first cars

The best first cars for under £5000

Written by | Advice

You’ve taken your driving lessons, you’ve passed the theory and practical test, now how can you be sure you’ve found your perfect first car in the classifieds?

It’s no secret that – for most people – motoring can be an expensive affair, with young drivers often being the hardest hit. A car is often the second most-expensive purchase we make and with the ever-increasing price of fuel, tax and insurance, it’s never been more important to know you’ve picked the best first car possible.

With countless makes and models to pick from, picking your first car can be utterly overwhelming. That’s why we’ve put together this list of five of the best first cars for young drivers. We’ve covered everything, so no matter if you’re looking for style, price or safety, you can find a car that’s right for you.

Vauxhall Corsa 1.0l (2006 – to date)

In recent years, the Corsa has benefited from a complete re-design to bring it in line with its big brother the Astra. Edgy styling, a cool new interior and a refined engine have come together to make this a great all-rounder.

The 1.0 litre 12 valve engine will average 50mpg (miles per gallon) and the Corsa falls into insurance group 2, almost the lowest possible. Find an “EcoFLEX” model and you’ll only be paying £30 a year road tax as well.

Being a relatively new design, the Corsa scores a maximum five stars in the all important Euro NCAP crash tests and some models come with both front and side airbags. Whilst this won’t be the highest performance car that you’ll ever own, it certainly could be the cheapest to run.

first cars

BMW MINI One (2001 – 2006)

If you’re looking for a cool first car or a bit of a status symbol, the MINI has to be near the top of your list.

The “new” MINI features a winning combo of classic design and modern engineering, blending 1960s styling with a high build quality, loads of gadgets and a luxurious cabin-feel. Its rampant popularity owes a great deal to its distinctive look and the reliable German engineering under the bonnet.

The MINI is great fun to drive and looks great even when its stuck in traffic, a must for style-conscious drivers. The smallest petrol engine size being a sturdy 1.6 litres may put some off, especially if you’re trying to keep insurance costs down, but the car still returns a very respectable 42mpg, making it affordable to run for most young drivers.

Road tax also comes in at more than our other two examples, but MINIs come equipped with a multitude of toys and style accessories including alloy wheels, air conditioning, electric mirrors and CD/MP3 players. For many, the added luxuries will wipe away any concerns about slightly higher road tax costs.

BMW engineering means the MINI achieves a four star Euro NCAP safety rating, which is great for a model of this age. ‘Intelligent’ driver and passenger airbags that react based on the severity of a crash are standard across all MINIs, making them a great choice for worried parents shopping for their child’s first car.

first cars

Smart Fourtwo Pure (Auto) (2004 – 2007)

With quirky design, cheap tax, cheap insurance, low running costs, a decent safety rating and interchangeable/customisable panels, there’s an awful lot to like about Smart’s eye-catching FourTwo.

As the name suggests, the Fourtwo is a two-seater vehicle, which means that drivers will be unable to be cajoled into giving endless lifts to non-driving mates, thus saving precious petrol money. As an added bonus, two-seaters always feel a bit sporty, even if they’re only packing a 0.7 litre engine with automatic transmission under the bonnet (or in the Fourtwo’s case, the boot).

Tax costs a mere £30 a year and 50mpg is achievable with careful driving, making this little motor particularly easy on the wallet. A 3-star NCAP rating completes what is undeniably a very attractive package for new drivers.

Available in basic (Pure), mid-range (Pulse) and luxury (Passion) versions, the FourTwo is a great first car, but you might have a little trouble persuading your teenage son that that’s the case.

first cars

Fiat Seicento 1.1i Active

The Inbetweeners might have been a little harsh on it, and it might not be a particularly cool first car, but the Siecento really is a very good little car and its unfashionable image might just save you a few quid.

Siecentos tend to be a touch cheaper than comparative cars of similar age/mileage and offer similar benefits to the Smart Fourtwo but with the added bonus of back seats. Capable of cruising at a pleasantly economical 47mpg with a parent-calming top speed of 93mph, the Siecento is only let down by a disappointing 1.5-star NCAP rating.

The Active model will provide new drivers with all the basics that they need with a few handy little extras like central locking and an immobiliser. It lacks the bells and whistles of the MINI, it’s certainly a cheap and simple first car, great for those shopping on a tight budget. If you’re trying to keep insurance costs down, avoid the temptation of the ‘Sporting’ models.

first cars

Renault Clio 1.5 dCi (2001 – 2008)

Despite the infamous ‘va va vow’ TV campaign, the Renault Clio is still a popular and stylish car to own that also happens to be good fun to drive.

This version of the car has been hugely popular in the UK and there is never a shortage of great used Clios in the classifieds. Our recommended model is the 1.5dCI model which will average 65mpg and, like the Corsa, will only set you back £30 a year in tax.

Renault has a great reputation for building safe cars and this Clio is no exception. Despite being 11 years old, the car still achieves a 4-star NCAP rating and all models come equipped with 4 airbags. A cheap to run, stylish hatchback that lets you drive around safe in the knowledge that you’re not punching an even bigger hole in the ozone layer? What more could we possibly ask for.

So there you have it. The miDrive round up the best first cars for new drivers. From the ultra economical to the ultra stylish and all for less than £5,000 a piece. Got your own idea of the best/worst first car? Want to suggest a particularly cool first car? Let us know in the comments box below.

first cars

Last modified: 14th January 2016