That first company car, the first family car, the first sports car – the vehicles we own resonate as more than mere transport and are often associated with key moments in life. And for that reason there’s no more important choice than your first car. This, after all, is the vehicle that will give you the initial rush of freedom and independence that comes with driving.
However, as the costs for young drivers continue to increase, so the choices of viable first car become ever slimmer. Within the sea of basic, first car superminis are hidden gems though – here are five options that can be found on CarGurus for £2,000 or less that any starter driver would surely come to look back on fondly in later life…
VOLKSWAGEN LUPO – THE STYLE STATEMENT
The cost of insurance means that grand statements of prestige, performance and status are out for young drivers, so nuance and knowing cultural references are all. Few brands have pulled off mainstream success and cult appeal like Volkswagen – you only have to see the number of customised VWs around to appreciate even a basic little hatchback such as the Lupo can have kudos, for it provides a great basis for some mild personalisation while also being solidly built and cheap to run. The 100bhp 1.4 Sport is the stealth alternative to the coveted GTI, and diesels can munch motorway miles like a big car, but really the 1.0 petrol is the one to have if you want to keep insurance costs down.
Search for a used Volkswagen Lupo on CarGurus
FIAT PANDA 4X4 – THE MINI SUV FOR COUNTRY KIDS
The Italians are masters of making small cars with verve and style. The formula even works when shrinking down SUV toughness into a small car package, as demonstrated by the Panda 4×4. True, the Panda 4×4 isn’t going to win any drag races. But it’s got a pint-sized toughness that sets it apart, is perfectly sized for narrow lanes, cheap to buy and run and, if you live out in the sticks, you’ll always make it home, whatever the weather. Like a Tonka-toy ‘my first SUV’ it’s a characterful and fun first car with a twist.
Search for a used Fiat Panda 4×4 on CarGurus
FORD FIESTA – THE DRIVER’S CHOICE
Consistently the UK’s favourite car, a sizeable proportion of British drivers started their motoring lives in a Fiesta of some description. Little wonder too, given they’re cheap to buy and run, reliable, and affordable to insure. Even better, they’re brilliant to drive too. You may not be able to afford a hot hatch when you’re starting out but a Fiesta of any description proves you don’t have to have a fast car to learn to appreciate good handling. The sixth generation launched in 2002 arrived at the peak of Ford’s design and dynamic renaissance and still looks sharp – the 1.25-litre petrol version in particular combines zingy response with cheap insurance costs and ticks every box for a first car.
Search for a used Ford Fiesta on CarGurus
SMART FORTWO – A TURBOCHARGED TWO-SEATER WITH A TWIST
If the Panda 4×4 is the ideal first car for country-dwellers here’s the alternative for those in the city. The Smart ForTwo’s tall seating position gives you the confidence and visibility of an SUV while the short-wheelbase is a cinch to squeeze into tight parking spaces. Earlier Smarts are all two-pedal automated manuals too, meaning you only need an automatic licence to drive one. With only two seats you’re also more attractive to some insurers, many of whom identify small cars packed full of youngsters as a significant risk. Second-generation ForTwos from 2007-onwards can drop as low as group two for insurance, and the MHD ‘mild hybrid’ and diesel versions are both particularly frugal. Just be aware that the latter will be penalised under London’s new Ultra Low Emissions Zone regulations.
Search for a Smart ForTwo on CarGurus
CITROEN C1 – YOUR FIRST RACING CAR
The Citroen C1 is, on the face of it, your standard city car. And a very good one at that, because by sharing development costs with the Toyota Aygo and Peugeot 107, Citroen was able to elevate the design and engineering of this tiny car above contemporary rivals. What’s more, the Citroen is the cheapest to insure of the three. The 1.0-litre, three-cylinder engine is frugal and peppy, the handling is quite good fun, and the plastic panels front and rear shrug off parking knocks and scrapes. But there’s another reason for choosing a C1, namely a thriving racing scene offering an affordable route into grassroots motorsport. Strip the interior, fit the standardised safety kit and you’re ready to race, meaning the C1 is more than just the ideal first car, it’s also the ideal first racing car!
Search for a Citroen C1 on CarGurus
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