The Best Cars for Learner Drivers

When considering ‘what is the best first car to get?’ it is important to consider the overall costs involved as well as the most suitable style.

Whether you are about to start learning to drive or you’re a newly passed driver, freedom awaits and finding the perfect first car will help make it a reality.

Your First Car Considerations

Affordable

The cost of buying and running a car can be daunting, so finding an affordable option is key to financing your new car freedom.

Choosing a model that is affordable, economical to run and cheap to insure is the best way to maximise how far your money goes. Many assume that a second hand car will be the best and cheapest option, but buying or financing a brand new car will have the advantages of a warranty and reduce the risk of mechanical costs in the first few years of ownership.

Cheap to insure

A key consideration and often an obstacle to choosing some car models for new drivers, is the dramatically high insurance costs. Unfortunately, there is little you can do as a new driver to avoid high cost policies, until you establish yourself as an experienced (and safe) driver in the eyes of many insurance companies. But choosing a safe, less powerful and more affordable car can all help to keep insurance costs to a minimum.

Every year your insurance policy will reward you with a percentage discount -  helping you build up your ‘no-claims’ discount will pay off in the long run. Another way of boosting your no-claims discount is to fit your car with an insurer-approved 'black box', which tracks driving behaviour in the shorter-term, reviewing your performance and scoring you, to further reduce your policy cover.

You can read our full guide on ‘How To Lower Your Car Insurance’ for even more tips to saving you money.

Small and manageable

Choosing the best car for new drivers will mean choosing a car that is nimble and manoeuvrable, in what will inevitably be new driving conditions for learners and recently passed drivers alike.

Small cars are therefore the best option for new drivers, as they are easy to position due to their nimble light steering, meaning new drivers are able to safely build their confidence behind the wheel.

Looking out for small cars with the highest safety rating will also keep insurance costs down as well as give you peace of mind as you set off on your new journey.

Referring to the independent Euro NCAP rating is a great way to compare your new car for safety considerations. See our below roundup for more details of Euro NCAP ratings per car.

The future is electric

Getting comfortable with electric power may be a challenge for established drivers, battling with old habits or ‘range-anxiety’. But for new drivers, there is no better time to go electric than now, joining the electric-movement ahead of government plans to ban traditionally fuelled cars (petrol, diesel and even hybrid models) by 2035, will be a savvy move for learners and new drivers to lead the way.

10 Best Cars for New Drivers

All things considered, we have rounded up 10 of the best first car options for learners and new drivers, looking for their first taste of freedom.

1. Audi A1

Euro NCAP testing: ★★★★★
Car insurance group: 9

The Audi A1 is a very alluring model for new drivers, boasting many driver-friendly gadgets and tech to make each journey a dream.

The new Audi A1 comes with a smart, grown up design too. Even though the previous design was a crowd favourite. Audi is well known for its technology, distinctive looks and German engineering. So as far as a first car goes the A1 is definitely in the premium end. But if you’re budget stretches that far, an A1 is a perfect choice to give your friends something to be jealous about.

2. MINI Hatchback

Euro NCAP testing: ★★★★
Car insurance group: 20

It’s a classic, and considered the ultimate first car for many drivers. The MINI Hatch feels like no other car thanks to its ‘go-kart handling’ and low centre of gravity. Meaning it’s a fun and thrilling drive you’ll fall in love with.

Enjoy the iconic oversized speedometer and large digital control and entertainment centre in the latest models, as well as the ability to personalise your MINI style with an abundance of kits and colours to suit your taste. MINI by name, mini by nature – just don’t expect an abundance of storage space and you won’t be disappointed in driving away your new MINI.

3. Mercedes-Benz A Class

Euro NCAP testing: ★★★★★
Car insurance group: 17

Coining the term ‘premium hatchback’ the new look Mercedes-Benz A Class is definitely just that. Even the base model oozes style and as your first car it won’t leave you disappointed.

Mercedes are known for quality and despite the A Class being one of their smallest cars it has the design, connectivity and luxury, Mercedes drivers come to expect. Not to mention the 5 star safety rating, making this hot hatch a safe and high-quality first car. Cost-wise, will see you spending slightly more than other models, but this car gives you a vehicle that you will struggle to outgrow.

