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So you’ve not long passed your driving test and now it’s time to find your first motor. Being a first-time buyer is exciting, but the range of cars on offer can also make it a little overwhelming. Don’t worry – you came to the right place.

The small car market is excellent for first-time buyers. Typically, small cars are:

  • Great value for money
  • Fuel efficient
  • Cheap to run
  • Cheap to service
  • Easy to drive and park
  • Good at building driver confidence
  • Practical for city use

A Brief Guide for First-Time Car Buyers

Before you head out with your hard-earned cash to buy your new car, be sure to carry out plenty of research on the cars you like most. The fact you’re reading this article means you’ve already taken a step in the right direction. Next, you’ll want to:

  • Create a detailed budget of what you can afford, including running costs
  • Check out the market to see which cars you like
  • Use our search engine feature to compare prices, models and mileage
  • Research finance options
  • Settle on 2/3 cars that suit your needs
  • Take the cars for a test drive

Top 10 Best Small Cars for First-Time Car Buyers

Unless stated otherwise, every model in this top 10 list has a full five star safety rating with Euro NCAP, providing new drivers with peace of mind. If you find some of the listed vehicles are a little out of your budget, then why not check out our other list of The Best Budget Cars for First-Time Buyers?

Read on to discover our pick of the best small cars for first-time buyers.

1. Seat Ibiza

The Seat Ibiza is one of the leading cars in the small car class and whilst it might be a little pricier than some of the other vehicles on this list, the Ibiza is certainly worth it. First-time buyers will find the Ibiza a reliable, spacious and comfortable car. If you’d like to buy a used model, you can typically find high-spec trims at very good prices. But if you’re considering buying new, it’s worth going for one of the higher specifications as the entry level doesn’t come with a great amount of kit. Nonetheless, the Seat Ibiza is a worthy contender on the road and remains the firm leader of the small car pack.

Best features:

  • 355-litre boot
  • Lots of tech in higher trims
  • Spacious and comfortable

2. Volkswagen Polo

Coming in at a very close second, the Volkswagen Polo gives the Seat Ibiza a good run for its money. For a small car, it has an upmarket vibe which is sure to entice those first-time buyers who are wanting to style it out on the road. It’s also a comfortable drive and easily as spacious as the Ibiza, with a boot almost as big at 351 litres. You get a decent amount of tech for your money on later trims, and even entry-level models come with autonomous emergency braking (AEB), air conditioning and electric front windows. There’s a great engine range to choose from too, from sportier selections to more conservative numbers with good MPG.

Best features:

  • Great range of engines
  • Excellent build quality
  • Low running costs

3. Skoda Fabia

The Skoda Fabia hatchback is a great car for first-time buyers, offering lots of cabin space at an affordable price. It’s cheaper than most of its small car rivals and yet it still manages to wow, with plenty of practical touches noticeable in the cabin. A few examples of this include optional extras such as backseat USB connectivity, a front seat armrest and an under-seat umbrella holder. The car also features some top-notch safety kit and driver assistance technologies, from blind spot detection to a rear traffic alert system. It might not be the most fun to drive, but its sheer practicality and affordability outweigh the negatives by far.

Best features:

  • Low running cost
  • Great value
  • Spacious cabin

5. Renault Clio

The Renault Clio is an easy car to drive, making it an ideal vehicle for first-time buyers. The handling is great, with quick steering well-suited to bendy roads that twist and turn. And the car itself ranks highly among its tiny motored friends as it oozes personality with its distinctive, stylish looks. It isn’t as roomy as other cars on this list, but you can still fit a couple of adults in the back (although it may feel a tad cramped). As for the boot, the Clio offers 300 litres of space, which is a decent amount for this size of car. The entry level trim comes quite well-equipped as standard too, with features like cruise control and a DAB radio with Bluetooth connectivity.

Best features:

  • Efficient range of engines
  • Distinctive styling
  • Good ride and handling

6. Audi A1

Because of its pricier starting point, the Audi A1 isn’t the most obvious choice for first-time buyers. Nevertheless, if you can afford to stretch your budget, the Audi A1 has an excellent build quality with a luxurious, class-leading interior. It’s also everything you’d expect from an Audi: it’s fun to drive, looks the part, boasts an upmarket cabin and has good fuel economy. Some may find the interior lacking in space compared to rivals, and the 270-litre boot is behind others in this class of car – yet, most people would still be happy with an Audi A1 as their first vehicle.

Best features:

  • Prestigious brand
  • Fun to drive
  • Luxurious build

7. Honda Jazz

It’s not particularly stylish, nor is it particularly fun to drive – however, the Honda Jazz proves itself to be a great small car for first-time buyers. It may not be fun but it is very easy to drive, cheap to run and boasts impressively good fuel consumption. The Jazz is also exceptionally reliable, which is great news whether you’re looking to buy a new or used version of the car. On the inside, the Jazz continues to impress, with a spacious cabin and a huge 354-litre boot. So If it’s a practical first car you’re looking for, you certainly can’t go wrong with the Honda Jazz.

Best features:

  • Brilliant reliability
  • Comes with lots of equipment as standard
  • Strong build quality

8. Kia Rio

The Kia Rio excels as an affordable small car that offers a lot of space. The cabin is far more practical than visually appealing, but all that extra room makes up for it. At 325 litres, the boot is a good size too. It’s worth opting for at least the 2 trim or higher to get superior features and a better choice of engine. With the 2 trim and above, you’ll receive a good amount of tech as standard, such as automatic emergency city braking, rear parking sensors, cruise control, electric windows, electric folding mirrors and a DAB radio. For the safety conscious, the optional advanced driving assistance package is a great addition too. It gives the car a five star Euro NCAP rating, yet without it the Rio only scored three stars.

Best features:

  • Good amount of tech
  • Spacious
  • 325-litre boot

9. Skoda Citigo

The second Skoda on this list, the Citigo came first in our top 10 list of The Best Budget Cars for First-Time Buyers. It’s a nimble, agile little number that’s good to drive, easy to park and manoeuvrable. The car is closely related to the Volkswagen Up and the Seat Mii – the three vehicles using the same architecture. Naturally, the Up and Mii also make great cars for first-time buyers. The lower starting price, Skoda’s practicality and the good levels of standard kit place the Citigo on this list over its two companion cars.

Best features:

  • Low running costs
  • Good to drive
  • Excellent value for money

10. Hyundai i20

The Hyundai i20 is another car that’s easy to drive and operate. It’s a spacious vehicle too, with a decent sized boot and a roomy cabin that rivals the Seat Ibiza and Volkswagen Polo. First-time buyers should ideally pay extra for the SE trim over the entry level as it comes with useful tech, such as automatic emergency braking, rear parking sensors, cruise control and a much-improved sound system. The i20 scored four stars out five in the Euro NCAP safety ratings in 2015, which does put the car behind other vehicles on this list.

Best features:

  • Easy to drive
  • Reliable
  • Cheap to run
Back to articles December 12, 2018

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