Our roundup includes cars that are reliable, fun to drive, easy to park, and good value for money.
Passing your driving test feels pretty good. But wait until you get rid of the L-plate and pick up your new car – that’s where the real adventure begins!
If you don’t want to settle for an old banger, just check out our handy list:
10. Nissan Micra
Older Micras look quite bland, but more recent models are certainly easier on the eye. It’s a robust small car which delivers a nice blend of interior space, performance and driveability. Nissan offers a variety of trims and engine spec.
Many are fuel efficient, for example the 1.2 DIG-S Acenta returns 65.7 miles per gallon (mpg) and falls in VED tax band A. It’s a compact car which does its job well. It’s cheap to buy, but servicing it might be a bit pricey compared to the Vauxhall Corsa or Ford Fiesta.
9. Toyota Aygo
If interior and boot space isn’t your priority, the Aygo could be the one for you. It performs very well in every other aspect. Its dimensions make it ideal for whizzing through traffic and very easy to park, fitting in the tightest of spots.
The latest Aygo received an updated exterior and more efficient engines. The 1.0-litre engines, for example, are frugal and return over 60mpg with less than 100g/km of CO2 emissions.
The “x-shift” model, in particular, makes a good buy – it’s automatic and can run for 74 miles for each gallon of fuel.
8. Kia Picanto
If you’re looking for an older Kia, you’ll have to compromise on looks. But if you’re going for a newer one, you’ll benefit from the slicker exterior and overall fun character.
It’s a tiny car and it tends to be cheaper than its rivals.
If the cost of insurance worries you, you won’t have to splash too much for the Picanto.
All Picanto models fall in lower insurance groups - from 3 through to 12 – depending on which model you go for. Its sprightly engines aren’t that powerful, and at higher speeds the ride can feel a bit loose.
The cheapest Picanto “1” comes with a lot of kit as standard and it’s classed in band B for VED tax, returning up to 62.8mpg.
7. SEAT Mii
The Mii is very similar to the Picanto, in both price and performance. Alas, the Picanto is definitely the better looking one. It’s a well-built car which offers refinement and benefits from SEAT’s versatile Spanish character.
It’s no surprise that it tackles tight spots with ease, but the ride can be quite firm which can easily give you a numb backside.
A Mii with the “Ecomotive” engine is the one to go for. It’s the most efficient of the range and comes with a Start/Stop System – the system automatically shuts off the engine to save fuel when the car comes to a stop, at traffic lights for example.
SEAT promises up to 68.9mpg combined (with over 78mpg for urban driving) and the nimble 1.0-litre engine emits 95g/km of CO2.
6. Renault Twingo
The Twingo is stylish, there’s no doubt about it. The compact quirky interior will definitely make you want to spend more time sat in the driver’s seat. It’s also a safe car, Euro NCAP (European New Car Assessment Programme) assessed the Twingo in 2014 and gave it a 4-star rating, one star off having the highest rating.
The Renault Twingo also comes with some really helpful features. Parking is made easy with the rear parking sensors. And if you live in a hilly area, you’ll love the hill-start assist system.
It comes with a variety of engines.
The “Energy TCE” petrol one is perfect for those who want that extra nippiness. It’s also efficient enough to keep CO2 emissions under 100g/km.
5. Volkswagen Up!
If you want a good all-round car which is also good value for money, the Up! will be it. It isn’t a real head-turner, but when it comes to parking and manoeuvring, the tight turning circle makes it exceptionally good.
Although it’s slightly more upmarket than the other cars in the list, it’s cheap to maintain and run.
The “High up!” model delivers a good blend of performance, fuel efficiency and kit. Its 1.0-litre BlueMotion engine consumes 67.3mpg. But if you want to buy a used Up! and save a bit of money, there are plenty on the secondhand market and you can easily find one.
4. Suzuki Swift
This fun-to-drive small car has earned its reputation over the past few years. It’s a low-cost nimble motor that won’t let you down. But even if it does, repairs shouldn’t be pricy.
If you value safety more than anything else, Euro NCAP gave the Swift a 5-star rating.
It packs surprisingly a lot of safety kit, including hill-start assist, electronic stability control and airbags all around the interior.
Suzuki Swift won’t cost the world to insure, and its sprightly efficient engines will make sure you stay within your monthly budget.
The 1.2-litre petrol engine emits 99g/km of CO2, just enough to keep it in VED band A. It’s a manual, but if you hate the gear stick, there’s an automatic version equipped with a similar engine, but it isn’t as efficient.
3. Vauxhall Corsa
The Corsa has been around for years and it’s still one of the highly sought-after cars. It’s a good car especially for new drivers - it has compelling running costs, and it doesn’t leave a lot of room for compromise.
It’s more spacious than other cars in the list and it can easily perform most tasks without a hitch.
If you’re a frequent motorway commuter, you’ll probably want extra grunt, in which case you should look at the 1.4i petrol engine. It falls in VED band D, meaning you’ll have to budget £110 for tax.
There are Corsa models, for example the one sporting 1.2 Life 3d engine, which fall into the lowest insurance groups – 2 to through 6.
2. FIAT 500
Driving in style doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Even if you’ve just gotten rid of the L-plate, you can go for the 500 as it’s one of the most loved cars on the market. And it’s a bargain compared to the MINI, which is also a great car but it’s so much more expensive.
The entry level 1.2-litre petrol engine is no racer, but it’ll do the job if all you need is to drive around town. If you want performance, you can go for the up-range “Abarth” model, which offers an overall sportier look and feel.
The Twinair models are a good mixture of sprightly performance and fuel efficiency – over 60mpg and 110g/km of CO2. Combined with its stylish compact character, the 500 makes a great first buy.
1. Ford Fiesta
There’s a very big chance that your friends, or even your family, have given you a ride in a Fiesta. It’s Britain’s best-selling car after all. A car that not many rivals can compete with, it has agile and light steering which makes the car a pleasure to drive. Road handling is also more than satisfying.
When it comes to choosing one, it’s hard to go wrong as all models are great. You’ll just need to decide where your priorities lie. The entry level “Studio” Fiesta is cheap to buy but it lacks the refinement of the more expensive “Titanium X”.
Its EcoBoost petrol engines are popular for their exceptional fuel efficiency.
Ford’s promise is 65.7mpg and most models emit around 100g/km of CO2 which will keep the VED cost down.