4. BMW 1 Series

Euro NCAP testing: ★★★★★
Car insurance group: 16

For 16 years the BMW 1 Series has been an ever present model in BMW’s illustrious range. With only a few changes over the years this new 1 series is arguably BMW’s best design to date.

Everything about this the new design is impressive. From the driving dynamics to the technology inside and out. Packed with technology such as a Digital Key and Innovative Parking. Giving you the ability to download a key to your phone and unlock your car. As well as a reversing assistant to get you out of those tight spaces. Perfect for those first time parking situations and protecting your brand new BMW.

5. Fiat 500

Euro NCAP testing: ★★★
Car insurance group: 7

The compact Fiat 500 is a popular choice for new drivers thanks to its individual retro style and budget friendly cost. With a 5” infotainment system and connectivity, driving to your favourite playlist is easy.

Ideal for nipping around town and catching a few eyes, it’s a small car with style and the ability to manoeuvre in and out of tight spots and congested towns.

With a warranty that covers limitless miles of use in the first two years, you’re covered for wherever your journey takes you! Plus, opt for the smaller 1.2 litre engine and insurance costs will be kept low too.

6. Volkswagen Polo

Euro NCAP testing: ★★★★★
Car insurance group: 1

The VW Polo has always had a reputation as a strong, reliable, well-made and efficient car choice. While the newest Volkswagen Polo boasts Euro NCAP five stars safety rating and is one of the lowest cars to insure in the group 1 category.

The safety package for the new 5th-generation Volkswagen Polo includes optimised body structure, a highly effective belt-and-airbag combination and driver-assist systems.  Other technology includes a ‘Front Assist’ system as a standard feature, helping to maintain a safe distance to the vehicle ahead.

Low emissions and a high mpg make this an ideal model for those looking for an economical first car. With the 1.6 litre diesel model you can expect to reach a 76mpg – as long as you drive with care.

7. Smart fortwo

Euro NCAP testing: ★★★★
Car insurance group: 12

Possibly the smallest and smartest first car on our list. The smart fortwo measures at mere 2.69m, but despite being small it’s a perfect first choice for a new driver.

As a new driver you might live in the hustle and bustle of a city. So the dynamic performance of the compact smart fortwo makes it perfect for city living. Not to mention it’s a breeze to park too so if you need a small, easy to get around and perfect for city living type car. The smart fortwo is a strong contender.

8. Toyota AYGO

Euro NCAP testing: ★★★★
Car insurance group: 7

Toyota’s AYGO is a fun and stylish small hatchback with as much connectivity and technology as you could wish for.

The AYGO has you covered when driving in busy inner-city conditions. With sensors that are able to detect when vehicle is starting to skid sideways, the Vehicle Stability Control automatically activates individual brakes and regulates the engine to take control.

AYGO also gives you the technology you need to help you on your journey with a hub of connectivity giving you entertainment, navigation and car management through the My Toyota portal and the MYT app.

9. BMW i3

Euro NCAP testing: ★★★★
Car insurance group: 28

With low running costs, excellent driving performance and a positive environmental impact, the BMW i3 is an electric choice worth getting on board with from day one for new drivers.  

With an impressive range of up to 188 miles, this emissions-free driving choice is also compact, making tight spots a breeze for driving newbies.

Not to mention the head-turning style of the i3 – for those who really want to stand out from the crowd, once they get their first set of wheels. Like the A1 this will attract a certain budget but as a long term, cost effective solution to driving, could be a real contender for the environmentally conscious first time drivers.

10. Skoda Citigo e iV

Euro NCAP testing: ★★★
Car insurance group: 2

The Skoda Citigo is suitably practical, fun to drive and cheap to run. Controls are light and easy to use, it is great for those first trips around town and cheaper than the alternative VW Up!. With many of its functions controlled through an app, it’s not surprising that it ticks the box with young tech savvy drivers as well as city dwellers. 

Cheap to insure, most models fit in (lowest cost) group one or two insurance – ideal for new, young drivers. Also reaching nearly 70mpg the ŠKODA Citigo, it is not only economical, but also great value for money.

Buying your first car really comes down to more than just what car you would like. With an endless budget you could in reality get anything but many first time drivers don’t have that luxury.

Instead you should weigh up the must haves and the nice to haves. This will help you identify whether you’re concerned with insurance costs or really need that apple car play technology. Regardless of your choice once you finally get those keys you’ll be too busy hitting the open road to worry about it.