Best cheap cars for first-time drivers

So, you've just passed your test and you're about to buy your first car. Congratulations! There are a lot of options out there for you, but many new drivers will be starting out with a limited budget. That doesn't mean you have to settle for an inferior quality vehicle, though. Manufacturers continue to produce cars that are as desirable as they are affordable, packing in a surprising amount of style, practicality, and performance. In this list, we'll run through ten of the best cheap cars for first-time drivers.

Yellow Skoda Citigo

1. Skoda Citigo

The Skoda Citigo was first launched back in 2011, and it’s one of the most affordable cars from a manufacturer that’s known for providing great value for money. Available in a three-door or five-door hatchback style, it’s a compact, agile motor with pleasingly smooth handling. There’s also plenty of cargo space onboard and a comfortable interior with high-quality materials. Excellent scores in safety testing and a solid reputation for reliability also contribute to its appeal for first-time drivers on a limited budget.

hyundai i10

2. Hyundai i10

The Hyundai i10‘s distinctive honeycomb front grille and low, sporty posture make it one of the most eye-catching city cars on this list, packing a whole lot of style into an affordable package. It’s also a model that prioritises comfort, both with its spacious interior and its noticeably smooth handling. New drivers will love its agility, solid grip, and responsive steering, providing the peace of mind you need as you head out on the roads for the first time.

Red Citroen C1

3. Citroen C1

First launched by the French manufacturer back in 2005, Citroen’s C1 is a compact city car that’s particularly pleasant to drive, making it ideal for debutantes. Compact dimensions and responsive steering mean easy cornering and stress-free parking, so you’ll have no trouble taking it around town. It’s also one of the best-looking cars on this list, with a cute, quirky design that’s available in a variety of bright body colours. Inside the cabin you’ll find a similarly fun aesthetic, with quality materials and a nice layout. If a little extra style is a high priority, the C1 is an excellent cheap first car.

Red VW Up!

4. VW Up!

First launched back in 2011, the Volkswagen Up! has the charming sense of style you’d expect from the German manufacturer, with a distinctive glass tailgate and some elegant angles. If you’re considering the Citigo, it’s worth knowing that Skoda based that model on the Up!, and the two cars are even produced in the same factory. Despite its diminutive proportions, it has plenty of interior space, so price-conscious first-time drivers can take a few passengers along for the ride in reasonable comfort. On the road it feels laid-back and smooth, and the engines are also reasonably efficient.

Fiat Panda

5. Fiat Panda

A compact five-door city car, the Fiat Panda has been around since the 1980s and continues to be a best-seller for the Italian manufacturer, thanks to its distinctive character and tidy handling. It offers a decent amount of driving enjoyment for its low price point, and the interior is also surprisingly spacious. Expect extra headroom in the upright body, as well as great visibility. Younger, more eco-friendly buyers will also love its mild hybrid engine, which offers reduced carbon emissions and decent fuel economy. With some great deals to be found on the used market, it’s worth considering as a cheap first buy for those on a budget.


6. Peugeot 108

The Peugeot 108 is one of the French manufacturer’s newest models, first going on sale in the UK in 2014. This modern, compact vehicle is much trendier than many compact rivals at this price point, with a sleek design that avoids the boxiness of some city cars. There are three-door and five-door versions available, and you can also personalise it in several ways. A sliding canvas roof is just one of the surprisingly cheap additional extras, alongside some advanced onboard infotainment tech.

Blue FIAT 500

7. Fiat 500

For forward-thinking first-time buyers, the Fiat 500 is a perfect balance of the exciting and the affordable. Newer models are among the cheapest all-electric vehicles on the market, and they offer a respectable range and decent power for their low price point. If you go back a few years, you’ll find that the 500’s petrol-hybrid units are almost as impressive as more expensive rivals when it comes to keeping emissions down. Plus, you’ll love the way it combines a sharp, futuristic look with Fiat’s classic Italian styling that dates back to the late 1950s.

Red Renault Clio

8. Renault Clio

One of the most popular cars on the UK market since its original launch in 1990, the Clio has gone through several evolutions in its lifetime. If you buy it as your first car, you might find it hard to part with. It’s now a class-leading supermini, combining impeccable style with a truly enjoyable driving performance. The comfy interior cabin has plenty of space, and depending on the trim, it boasts some excellent materials and a generous selection of tech

Red volkswagen polo

9. Volkswagen Polo

The Volkswagen Polo is a supermini that’s been a popular part of the German manufacturer’s line-up since the mid-1970s. Now resembling a scaled-down version of the Golf, it offers plenty of sophistication for an affordable price point. More than anything else, it’s the classy VW interior that made it impossible for us to leave it off this list. You’ll love the quality materials and finishes, how well everything is constructed, and the large, elegant dashboard. It also offers a smooth, refined ride for first-time drivers, and the larger petrol engines can manage a 0-62 mph time under ten seconds.

Red SEAT Ibiza

10. SEAT Ibiza

Probably the most convenient car on this list, the SEAT Ibiza is ideal for first-time buyers with families, or those who are planning regular long-distance trips. It’s a five-door supermini with plenty of interior space and a sizeable boot to pack in lots of luggage. You can also achieve up to 50 mpg with some of the smaller engines, which will make it an even cheaper vehicle to run in the long term. In addition to these practical points, you’ll also dig the Ibiza’s design, with its sharp angles and lines that are sure to turn heads out on the road.

Now you’ve looked through our guide to the best cheap first cars, you can see that first-time buyers are spoilt for choice these days. Whether you’re looking for style, speed, space or just a car to get you safely from A to B, we’re sure there’s something on this list that piqued your curiosity. Check out our used listings and find yourself a car that’ll give you some unforgettable first years as a driver.

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