door Citigo ‘S’ entry level model starts at just £8,890 and comes with a decent amount of kit.

This includes electric front windows, remote central locking, an immobiliser, an antilock braking system and electronic stabilisation control.

The Skoda Citigo makes a great car for new drivers.
Skoda’s Citigo ranks as our top car for new drivers.

Ideal for cruising around town, the Citigo is compact enough to squeeze into the smallest of spaces, yet the cabin is surprisingly roomy.

There’s enough space to seat four adults in comfort and room for several (small) bags of shopping in the boot. The interior is clean and functional, but not particularly stylish – at under £9,000, though, who’s to complain?

For its price bracket, the Citigo offers excellent value for money. All models sit in the lowest insurance groups and the 1.0L engines achieve up to 68.9 miles per gallon.

Price: Starts from £8,890

Advantages:

  • A surprisingly fun drive
  • Excellent value for money

Disadvantages:

  • Boot is on the small side
  • Interior lacks style

2. Kia Picanto

With its sporty looks, the Kia Picanto is instantly eye catching but you might be surprised to discover that this compact car combines style with some serious substance.

Kia's Picanto is a great first time car.
The Kia Picanto plenty practical and pretty, too.

Solidly built and spacious, Kia’s smallest model is as practical as it is pretty. Awarded the title of City Car of the Year 2019 by What Car?, the Kia Picanto delivers on all fronts, from reliability to roominess.

Kitted out with electric front windows, electronic stability control and remote central locking, the entry level Picanto ‘1’ also comes with lots of security and safety spec, including twin front, side and curtain airbags and a brake assist system.

The Picanto is fitted with a 1.0L economical engine and offers an easy, enjoyable drive with light, responsive steering, making it an ideal choice for new drivers. It’s also surprisingly spacious for a small car.

Styling and cabin quality have both improved in recent years, and the boot is roomy for a car of its size.

If you needed a little something extra to sweeten the deal, the Picanto also comes with a whopping seven-year warranty – all this for under £10,000.

For a few more niceties like air conditioning, Bluetooth with music streaming and heated door mirrors, you’ll need to upgrade to the Picanto ‘2’, which is still great value, priced from £11,250.

Price: Starts from £9,895

Advantages:

  • Solid, stylish build
  • Cheap to run

Disadvantages:

  • Basic spec at entry level
  • Engine could be more powerful

3. Dacia Sandero

The Dacia Sandero is a compelling consideration for a first car, combining space and sturdy build quality. What’s more, nothing comes at a more pocket-friendly price. Literally: nothing.

Scooping the title of Car of the Year 2019 by What Car? in the Small Car Less Than £12,000 segment for the seventh consecutive year, the Sandero is the cheapest new car currently on offer in the UK, priced from just £6,995.

Of course, at such a staggering price you can’t expect any luxury touches, and the entry level Sandero is decidedly basic.

It does, however, boast several standard yet important features like airbags, electronic stability control, an antilock braking system, split folding rear seat and ISOFIX points.

Budget small cars are hard to find, but the Dacia Sandero is the cheapest out there.
Nothing is cheaper than the Dacia Sandero. Really.

For the price, the Sandero delivers a surprisingly decent ride quality – the engines are pretty smooth, although the steering could be a touch more responsive.

And while the cabin is devoid of style, interior space is plentiful and the boot is generous, too.

Opt for the base 1.0L engine and running costs are low – the entry level Sandero sits in insurance groups three or four depending on the trim level and returns up to 55.4 miles per gallon, according to Dacia.

Price: Starts from £6,995

Advantages:

  • Cheap to buy
  • Cheap to run

Disadvantages:

  • No frills whatsoever
  • An average drive

4. Volkswagen Polo

Perennially popular as a first car of choice for drivers with a penchant for quality, the Volkswagen Polo is recognised as one of the very best superminis on the market, leading its segment for over 40 years.

It’s a bit bigger than many rivals but not quite the same size as its beefier sibling the Golf.

What this little extra size translates to, however, is more room inside the cabin than many competitors offer.

Building on this more than adequate space inside the car, the cabin is nicely laid out and comfortable for the driver and passengers.

The entry level ‘S’ Polo comes with a decent infotainment system, Bluetooth interface, manual air conditioning, ISOFIX anchor points and automatic emergency braking as standard, and benefits from a five-star safety rating from 2017.

On the road, the Polo is a dreamy drive, gliding over bumps with ease. The same is true on the motorway, where wind noise is kept to a minimum. The low powered engines aren’t the fastest but steering is nice and precise.

