Best cars for new and young drivers
Whether you're a new driver or a young driver, you'll want your car to be cheap to run, reliable, stylish and easy to drive - but that doesn’t mean it has to be boring!
This list of best cars for new or young drivers will help you find your ideal new car. As insurance costs can be a problem for young drivers with little driving experience, we have identified vehicles with lower insurance bands to help save you money.
Buying your first car is an exciting experience, and the good news is, we offer affordable personal leasing deals with low fixed monthly payments that fit the bill for young and new drivers.
1. Kia Rio
The New Kia Rio 2021 model has reached it's fourth generation and is winning a lot of great reviews. Where some of the previous iterations of the Kia Rio were considered to be off the pace, Kia has upped its game, and the Rio can rival the likes of the Ford Focus or VW Polo.
The Rio's modern styling and classy interior, combined with the brand's reputation for reliability and its impressive seven-year warranty, will appeal to young and new drivers alike. The 1-litre mild-hybrid petrol engine is so efficient it might lead to you thinking the fuel gauge is broken.
The 1.0 T-GDi model with 99bhp would be a good choice. However, you can also choose the 1.0 T-GDi 48V model, a more powerful 118bhp version of the 1.0-litre, three-cylinder engine. Both models will give you good performance when driving around town.
2. Ford Fiesta
The Ford Fiesta is Britain’s top-selling new car, and it's easy to see why - the latest version is refined and upmarket, with clean and smooth-looking lines. It has the sort of fuss-free detail you usually only see on premium makes, such as Audis.
Every model comes with a crisp 8.0-inch colour touchscreen sitting on top of the dashboard. The Fiesta has built-in Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, perfect for young drivers who easily connect their smartphones. DAB radio is standard, and Ford gives you two USB sockets, rather than just one for charging up all your gadgets on the go.
All Fiestas have a good level of safety tech, which is ideal for new drivers – automatic headlamps, speed limiter, lane-keep assist and a reminder for those in the back to put on their seatbelts.
The intelligent Ford My Key is also included. Watch out though kids, this allows your parents to programme the spare key by limiting the car’s top speed and even cap the maximum volume of the stereo.
Depending on which model you go for, Ford Fiesta models fall anywhere from insurance group 2 to group 16.
3. Volkswagen Polo
The Volkswagen Polo is a small supermini-class five-door hatchback. The current model, launched at the end of 2017, has once again become one of the best-selling cars in the UK. Around 14 million have been sold over the last five generations.
The Polo is renowned for quality, and it feels like you’re driving a bigger car than it actually is. Smaller cars can sometimes feel less sturdy on the road, but not the Polo. It’s really stable.
The pick of the engines is the turbocharged 1.0-litre TSI petrol engine which produces 94 bhp. The motor delivers a responsive car that is enjoyable to drive.
All Polo models feature autonomous emergency braking, an eight-inch infotainment screen and LED running lights. Other standard equipment includes air-conditioning, parking sensors and electric windows.
Standard safety features impress, and the car achieved a five-star rating when crash-tested by Euro NCAP. The Polo also features pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control.
4. Peugeot 108
The Peugeot 108 ticks all the right boxes for young drivers - it's cheap to run, inexpensive to lease, has rather cheeky looks, and is perfect for driving around town or in the city.
All models come in at 99g/km or below to qualify for zero road tax. With the Toyota-sourced 1.0-litre three-cylinder motor under the hood, the 108 makes a decent little city car. The unit is smooth when spinning, and for a petrol-burner, its fuel consumption is very impressive — almost in the diesel class.
Good visibility is essential for inexperienced drivers when parking or nipping in and out of traffic. The 108's relatively low window line and thin pillars front and back mean seeing out is easy both forwards and over the shoulder.
The 108 is fitted with equipment such as a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system that allows you to use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto and to operate sat-nav apps such as Waze or Google Maps and Spotify or Apple Music for music streaming. Bluetooth and DAB radio are also both standard with the screen.
