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It’s an exciting time (and a rite of passage) as a new driver, choosing your first car having just passed your driving test. However, with the huge selection of vehicles on offer it can be an overwhelming task. Where do you start? Well, if it suits your lifestyle, then we recommend a hatchback for the first leg of your motoring journey.
Hatchbacks are an ideal choice for a first car. With their compact dimensions, compared to other body types, hatchbacks are easier to handle and park. They’re usually cheaper to insure as well, which can be a big point for first-time drivers. In addition, hatchbacks are typically:
Before buying your first car, do plenty of research and gather some information on the vehicles you like most, such as the average sale price and the different models available. Next, it is a good idea to:
Unless otherwise stated, the vehicles on this list scored an impressive five stars in rigorous Euro NCAP safety tests, to give you extra peace of mind and security when driving about town. Please read on to find out our top 10 hatchbacks that make the best first car.
The iconic Ford Fiesta is a very popular car with first-time drivers and it’s no surprise why. It is a stylish looking vehicle and it’s known for being reliable, economical, and exciting to drive. It’s also good value for money coming well-equipped as standard. Even with the entry level model, you’ll get an 8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as useful safety tech, like a lane-keeping system and automatic headlamps. Furthermore, the Fiesta has class-leading handling and a comfortable cabin.
For extra confidence and peace of mind, the full driver’s assistance package is a fantastic option: it’s relatively cheap and definite value for money, adding adaptive cruise control and pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection. Thanks to the popularity of the Fiesta, there are lots of pre-owned models on the market too, so there is always a great chance of finding a fantastic used deal near you.
USED PRICES FROM £300
Hot on the heels of the Fiesta, the Volkswagen Polo is another hatchback that is incredibly popular as a first car. And, again, it totally makes sense why. The VW Polo carries with it that premium German build quality. It’s reliable, comfortable, cheap to run, and great to drive. The car’s exterior and interior look the part and despite its compact size, (which is great for nipping around town) the cabin is very practical.
As standard, it comes with an 8-inch touch screen and automatic headlamps, in addition to lots of safety kit, such as Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), and convenient optional extras, like adaptive cruise control. Again like the Ford Fiesta, the Volkswagen Polo is a first car that usually brings buyers very fond memories.
USED PRICES FROM £400
Renault has gone all-out with the new Clio, pushing the model to compete with the likes of the Ford Fiesta. And the car stands its ground too. It offers incredibly low running costs, it has improved handling, which adds to an enjoyable driving experience, and it has a premium cabin on a par with the likes of Mini.
It’s packed with lots of standard equipment and it’s very safe too, with automatic LED headlights, autonomous emergency braking, cruise control (with a speed limiter), lane keep assist, and traffic sign recognition. If you opt for a mid-spec level trim, you’ll add useful rear parking sensors and a handy touchscreen as well.
USED PRICES FROM £400
Great value for money, with an affordable starting price and low running costs, the Hyundai i10 is a superb hatchback as a first car. It has excellent manoeuvrability and, despite the car’s compact size, it has a comfortable cabin that is spacious enough for adults in the rear seats. It is an all-round performer as well, proving confident on motorways and agile in urban settings, where it truly thrives.
As standard, all new models come well-equipped with important safety kit, featuring autonomous emergency braking, lane-keep assist, high beam assist, and a driver attention alert. All of which will likely improve the car’s Euro NCAP safety rating (it scored a respectable four stars in 2014).
USED PRICES FROM £750
With a low insurance group rating and good fuel economy, the Kia Picanto makes a great first car. But that’s not the only reason why. The compact hatchback enjoys go-kart like handling with light and agile steering, making it fun to drive in the city. It also has attractive styling and a comfortable interior, as well as a great reliability record.
All models come with six airbags as standard and if you opt for the optional Advanced Driving Assistance safety pack, you get important features like autonomous emergency braking, which increases the car’s (2017) Euro NCAP rating from three to a respectable four stars.
USED PRICES FROM £500
With stylish looks, both inside and out, and a strong performance on the road, the Peugeot 208 makes for a fantastic first car. And Peugeot are clearly aware of the fact, providing drivers with the ultimate finance package: Just Add Fuel, which takes care of breakdown cover, insurance, road tax, and servicing for the first three years. It’s a great idea for new drivers, leaving you with a lot less to worry about. But that’s not the only thing going for the 208. This hatchback is also fun to drive, with great build quality.
The latest model handily comes, as standard, with rear parking sensors, a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, automatic lights, and autonomous emergency braking. In 2019, the 208 scored a well-rounded four stars on the Euro NCAP safety rating, with high marks for driver and passenger safety.
USED PRICES FROM £2,000
This small hatchback is well-suited to being a first car and a likely friend that’ll bring you fond memories. The Fabia is easy to drive, very practical (with lots of neat touches like a built-in ice scraper), cheap to run, and very safe. Standard safety kit includes: autonomous emergency braking, curtain airbags, stability control, and traction control, in addition to Skoda’s Front Assist braking system, which automatically applies the brakes when it senses a low-speed collision.
Like most Skoda models, the Fabia is great value for money. It is also cheap to insure and run, providing a spacious cabin and a comfortable driving experience.
USED PRICES FROM £600
If you like the sound of Peugeot’s Just Add Fuel option, then it’s also worth taking a look at the Citroen C1, which offers a similar package called Simply Drive. It ticks all the same boxes providing a finance deal that includes road tax, servicing, and insurance for the first three years, leaving you more time in the car and less time worrying about it. Additionally, the Citroen C1 is a fun car, from its playful looks, to its handling, and overall driving experience.
It has an economical range of engines for lower running costs around town and it’s also very easy to park. In 2014, the C1 scored a decent four stars with Euro NCAP, thanks to safety features such as: six airbags, anti-lock brakes, electronic braking assistance, electronic stability control, and hill-hold assist, which prevents the car from rolling backwards on a slope when the handbrake isn’t on.
USED PRICES FROM £800
The iconic Mini Hatch, available as a 3 or 5-door hatchback, is certainly not the cheapest car on this list, but it just might be the best looking. It also promises lots of adventures and fond memories, with excellent build quality and a great driving experience that is aided by the car’s premium feel and stylish cabin. Furthermore, Minis are known for their reliability and for holding their value well, which can be a reassurance to new buyers, particularly if you plan to move to a bigger family car a few years down the line.
But what really makes a Mini standout from the competition is the go-kart like handling and low centre of gravity, which results in a car that is a lot of fun to drive. It is a safe car too, having scored a credible four stars with Euro NCAP.
USED PRICES FROM £450
Volkswagen take two spots on this list, this time with the playful VW Up, which offers an all-round package as a first car: it is economical, it is cheap to insure, it is fun to drive, and it comes with a wealth of personalisation options to truly make the vehicle your own. The VW Up also shares a platform with the Skoda Citigo and Seat Mii, but it is now the only one offering a choice of petrol engines. The latter two have become electric vehicles (EVs), which include a higher starting price – though if you want an EV as a first car, the Citigo and Mii are both just as good as the VW Up.
Whilst the VW Up scored five stars in Euro NCAP testing in 2011, the tests have become more stringent and, in 2019, it lost two stars for its lack of advanced safety systems. But don’t let that put you off: it did score highly for driver and passenger safety. And there’s a reason the Up is in our list of the best hatchbacks for a first car – it’s a great vehicle and it ticks a lot of the boxes for first-time drivers.
USED PRICES FROM £1,900
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