Volkswagen Polo Beats edition is one of the great small cars on sale.
Volkswagen’s Polo is a reputable runner with lots to offer.

The Polo is a little more expensive than many rivals on initial outlay, but residual values tend to be stronger and running costs are reasonable.

Combining so many positives in one package, it’s really no wonder the Polo was named What Car? Small Car of the Year for 2019.

Price: Starts from £15,045

Advantages:

  • Top quality build
  • Spacious interior

Disadvantages:

  • Higher pricetag than many rivals
  • Small engines can feel a bit sluggish

5. Hyundai i10

If you want your first car to be fun to drive, stylish AND practical, the Hyundai i10 is well worth your attention.

This fun supermini is funky, fuel-efficient and well-engineered. Gliding quietly through town, the entry level i10 can also handle trips on the motorway, although the 1.2L engines available with the ‘SE’ trim and above are more comfortable for regular long journeys at speed.

Hyundai i10 is both practical and stylish as a first time motor.
The Hyundai i10 is both practical and stylish.

Eye-catchingly styled, the i10 has simple yet sophisticated looks and an attractive interior for the price bracket.

It also boasts one of the largest boots in its class, electric front windows, a tyre pressure monitoring system, remote central locking, an immobiliser and split folding rear seats.

The i10 is a practical, compact model that shines in the city with its light handling yet sturdy grip, which can make parking a doddle. There are six airbags, too, but no automatic emergency braking.

Running costs are good – i10 models sit in insurance groups two through to about seven and servicing is cheap for the class, too. Meanwhile, the basic 66bhp 1.0-litre engine returns up to 50.4 miles per gallon, making the i10 a pretty economical option for a first car.  

Price: Starts from £9,200

Advantages:

  • Economical and fuel efficient
  • Spacious interior

Disadvantages:

  • Not as fun to drive as some rivals
  • Doesn’t score as well on safety as some competitors

6. Toyota Aygo

The fun, funky Aygo by Toyota is another great choice for a first car that’s small in size but big on style, and it comes with plenty of personalisation options, too.

Very closely related to the Citroen C1 and Peugeot 108, the Aygo offers something more in terms of distinctive styling, with buyers able to choose from all kinds of colour combinations and really put their stamp on the motor – something many other manufacturers just don’t provide.

The Toyota Aygo can make a great first car.
The Toyota Aygo is funky and fun to drive.

Inside, the Aygo is comfortable with supportive seats and a solid build quality about it. All models are fitted with a 1.0L petrol engine, which is ideally suited to driving around town – it’s not really cut out for the kinds of speeds associated with motorway driving where it runs out of puff.

A compact car that just about fits four adults, the Aygo isn’t one of the roomiest options in its class – especially in terms of rear space. The boot’s also on the small side, but that’s not necessarily a deal breaker unless you need to regularly transport big loads.

Running costs make the Aygo an attractive prospect – the car achieves up to 57.7 miles to the gallon and sits in the lower insurance groups, ranging from about five to nine.

Price: Starts from £9,495

Advantages:

  • Personalisation options
  • Funky styling

Disadvantages:

  • Cramped rear
  • Low powered engine

7. Ford Fiesta

The Ford Fiesta is one of the country’s bestselling superminis year after year, having cemented its reputation as a fun-to-drive first car that also delivers on performance and reliability.

Everyone loves the Ford Fiesta, and thanks to keen PCP car deals they're now even more affordable.
The Ford Fiesta: slick, stylish and agile.

Ticking off the style credentials, the Fiesta is a sporty-looking, agile model that can take on the city streets as well as the motorway with its nippy range of engines, which start with the 1.1L 85hp powertrain offering up to 48.7 miles per gallon.

The entry level model is kitted out with 16-inch alloy wheels, an alarm, rear privacy glass, an electronic stability programme and the NCAP pack, which includes a raft of safety features like a lane-keeping aid and alert and a speed limiter.

Not content just to deliver in the style and spec stakes, the Fiesta also impresses with its drive quality and easy handling, as well as being compact enough to park with ease.

The car’s cabin is practical and spacious, and the Fiesta scored well on safety in tests back in 2017, scooping the top five-star rating.

Running prices are competitive for the Fiesta, with the base model slotting into insurance group five. Economical to run, Ford’s popular supermini is competitive on fuel efficiency and comes with a three-year warranty as standard.

Price: Starts from £15,995

Advantages:

  • Stylish looks
  • Safe and spacious

Disadvantages:

  • Not as cheap to buy as some rivals
  • Advanced safety equipment costs extra

8. Fiat 500

If you can’t bear to sacrifice style in favour of practicality, the Fiat 500 has got to be in the running for a first car that’s guaranteed to turn heads.