5. Volkswagen Up
The Volkswagen Up! brand has some good form, having won the "What Car? Car of the Year award back in 2012, although it wasn't up against the same kind of fierce competition which it has now.
However, the VW Up is still a trendy and audacious city car that combines low running costs with a fun and enjoyable drive. VW’s designers have created a compact, fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly vehicle that offers style, space and comfort.
At a compact 3.54 meters long and 1.64 meters wide, the Up! will fit comfortably into even the smallest parking spaces. The cheeky headlamps, grille and front bumper, give the Up a fun and distinctive character.
A cost-effective model is the 1.0-litre with 64bhp, which results in not only lower insurance costs but provides frugal fuel costs as you should be able to get 50mpg.
The 5-inch infotainment touchscreen displays information such as the radio station and, when fitted, rear-view camera image. You also get Bluetooth connectivity, AUX-in and a USB socket as standard. Some of the standard equipment includes DAB radio and electric front windows, alloy wheels, air conditioning and remote central locking.
Our favourite model is the up! Beats, which features a set of stylish 15-inch alloy wheels and upgrades to the interior decor. The up! Beats model itself is effectively a style pack and a Beats sound system and is good value at £650 more than the entry-level car.
6. Hyundai i10
The Hyundai i10 recently won the 2021 Carwow Car of the Year Award in the Best Small Car category.
There are three petrol engines to choose from:
- A non-turbo 1.0-litre triple
- A 1.2-litre four-cylinder
- A turbocharged version of the 1.0-litre.
The above engines provide 66bhp, 82bhp, and 99bhp, respectively. The turbo 1.0-litre is only available with N Line cars. Naturally, decent fuel consumption is imperative for any city car, and the figures are impressive, with the 1.2-litre manual returning an average of 55.4mpg with CO2 emissions of 108g/km.
There are three trim levels, starting with the SE and moving on to the SE Connect and the top-spec Premium, with all offering outstanding value for the money. All versions of the i10 come with an impressive list of standard kit such as autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, tyre pressure monitoring, leather steering wheel, cruise control and air-con.
The SE Connect versions have an easy-to-use eight-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and sit on 15in alloy wheels. But spend an extra £500 and move into the Premium range with 16in alloy wheels and there’s built-in sat nav, speed limit warning, a telematics app and heated front seats.
7. Seat Ibiza
Most of the noise coming out of Barcelona used to be around the city's biggest football club. But recently, the local car brand has arguably been more successful, and the Ibiza takes a lot of the credit for that.
You get a choice of three petrol engines with the most potent offering the option of an automatic gearbox. We prefer the more powerful turbocharged 1.0 TSI 9 as it pulls eagerly from low revs and manages a very respectable 0-60mph sprint time of 9.9sec. There’s also a more powerful (113bhp) version of the same 1.0-litre turbocharged engine that's punchier still.
As for trim levels, there are six to choose from - S, SE, SE Technology, SE Design, FR and Xcellence. The entry-level SE trim comes with a 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring as standard. In addition, the SE trim gets 15in steel wheels, height-adjustable driver's seat and Bluetooth connectivity as standard. If you upgrade to the SE Technology trim, the screen grows to 8.0-inch and gains a DAB radio and sat-nav.
Sporty FR trimmed models add smartphone integration, 17.0 -inch alloy wheels, gloss black exterior trim, a twin exhaust system, sports seats and suspension, DAB radio, cruise control and a SEAT's driving mode controller. The range-topping Xcellence Ibizas get more convenience from including rear parking sensors, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and ignition, and a rearview camera.
All Ibizas come with excellent safety features, including electronic stability control, a tyre pressure monitoring system and Front Assist. Front Assist is another name for autonomous emergency braking (AEB). The Ibiza uses radars to scan for potential obstacles and pedestrians, warning the driver if one is spotted and applying the brakes if no action is taken to avoid it.
