In today’s financial climate, it’s becoming exceedingly difficult for new drivers to find and fund their first car. New drivers can maximise their chances of finding affordable wheels by targeting older, smaller hatchbacks, with many suitable examples coming in at under £1,500.
Depending on individual requirements, there are countless suitable models on the market. In most cases, they feature a tiny engine under the bonnet, resulting in lower insurance costs, decreased road-tax payments and improved fuel consumption. They may seem dated – most being well over 10 years old – but were all were considered reliable, safe and practical enough in their day to make shrewd buys for today's newly qualified motorist.
Here's our top five recommendations:
Volkswagen Polo (1996-2002)
1.0-litre 3dr or 5dr: Group 5
1.4-litre 3dr or 5dr: Group 9
The VW Polo is certainly a familiar sight on the road. And it’s not just a hit with younger drivers either, having an enduring appeal amongst all age groups. This is largely due to the fact that it’s easy to drive and has a surprisingly spacious cabin. The Polo also scores points for offering outstanding build quality and more than satisfactory fuel consumption of 44.8mpg.
Search for a used Volkswagen Polo here
Ford KA (1996-2006)
1.3-litre 3dr: Group 10
Since its launch in 1996, Ford’s KA has been amongst the smallest and most entertaining city cars available. Its quirky styling coupled with low running costs means there’s no need to worry if you're on a tight budget. Despite being purely designed to get you from A-B with the minimum of fuss, Its light weight endows it with responsive handling, meaning drivers won’t be bored behind the wheel. The KA also requires only the basic TLC and is surprisingly durable, so you won’t be burning a hole in your pocket with frequent trips to the garage.
Search for a used Ford KA here
Peugeot 206 (1998-2002)
1.1-litre 3dr or 5dr: Group 7
1.9-litre Diesel 3dr or 5dr: Group 9
The 206 has always been a familiar site on the road. Yes, there will always be the worry of flaky French build quality, but for any first time buyer, Peugeot has produced a cracker. You can pick one up for next-to-nothing, with prices starting from as little as £300, and there’s a 206 for everyone ranging from the standard entry-level Fever to the sportier GTi specs. Peugeot is also well known for its diesel technology, so if you’re a keen motorist who covers high mileages, a diesel will likely save you some cash with fuel economy of around 50mpg.
Search for a used Peugeot 206 here
Renault Clio (1998-2004)
1.2-litre 3dr or 5dr: Group 5
1.9-litre Diesel 3dr or 5dr: Group 7
One of the most common French cars on the road, Renault is best known in this country for the mighty Clio. The chic supermini, which has now been manufactured and redesigned over four generations, is now one of the biggest selling hatchbacks in Europe, clearly making the Clio an important little car. It’s well-equipped and, although it’s not leather-clad, the interior is a comfortable place to while away the miles.
Search for a used Renault Clio here
Vauxhall Corsa (2000-2004)
1.2-litre 16Valve Club 5dr: Group 2
1.0-litre 12Valve GLS 3dr or 5dr: Group 3
1.2-litre 16Valve GLS 3dr or 5dr: Group 5
The Vauxhall Corsa. What more needs to be said? The learner-driver favourite isn’t the most exciting hatch on the road, but it’s certainly one of the most popular. It’s cheap, it’s cheerful and it doesn’t look too bad either. It has a reasonably sized luggage compartment and the five-door option makes it practical enough to carry adult passengers. Its group 3 insurance rating makes it the perfect hit for new drivers.
Search for a used Vauxhall Corsa here