Learning to drive can be time-consuming and expensive, so it makes sense to have a car that’ll make the process as simple and as affordable as possible. To help you pick the perfect new car for learning to drive, we’ve rounded up 10 models that make great first cars.
Don’t see your favourite new car on our list? Head over to our list of the top 10 best city cars and article on the best cars for less than £100 per month for a selection of other excellent learner-friendly models. Once you’ve picked one, click ‘login’ in the top-right-hand corner to sign in and configure a brand-new car, or browse our extensive range of pre-reg, ex-demo, new, nearly new and used in-stock cars.
[2018 update: The little VW Up clings on to first place ahead of the equally dinky Hyundai i10. New models appearing in our top 10 for the first time are the all-new VW Polo and Ford Fiesta in third and fifth positions respectively.]
Here are the best learner cars for new drivers on sale:
- VW Up
- Hyundai i10
- VW Polo
- Smart ForFour
- Ford Fiesta
- SEAT Ibiza
- Toyota Yaris
- Renault Twingo
- Kia Picanto
- Dacia Sandero
1. VW Up – insurance group 1
The VW Up is one of the best compact cars on sale. It combines a desirable badge with a surprisingly practical interior that’s spacious enough to carry four adults over relatively short journeys. Everything feels impressively well built for such a small car and its boxy shape means it’s easy to see out of and a cinch to park.
Entry-level Take Up and Move Up models with a 60hp engine benefit from group one insurance and return a claimed 64mpg. More powerful models will cost slightly more to insure, but they return identical claimed fuel economy.
2. Hyundai i10 – insurance group 1
The Hyundai i10 is a similar small city car to the VW Up, but it comes with five seats instead of the VW’s four and is slightly more comfortable over bumpy roads. Its boot is reasonably roomy for a city car and it’s a doddle to drive – especially around town, where its small size and large windows help you nip through heavy traffic.
Pick a model with a 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine and the i10 fits into insurance group one. This engine isn’t quite powerful enough to keep up with fast-moving motorway traffic, but it is fairly fuel-efficient – Hyundai claims it’ll return more than 60mpg.
3. VW Polo – insurance group 1
If you’re looking for something a little bigger, you should consider the surprisingly roomy VW Polo. It’s almost as practical as the larger VW Golf yet costs less to buy, is cheaper to run (VW claims 1.0-litre models return almost 60mpg) and costs less to insure. It also comes with an upmarket interior and it’s very easy to drive.
Pick a 1.0-litre model with either 65hp or 75hp in S or SE guise and the Polo fits into the cheapest group one insurance bracket. This engine might not be the fastest around, but it’ll have no trouble coping with the odd motorway journey – once you’ve passed your test.
4. Smart ForFour – insurance group 1
The Smart ForFour is a frugal city car that’s incredibly manoeuvrable. As a result, it’s ideal for practising three-point turns and it’ll help you make light work of parallel parking around town. It’s easy to see out of, too, and the standard two-tone paint means you won’t lose it in a crowded car park.
Sure, it’s not the most spacious car on sale – the boot’s very small and you only get two seats in the back – but entry-level Pure models with a 71hp petrol engine will return a claimed 67mpg. They’re in insurance group one, too, so make great cars for learner drivers.
5. Ford Fiesta – insurance group 2
The Ford Fiesta is a small family car that’s easy to drive and comes with a sporty interior that has just enough room for adults to sit in the back. It doesn’t feel quite as upmarket as the VW Polo, but it’s more fun to drive and gets a similar range of frugal petrol and diesel engines.
Pick a 1.1-litre 70hp petrol Style model and the Fiesta won’t cost much to run and insure – it’ll return a claimed 64mpg and comes with a group two insurance rating. You can get the Fiesta with an automatic gearbox, but it’ll cost more to insure and isn’t as smooth as some of the alternatives.
6. SEAT Ibiza – insurance group 2
The SEAT Ibiza makes a great first car thanks to its easy controls, perky engines and good visibility. Its small size makes it dead easy to drive in town and it’s big enough inside for two adults to sit in the back seats – for short journeys at least.
Choose an entry-level S or SE Plus model with a 75hp 1.0-litre petrol engine and the Ibiza won’t cost much to insure or run – it sits in insurance group two, after all. It’s not particularly quick, however, and struggles to keep up with fast-moving motorway traffic, but it’s perfect for pottering around town and returns a claimed 65mpg.
7. Toyota Yaris – insurance group 2
The Toyota Yaris is easy to see out of, cheap to run and a doddle to drive. It even looks pretty eye-catching – on the outside at least – and comes with a cabin that’s spacious enough to carry four adults without feeling too cramped. Entry-level models come with just as much equipment as a comparable Polo or Fiesta.
Get yourself an Active model with a 1.0-litre petrol engine and the Yaris will be cheap to run and won’t cost the earth to insure – thanks to its group two insurance rating. This engine’s a little noisier than some alternatives, but Toyota claims it’ll return an impressive 67mpg. Unfortunately, you can only get an automatic gearbox in more expensive 1.5-litre models that cost more to insure.
8. Renault Twingo – insurance group 2
The Renault Twingo shares lots of components with the Smart ForFour. As a result, it’s just as easy to drive and equally manoeuvrable around town thanks to its good visibility and very tight turning circle. It also has a similar interior with a built-in touchscreen and enough space in the front for six-footers to get comfy.
Unfortunately, its boot is very small and there are only two seats in the back. Thankfully, its 1.0-litre petrol engine will return a claimed 67mpg and, in entry-level Expression guise, it sits in insurance group two.
9. Kia Picanto – insurance group 3
The Kia Picanto is based on the compact Hyundai i10, so it’s just as easy to drive, reasonably spacious inside and comes with quite a roomy boot for such a small car. Unlike the Hyundai, you can get the Kia with three doors instead of five if you fancy something that looks a little sportier.
GT-Line models with a 1.0-litre 66hp petrol engine fall into insurance group three and return a claimed 64.2mpg – so they won’t cost much to run. You can get the Picanto with a smooth, if slightly sluggish, automatic gearbox, if you don’t fancy learning to drive in a manual car, too.
10. Dacia Sandero – insurance group 3
The Dacia Sandero is the cheapest new model on sale in the UK and decent first car. All its controls are simple and intuitive and the back-to-basics interior doesn’t come with any fancy touchscreens, so you won’t feel distracted as you drive along. It’s roomier inside than many cars on our list and comes with a fairly practical boot.
It isn’t particularly comfortable on rough roads, however, and its rather basic 1.0-litre petrol engine struggles slightly at motorway speeds. Thankfully, it won’t cost much to run – the 1.0-litre Sandero in entry-level Access trim sits in insurance group three and Dacia claims it’ll return 54mpg.
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