8. Renault Clio
The Renault Clio is a popular supermini that routinely trails the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo in UK sales charts but outsold both in the European market in 2018, with Renault shifting over 335,000.
The latest fifth-generation Renault Clio matches the driving finesse of the Ford Fiesta and outshines the Ford in other areas. The Clio's interior is one of the best in class, while generous interior space, excellent safety and low running costs should help make it a firm favourite for young and new drivers.
Engine choices include:
- Naturally-aspirated 1.0-litre petrol with 75PS.
- A turbocharged version of the same engine with 100PS.
- A 1.3-litre turbo with 130PS.
There's also a 1.5-litre dCi diesel producing 85PS. Most buyers will opt for the mid-level TCe 100 petrol, which offers excellent performance and can be paired with a five-speed manual or seven-speed automatic transmission.
The standard equipment list is generous, and the same goes for the safety equipment list. Each Clio comes with LED headlights, cruise control with a speed limiter and automatic folding door mirrors. To keep Clio drivers safe, every Clio comes with traffic sign recognition, lane-keeping assist and autonomous emergency braking.
While it still doesn’t feel quite as upmarket as the Peugeot 208, it eclipses the Corsa and Fiesta with its high-quality interior, with new materials being used and a far cleaner look adopted throughout. You’ll need an Iconic model to get the seven-inch touchscreen, which is easy to use and hosts all the functions you’d need. S Edition models upwards utilise a brilliant 9.3-inch touchscreen as well, while you can choose a fully digital 10-inch digital instrument cluster from the options list.
9. Kia Picanto
Two petrol engines are offered in the Picanto - a 1.0-litre three-cylinder and a 1.0 T-GDi turbo version. These have 66bhp and 99bhp, respectively, although not all engines are sold in every trim: if you want the turbo triple, it only comes in GT-Line and GT-Line S versions. All cars come with a five-speed manual, while a five-speed auto is available with the non-turbo petrol.
The Picanto is available in five trim levels, starting at ‘1’, progressing through ‘2’ and ‘3’. Entry-level models get 14in steel wheels, electric front windows, and a 3.8in one-colour LCD stereo system. At the same time, the step-up '2' includes 14in alloys, electrically adjustable heated mirrors, a leather steering wheel, manual air conditioning, electric windows front and rear and bluetooth connectivity.
All '3' spec cars upgrade to 15in alloy wheels, gain front fog lights, folding electric mirrors with integrated indicator lights, climate control, cruise control, 8in touchscreen sat-nav with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto and a six-speaker stereo.
The range culminates in the ‘GT Line’ trim and the slightly better equipped ‘GT Line S’ specification. The latter gains a 7in infotainment system, wireless charger for your smartphone, heated front seats, rear parking sensors and an electronic sunroof over the GT Line styling kit, which adds extended front and rear valances.
Additional safety kit available includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, forward collision-avoidance assistance, hill-start assist control, a tyre-pressure monitoring system and power steering.
All Kias – including the most basic Picanto – come with a seven-year/100,000-mile warranty.
10. Toyota Aygo
The Aygo model range is pretty straightforward – a 71bhp 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol is the only available engine. Unlike some rivals, there’s no three-door model, only a more practical five-door. There are five trim levels and a wealth of colour combinations to choose from.
Every Aygo has Toyota’s 7.0in touchscreen infotainment system, which includes Bluetooth and a DAB radio (with four speakers). There’s no option of adding built-in sat nav, but the system includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, which lets you use your phone's navigation apps.
For music lovers, if you upgrade to the JBL edition, you get an upgraded stereo complete with a subwoofer under the boot floor. Even though it only comes with five speakers, it's still a punchy system and a worthwhile step up from the standard stereo.
All versions of the Aygo get four airbags, Isofix child seat mountings, stability control and tyre pressure monitoring, along with other safety tech such as a lane-departure alert and a pre-collision system.
The Aygo should be around the insurance group 6.