The 5 best first cars for new drivers

Last updated by mustard.co.uk on May 20th, 2021

Picking a first car can be a fraught process, but it doesn’t have to be – here are five of our highly recommended.

Is there anything as exciting for a new driver as actually buying a first car? Your first car is rarely a particularly exotic or expensive model, but it represents the boundless freedom only driving can give.

It’s for that reason it’s so vital that you choose your first car wisely. The choice of models can be overwhelming, and there are so many obstacles to overcome before you get a set of keys in your hand. New or used? Can I afford the insurance? How long am I going to keep this car for? How important is safety?

We’ve focused this list on brand-new cars, which while not always an option for new drivers can often be a more sensible choice than buying a banger.

What to look out for in a first car

The sad truth is that a first car really comes down to one thing above almost everything else – the price of the insurance. Insurance costs can very easily become totally unaffordable for a new driver, and some of the country’s most popular models will ask several thousand pounds for a year’s insurance.

That’s why it’s so vital that your first car is in a low insurance group – and that means that it’ll be small, cheap, safe, and slow.

Most of those are good qualities to have in a car for a nervous new driver anyway. Small cars are easier to park and less intimidating to drive around town. Cheap cars are more fitting for a young person’s budget, and tend to cost less to maintain, repair and fuel than larger, more premium models.

Safety is a particularly important concern, with around one in five young drivers expected to be involved in an accident during their first year of driving. As for slow, every model on here will cruise comfortably on the motorway, but it’s wise for a first car to not be too well-endowed with power. You wouldn’t give an apprentice builder the keys to the 10-ton excavator on their first day, would you?

The good news is that you’re already in the right place to find a cheap car insurance quote – just tap in the details of the cars you’re considering and mustard.co.uk will give you a quote in minutes.

The five best first cars for young drivers

Renault Clio

Renault Clio best first cars

Our sister site Parkers.co.uk has awarded the Clio its Best First Car award two years in a row, and it’s well deserving of the title. The Clio offers everything a new driver could want, including bargain finance deals and a low insurance group of 3 if you opt for the least-powerful engine.

Fashion-conscious young buyers will love the way the Clio looks, both inside and out – and there’s plenty of technology available including a big touchscreen infotainment system, smartphone connectivity and wireless charging to keep the tech-savvy happy.

The Clio’s also very practical for such a small car, with a boot that rivals cars from the class above and easy, lightweight driving dynamics.

Volkswagen Up

Volkswagen Up best first cars

With most models in Insurance Groups 1 or 2, the Volkswagen Up was practically made to be the perfect first car. It’s stylish and desirable, yet thanks to its dinky 1.0-litre engine and minuscule dimensions it’s incredibly easy to drive and cheap to run.

It’s available in several trim levels but even basic models have just about everything you’ll need, and to keep costs down Volkswagen’s cleverly eschewed fitting a large infotainment display and instead provides a smartphone mount – not a bad idea if you consider almost everybody has a large smartphone these days.

The Up really feels like it has an additional level of quality above most of its rivals, exemplified in its sturdy cabin and solid driving dynamics. It’s the cheapest Volkswagen, but far from the meanest.

Kia Picanto

best first cars Kia Picanto

Want a first car you’ll keep for years and years? Look no further than the Kia Picanto – it comes, as all Kias do, with a seven-year warranty, so it’s ideal for private buyers who don’t just want to hand the car back at the end of their finance agreement.

There’s more to the Picanto than a good warranty, though. It’s stylish, good to drive and cheap to run, with the lowest insurance group model being a 4. The interior’s particularly premium for such a small car, and you can opt for big-car features like heated seats or a large infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Prices for entry level models are very reasonable, too.

Ford Fiesta

best first cars ford fiesta
The Ford Fiesta is the UK’s best-selling car for a reason – or rather, several reasons, because it’s great in quite a few areas. The lowest models are in insurance group 4 and come with all the basics – air-con, remote locking, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Even if you didn’t learn to drive in a Fiesta you likely know somebody who owns one – these cars are ubiquitous, and that makes motoring as cheap and dependable as it comes. You’ll find somebody to maintain your Fiesta long after you’re bothered about keeping to the main dealers, and parts are cheap.

Better yet is how good the Fiesta is to drive. Ford’s perfected this formula over the year, and made the Fiesta not just one of the best-driving small cars – it’s one of the best-driving cars, period.

Fiat 500

best first cars fiat 500

The Fiat 500 may have been around since 2007 (and its styling inspiration far longer than that) but it’s still very popular. It’s great as a first car thanks to its low-powered but peppy 1.2-litre engine, which slots it into insurance group 5.

It’s cute and dinky, making it an absolute doddle to drive around the city, and the individualist will love the myriad personalisation options you can apply. No two 500s have to be the same with these options available.

No, it’s not the most practical – but when it looks this good, do you care?

Well that’s our five best cars for new drivers but if you’re not quite ready at this stage yet, it might be worth looking at how much it costs to learn to drive and our guide to cheap car insurance for young drivers. 

Whichever car you choose for your first, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting the right deal for you on your insurance. You can compare from some of the UK’s leading insurance brokers on mustard.co.uk – where you’ll find a quote in minutes along with our Cheapest Price Guarantee*. Start a quote online today or get in touch with over the phone – please call 0330 022 8387 and one of the team will be happy to help.

Who is mustard?

We are experts in insurance comparison, dedicated to helping you compare quotes online quickly and easily.

We search quotes from some of the UK’s leading insurance providers to help you find the right policy for you at a price to suit your budget.

Don’t just take our word for it, take a look at some of our car insurance comparison reviews.

Insurance as individual as you are

Compare Car Insurance Quotes