With thousands of teenagers receiving their A-level results this week, university is the next big hurdle just around the corner for a lot of prospective students.
While choosing the right course, picking the right university and sorting accommodation are perhaps the highest priorities, many will be heading off to their new homes by car.
While having a car at university is seen as a luxury by many, for some it’s seen as a necessity – particularly when heading away to a place at the opposite end of the country with limited public transport routes.
With money no doubt being tight, we’ve selected our best budget student cars, with a couple more premium options for richer students.
1. Vauxhall Corsa
The Vauxhall Corsa is one of the most popular cars for new drivers, thanks to its smart looks, small engines and bargain prices.
There’s a 1.3-litre diesel for those covering a lot of miles, but the 1.2-litre petrol engine will be sufficient for most, and it returns a modest 47mpg while setting in insurance group four. For £1,600, you can expect to find a 2007 model with around 80,000 miles on the clock in mid-spec Design trim.
2. Kia Rio
The Kia Rio might not be the most logical choice for students, but thanks to its fantastic seven-year warranty, it’s a car we highly recommend.
While cars covered under warranty are more expensive, if you purchase a 2013 car – and providing its under seven years old and hasn’t covered 100,000 miles – it will still be under warranty until 2020. A 2013 1.2-litre ‘1’ spec car with around 65,000 miles on the clock can be picked up for around £4,500. It’ll be cheap to run too, as it sits in insurance group five and can manage a claimed 56mpg.
3. Skoda Citigo
The Citigo is the city car which combines youthful charm with bargain running costs. It’s been a huge hit with younger drivers, and is therefore a fantastic student car.
For £4,000 you can get a 1.0-litre version (which they all are) in SE trim which comes with air-conditioning and front electric windows. It sits in the lowest insurance group and can return over 60mpg.
4. Fiat 500
The 500 has become the go-to choice for style-conscious new drivers and is now Fiat’s best-selling car by some margin.
Entry-level Pop versions start from around £2,500 with 80,000 miles on the clock, although we’d recommend stretching this to the Lounge model, which adds alloy wheels, a panoramic roof and Bluetooth. The 1.2-litre engine is efficient, offering 55mpg, with Lounge models sitting in insurance group six.
5. Renault Clio
The Clio is another strong choice for students, with buyers having an excellent choice to choose from.
Just £750 will buy you a tidy 2002 model, although our money would go on the following generation, which went on sale in 2005. It was one of the safest cars in its class and even won the coveted European Car of the Year award. Around £1,500 will buy a 2007 car with the insurance-friendly 1.2-litre petrol unit. For those wanting something more appropriate for longer journeys, a 1.5-litre diesel is available for not a lot more money.
6. Audi A1
Ok, so an Audi as a student car is quite far-fetched for many, but for those with deeper pockets, or perhaps richer parents, the A1 is a fantastic car.
It’ll be more expensive to buy and run, with a 2011 1.6-litre diesel engine costing from around £6,000. It also sits in a high insurance group, but with a claimed 70mpg fuel economy figure it will be an ideal motorway companion for those wanting a bit more luxury from their student car.
7. Ford Ka
Version of the first-generation Ford Ka can be bought for pennies (literally), but were renowned for their rust problems and weren’t particularly safe. For those reasons, the second generation is our pick.
The Ka has charming looks, and the 69bhp 1.2-litre petrol engine returns 55mpg and sits in insurance group three. Around £2,200 will buy a 2009 model with around 70,000 miles on the clock in entry-level Studio trim.
The Mini is another upmarket student car, but it’s one that’s admired and is very popular with young people.
Early examples of the rebooted Mini start from £1,000, although they don’t have the best reliability record. We’d go instead for the facelifted version, which went on sale in 2006. We found a 2008 Mini One with 78,000 miles on the clock for £2,100. It’s certainly not the most practical and won’t be cheap to insure, but few cars are quite as charming as the Mini.
9. Suzuki Swift
The Swift is another car which is not a typical first choice as a student car, but it’s one not to be ignored as it’s one of the best cars to drive in its class, as well as being surprisingly practical.
Prices for the second-generation Swift start for around £1,750 which will get you a 1.3-litre petrol engine with around 70,000 miles on the clock in GL trim. It’s a great choice, although the Swift does have surprisingly high insurance groupings.
10. Ford Fiesta
And last but certainly not least is the Ford Fiesta. It’s another car that is exceptionally popular as a first car and for new drivers, and is why you’ll find a lot of university car parks crammed with Fiestas.
There’s plenty of early models for under £1,000, but our choice would be the seventh-generation version, which reached showrooms in 2008. They’ve held their value well, although entry-level Style models are just under the £3,000 mark with around 70,000 miles on the clock.