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The best first cars for new drivers 2023

Buying your first car is a very special moment, but with so many options out there how do you choose? Here’s our guide to the top 10 cars for a new driver.

Phill Tromans Cazoo

By Phill Tromans

Updated: 22 May 2023

Learning to drive is a major milestone in life. Once you’ve finished your lessons, passed your theory test and aced the practical exam, you’ll finally get to the good part – getting your first set of wheels.

Choosing your first car can feel like a challenge, however. You have so many things to think about, including how much it’ll cost, how you plan to use the car and whether this one or that one will best meet your needs. With all of that in mind, here’s our guide to the 10 best first cars you can buy.

1. Ford Fiesta

It’s no wonder why the Ford Fiesta has been Britain’s best-selling car for years. It looks great, is available with smart tech, such as voice control and a heated windscreen (perfect for those frosty mornings), and is as fun to drive as some sports cars. Really. It’s ideal for first-time drivers because it feels responsive and solid on the road, inspiring confidence when you’re behind the wheel even if you’ve only just passed your test.

You can choose from a wide range of models, including many with a small engine that gives you enough oomph to pull out of a junction safely but which won’t cost a fortune for a new driver to insure. For the best balance of performance and cost, we’d recommend the popular 100-horsepower version of the 1.0-litre petrol engine.

Downsides? Well, it’s hard to stand out in the UK’s most popular car. And although running costs are very reasonable, there are more affordable cars to buy and insure. Overall though, the Fiesta is a tremendous choice for your first car.

Read our Ford Fiesta review

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2. Volkswagen Polo

Several of the cars on this list are at the affordable end of the market, and there’s a lot to be said for that. But if you want something with a more premium image, check out the Volkswagen Polo. You might pay a bit more for it but the Polo still gives you good value for money, with a high-quality interior and low running costs thanks to some very efficient engines.

It’s nice to drive, with a focus on comfort rather than outright fun that makes it very easygoing. The boot’s a good size and versions from 2017 onwards have a large touchscreen that you can connect with your smartphone for entertainment or navigation. On top of that, all models have advanced safety features such as automatic braking that could help you avoid a collision.

Read our Volkswagen Polo review

3. Toyota Aygo

If you’re looking to buy your first car, appearances will probably influence your choice. The first thing you notice about the Toyota Aygo is its fun looks, which are way more distinctive than the Citroën C1 and Peugeot 108, with which it shares many parts. 

Fuel economy is usually high on the list for first-time car owners and the Aygo does well on that score, helping to keep running costs low. It’s also surprisingly spacious for a city car, with windows that give you a great view out. 

There’s no choice of engine – just a 1.0-litre petrol – so don’t expect it to wow you on motorways, but the Aygo isn’t designed for that. Instead, it should be all you need around town, where the Aygo feels totally at home. 

Read our Toyota Aygo review

4. Vauxhall Corsa

For many first-time buyers, the Vauxhall Corsa has long been the default alternative to the Ford Fiesta. Now, even though you have much more choice now than those two familiar hatchbacks, Vauxhall’s small car is still well worth a look. It’s a very affordable used buy and running costs are also very reasonable. Because an all-new version was released in 2019, you can now pick up a previous-generation model (pictured) for even less.

Several versions are very cost-effective to insure, particularly the 1.2-litre and 1.4-litre models, available in several different trims. The pre-2019 Corsa comes as a sporty three-door version, or there’s a five-door model that makes it easier for your friends or family to get in or out of the back seats.

Read our Vauxhall Corsa review

5. Hyundai i10

When it comes to choosing a first car, there are boxes to tick. The current Hyundai i10 (on sale new since 2019) does a good job of addressing the most important ones. It’s very fuel-efficient and falls into a low insurance group, for a start, and it feels solid and reassuring to drive. On top of that, the inside of the i10 is particularly roomy and comfortable for a small car. 

The i10 comes with more features as standard than many small cars, too, including electric windows front and rear, air con and cruise control. The icing on the cake is Hyundai’s five-year warranty from new, which is longer than the three years of cover you get with most cars.


6. Renault Clio

You may notice that the Volkswagen Up looks a lot like two other small city cars – the Seat Mii and The Renault Clio isn’t Europe’s best-selling small car for nothing. The latest version (introduced in 2019) is full of great tech to help keep you safer on your journeys, like lane-keeping assist and automatic emergency braking. 

The interior is stylish and modern, with most versions having a central touchscreen and support for Android Auto and Apple Carplay. There’s more space for people than in some small cars, while boot space is exceptional, with a capacity of 391 litres to the load cover – more than you get in a Ford Focus.

Every version of the Clio feels relaxing to drive, while running costs should be low thanks to its fuel-efficient engines.

7. Kia Picanto

Choose the Kia Picanto as your first car and you’re not only getting one of the UK’s least-expensive cars but one of the best value ones. Insurance and fuel costs should be low, while you get the reassurance of Kia’s unrivalled seven-year warranty from new. 

The Picanto is a stylish little car inside and out, with a light and airy  interior and a dashboard that’s especially clear and easy to use. Boot space is above average for this type of car, with a capacity of 255 litres for the latest model. Choose the number 3 trim (yes, trims are called 1, 2 and 3!) and you’ll get things like climate control, cruise control and electric door mirrors. 

Even the lowest-powered Picanto is fun to drive, with responsive steering that gives you a feeling of control behind the wheel.

8. Dacia Sandero

You might not think the Dacia Sandero is the coolest car on this list, but when you look at how much car you get for your money, nothing else comes close. In purchase price and insurance costs, the Sandero is an absolute bargain and it comes with huge amounts of space inside. It’s comfortable and good to drive, whether you’re pootling around town or cruising on the motorway.

It’s not fancy or flashy, but the Sandero is a very up-to-date car for the cost of something much older. If you want to make your hard-earned cash go as far as possible, this is definitely one to consider.

9. Renault Zoe

If you want to go electric, the Renault Zoe could be the car for you. It’s one of the most affordable pure-electric cars and its small size means it’s easy to manoeuvre around town. Charging it with electricity could be more cost-effective than filling up with petrol or diesel, but make sure you’ve considered the logistics of finding a charging point and be aware that it may cost you more to insure it than it would for similar small petrol-powered cars.

If it fits your lifestyle the Zoe is a brilliant first car. It’s packed with safety features, feels good to drive and, like most electric cars, is quiet and surprisingly nippy. The interior looks smart and futuristic and offers good space for four people and their luggage.

Read our Renault Zoe review

10. Fiat 500

The Fiat 500 has one major thing going for it and that’s style. Launched way back in 2007, few cars still capture your heart like a 500, thanks to its fun retro design and, when new, the huge range of ways to personalise it. That means there are countless versions of 500s for sale, making it less likely that someone will have one that looks exactly like yours.

Is it the best car on this list? Objectively, no. There are other cars that are more practical, more comfortable and feel better to drive. But while this is a heart-over-head purchase, it should still be cost-effective to insure, give you good fuel economy and put a smile on your face every time you look at it.

Read our Fiat 500 review

Great used car deals at Cazoo

You’ll find lots of great-value used cars to choose from at Cazoo – check out our deals page for big savings on a wide selection of cars. Simply find the one you love then buy or finance it online. You can choose to have it delivered to your door, or you can collect it from your nearest Cazoo Customer Centre.

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