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Top 5 UK cars for learner drivers

By Anita Thomas | December 14, 2021

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Buying your first car is a huge milestone in life — and it's an investment no one can afford to get wrong. The best vehicles for a first-time driver are a mix of practicality, comfort, and safety.

Top 5 UK cars for learner drivers

Ideally, you want a car that’s easy to drive and easy on your wallet too. But the sheer number of options out there can make for an overwhelming car-buying experience. That's why we've created this list of top beginner-friendly cars to help you choose the perfect set of wheels.

Let’s get started! 

Choosing a first car is a rite of passage for any youngster. It's also a process that can take a lot of time and effort – both of which are in short supply when you're a busy teenager. The good news is that there are a few key points to keep in mind when you're choosing the first car – points that will not only help with your decision-making but also save you from ending up with a proper banger that’ll embarrass anyone sitting in it. Here are four traits that no beginner-friendly car must be without:

Safe to drive

Not all cars crash the same. Not what you want to hear before you start driving, but safety is important! And since you’ll likely be buying a used car as your first one, you must know the basics. 

For starters, airbags and anti-lock brakes (also called ABS). These are pretty self-explanatory and almost all cars built in the last 20 years have them. With airbags, you’ll want to look for cars that have a driver as well as a passenger airbag. ABS stops your wheels from locking up in emergency braking situations, helping to prevent accidents. 

Next up we have electronic stability (also called ESC) and traction control. These are two separate systems that work to prevent skidding and sliding. They also improve traction on the road. 

For ESC and traction control, many modern cars have both. Some will have one and others will have none (typically older, cheaper vehicles). You’re safer in a car that has at least one of these systems in place. 

Durable and easy to maintain

You want your first car to be a machine that you can trust to get you through the next few years without regular trips to your local garage. So settling on something with a little more durability and longevity makes total sense. The last thing you want is to be stuck on the side of the road with a steaming bonnet and a panicked look on your face. It pays to pay a little more for your first ride. 

Fashionable and fun

A car's appeal is also an important consideration when buying your first one. Let’s be honest, certain cars don’t exactly exude sex appeal. Unfortunately for you though, style and quality often come hand in hand with price tags to match. 

But don’t fret, because certain models can give you the best of both worlds. Comfort with style and even speed, at a reasonable price. Furthermore, if you’re into pimping your ride, a simple selection of wheels can make a huge difference to the aesthetic of your vehicle. From cast to flow formed and forged alloy wheels, the possibilities are endless. 

Low-cost insurance

Finding affordable insurance is one of the biggest hurdles for any new young driver. Most new drivers will be limited to certain vehicle models for their first car, simply because insurance becomes prohibitively expensive. Insurance pricing works with insurance groups. Faster, more expensive cars tend to be in a higher group, though safety features also play a big role.  

The best cars for learners in the UK

Here are the top five cars for learner drivers that strike a great balance between style, comfort and affordability. 

Ford Fiesta

The Ford Fiesta is one of Britain's best-selling cars of all time. It’s the perfect beginner's vehicle. With their small economical engines that pack a surprising punch. The 1.0 litre EcoBoost model is the most impressive, with 123 BHP and up to 65 MPG, you’re getting speed along with economy. Plus, the Fiesta is packed full of safety features, including Active Park Assist, Lane Keeping Aid, and Cruise Control, making driving an absolute breeze. 

Volkswagen Polo

The VW Polo has been in production since 1975. It hasn’t changed all too much since then, and for good reason. The polo is great for first-time drivers because it’s affordable and cheap to run with a well-built interior and impressive safety features. We’re talking about Volkswagen here, a German brand with a great car-building reputation.

While the polo isn’t the most exciting thing to look at, the price is certainly an attractive factor. You can pick up a decent used model less than 10 years old with low mileage for around £4000.

Vauxhall Corsa

The Corsa has evolved a lot over the years with totally different car designs being released over a 20 year period. Still, it remains a popular choice for first-time drivers because it’s cheap to buy, cheap to run and cheap to insure. With a huge range of trim options and engine sizes, there’s a Corsa for everyone.

What’s more, Vauxhall is now part of the French PSA group (think Peugeot, Citroen and DS) so the latest Corsa’s share their underpinnings with the latest Peugeot 208 and DS 3 Crossback -- certainly not a bad thing. 

The latest model is arguably the most stylish and without a doubt, most refined. Even at the most basic SE model, you can expect air conditioning, cruise control and 16-inch alloys. 

Used models vary wildly in spec but you can find a reliable runner with low miles and a full-service history for £3000 or less. 

Seat Ibiza

The SEAT Ibiza has held its own in the supermini class by delivering stylish looks, spacious interiors, and superior handling for over 30 years. There’s much to offer in terms of boot space and passenger comfort, not to mention the generous list of safety equipment. The ride features the often-quoted five-star Euro NCAP safety rating, which you'll be happy to know is backed up with a range of cutting-edge safety technologies.

The Ibiza line up is home to a range of 1.0-litre petrol engines with varying amounts of horsepower. The higher-powered variants are an exciting choice, with impressive zero-to-62mph sprints considering the small engine size. But if you're looking for something more economical, the lower-powered variants are perfectly adequate for your first runabout.

Seat Ibiza is also a relatively cheap car to insure – especially if you're going for a model that falls within insurance group three. From there, you can expect a steep increase in price as you progress into the higher insurance groups – though even then, it's still cheaper than many other cars on the market. 

A used Seat Ibiza in decent condition shouldn't set you back more than £4000.

Toyota Aygo

Cheap and cheerful, the 1.0-litre Toyota Aygo is a fantastic choice for anyone who's just started driving or for those seeking a super-cheap runabout that won't cost a tonne to keep on the road.

Aygo comes with a long warranty when bought new — five years to be exact. Some used Aygo models also come with Toyota's 'Relax' warranty that can cover any model up to 10 years old or 100,000 miles if the car is serviced at a main dealer. 

Aygo's compact engine and size mean you won't have to worry about high insurance premiums. Its excellent fuel economy is another major selling point. You can get your hands on a respectable pre-owned model for around £5000.

Do your due diligence

Passing your test and getting your first car is an exciting life milestone. But it can also be a scary and confusing time, given the options out there on the market. Ultimately, your choice of car will depend on your budget and personal preferences. Taking some time to do some research is imperative. 

We hope this article has given you some guiding insights to help make that first purchase a happy one! 

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