Choosing your first car is a personal decision in many ways. The best first car for you might be determined by affordability, safety, or reliability. For many of you though, it will be about the driving experience. Before we introduce our picks for the best first car to drive, a few thoughts on the main considerations when buying your first car.
Most important features
Buying and running a car can be an expensive business, and when deciding on a first car it’s important to bear the ongoing costs in mind. Buying a newer car will always be more expensive initially, but over time the savings on reduced insurance premiums and improved fuel economy can seriously add up. There are more and more finance options available for first time car buyers, and if the reduced running costs of a newer vehicle outweigh the costs of finance then you should be considering this.
The Euro NCAP safety rating is a great tool for determining the safest first car you can buy. It is important to note however, that the rating system itself evolves over time to reflect improvements in car construction techniques and accident-avoidance technology. A 4-star rating achieved in 2020 will for example indicate a safer vehicle than a 5-star rating from 2010. You should always try and purchase the safest vehicle you can afford, as this will reduce your insurance premiums and the chances of a dangerous and costly collision.
Weighing up different first car options in terms of reliability can be a challenge. It’s important to consider both how frequently repairs might be required, and how costly those repairs might be when they’re required. Every model and manufacturer will have their own respective recurring issues, and it’s important to understand what to look out for in a new vehicle. Our advice is to first narrow down your options based on affordability, safety, and your own preferences. Once you’ve done this you can then look into each option and find out which will be the most reliable.
Five Great Cars for the First Time Driver
Here are 5 great first cars to consider if you’re just starting out.
1. VW Up! (2012 – Present)
The VW Up! is a small lightweight vehicle, with great manoeuvrability and is really easy to drive. On top of that, there are some killer additional features available which are great for first time drivers. Rear parking sensors and a reversing camera are a great and affordable addition if you’re buying your first car, and you can find second-hand models which have these fitted if you look around. The Up! received a full 5-star Euro NCAP safety rating, though this was downgraded to a 3-star rating in 2019 due to a lack of modern accident-avoidance technology. The Up! is also available as the e-Up! which is a fully electric version, though this is more expensive and has been reviewed by owners less favourably than the petrol version.
2. Volkswagen Golf (2020 – Present)
The VW Golf is a classic, and has a well-earned reputation as one of the most fun cars to drive. It is also amazingly easy to drive, and won the 2019 Auto Trader New Car Awards ‘Best Car for New Drivers’. With large, deep windows which minimise blind spots, and light steering which makes parking easier, the Golf is a great choice for an inexperienced driver. The Golf received a full 5-star Euro NCAP safety rating, and is both reliable and economical to repair. The Golf received a 3.5-star Green NCAP rating earlier this year, which is a good performance for a petrol car.
3. Renault Zoe (2013-2019)
The Renault Zoe is the best-selling electric car yet across Europe, and with good reason. It’s super light steering controls make travelling around compact city streets less of a strain on the arms, but it separates itself from the rest of the electric pack when you leave the city. As the batteries are located under the floor it doesn’t lean in tight corners as much as other models on winding A roads. It also boasts an impressive range compared to most other e-cars; at around 240 miles a full charge will get you further than most of the competition. The Zoe received a full 5-star Euro NCAP safety rating in 2013, though this rating has since expired in January 2020.
4. Nissan Micra (2017-Present)
The Nissan Micra has been a popular choice for first time car buyers for a long time, but recent models have become a little more stylish. On new models, automatic emergency braking and lane departure warning system come as standard, and the Nissan Micra received a 4-star Euro NCAP safety rating. Upgrade to the Safety + pack and the Euro NCAP rating increases to a 5-star. With low insurance group ratings and a range of efficient engines, the Nissan is also affordable for a first-time driver to run.
5. Citroen C1 (2014 – Present)
The Citroen C1 has a small engine, low spec, and is a really small vehicle. If you’re on a budget that makes for a great package for a first-time car. The Citroen C1 Mk1 is designed to appeal to first-time car buyers and those that have just passed their test, so you’ll find plenty of second-hand options available. If you are buying from new, then Citroen offers ‘Simply Drive’ a one cost option which includes 3 years of motor insurance, servicing, roadside assistance, warranty, and road tax. The C1 received a 4-star Euro NCAP safety rating in 2014, but this expired in January 2021.
There are many other options worth considering, but we feel these five are worth particular attention. Honourable mentions go to the Ford Fiesta, Fiat 500 and Ford Ka+, and whichever first car you choose enjoy!