The Fiat 500 is the cheapest new car PCP deal on the market.
Cars don’t come much cuter than the Fiat 500.

As well as being seriously stylish with its retro charm, the Fiat 500 is fun to drive and comes with a competitive pricetag for a compact city car.

The entry level ‘Pop’ trim is kitted out with a five-inch infotainment system, seven airbags, seven speakers and USB connectivity, while the ‘Lounge’ trim adds creature comforts like air conditioning, rear parking sensors and a leather steering wheel.

Available with a choice of three engines, the 500’s base 1.2L engine is ideal for nipping around town with a few friends in tow, although the rear of the car can feel a little cramped as a result of the sloping back end.

The ride quality is good, with only the biggest of potholes causing a bit of bounce, and the design of the car makes for good visibility.

Running costs are competitive – the Fiat 500 manages up to 47.1 miles per gallon according to the official figures, and starts at insurance group seven. It’s also achieved a great reputation for safety, scoring the full five stars from Euro NCAP in the most recent crash tests.

Price: Starts from £12,165

Advantages:

  • Stylish retro looks
  • Scores well on safety

Disadvantages:

  • Not the most exciting drive
  • Rear feels a bit cramped

9. Vauxhall Corsa

The Vauxhall Corsa is another of the country’s favourite models. This sporty family hatchback is competitively priced and boasts loads more spec than many rivals.

With an attractive interior finish and impressive build quality, the base three-door Corsa achieves up to 43.5 miles to the gallon and is economical to insure, with the lower spec engines sitting in insurance groups three and four.

The Vauxhall Corsa is a superb first car.
The Corsa combines quality and style.

The base engine may be the cheapest outright but it’s only really suited to lower speeds, which is ideal if you’re not venturing out of town. If you’re planning to tackle the motorway regularly, look at the mid-range engines for the power you’ll need.

Drive quality is good – the Corsa has been updated in recent years to offer improved suspension and body control. It’s also quieter than it used to be and deals with bumpy road surfaces pretty well.

Inside, the Corsa’s interior looks smarter than many budget rivals and there’s plenty of headroom for four people, although legroom can get a bit tight.

The base ‘Active’ trim kits out the Cora with a range of features, including electric front windows, remote central locking, an immobiliser, six airbags, an anti-lock braking system, electronic stability programme, Bluetooth connectivity and 15-inch alloy wheels.

Price: Starts from £11,735

Advantages:

  • Quality build
  • Good standard of spec

Disadvantages:

  • Base engine is sluggish
  • Legroom is bit tight

10. SEAT Ibiza

SEATs Ibiza is an award-winning supermini that regularly excels in its class. This compact city car is an all-round performer that pretty much anyone would be proud to have as a first car.

With appealing exterior looks and an equally attractive cabin, the Ibiza is spacious and practical, with a well-sized boot and lots of handy cubby holes.

Among the best cars in its class for ride comfort, the Ibiza breezes over road imperfections better than many rivals, while the handling is simply excellent.

Practical and stylish the SEAT Ibiza is one of the small cars with a ton of value for money.
The Seat Ibiza handles like a dream.

In terms of engines, the entry level option is a bit sluggish but it should suffice for getting around town. The 95bhp version is far superior while still being competitive on fuel economy.

Entry level Ibizas come equipped with a good array of spec, including 15-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth connectivity, hill hold and a height adjustable driver’s seat, as well as a 6.5-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Models score well on reliability and safety. Running costs for the Ibiza are competitive, too – most models sit in insurance groups two to 19 and the base Ibiza engine returns up to 57.6 miles to the gallon.

Price: Starts from £15,600

Advantages:

  • Excellent ride quality
  • Lots of kit as standard

Disadvantages:

  • More expensive to buy than many rivals
  • Base engine is sluggish

The best first cars for making memories

Your first car is often the one you’ll remember with most fondness, so getting it right is crucial for building those motoring memories.

Whether your priority is an affordable pricetag or something that boosts your confidence behind the wheel, there are dozens of cars to consider. Our guide brings together ten of the best first cars in terms of reliability, reputation and running costs.

We’ve picked out models to sit all tastes and requirements, from the super stylish superminis to the lowest priced models on the road for the tightest of budgets.

Now that you’ve got an idea of the best first cars available in 2019, take a look at the following guides for more information about where to buy a car online, how to find a competitive finance deal and which cars really deliver on running costs.