Five Models we recommend for First-Time Drivers

It can be daunting learning to drive, with additional time behind the wheel perhaps made possible with help from relatives or friends, and it can be equally nervy for a newly-qualified driver to take to the open road soon after passing their test, particularly when solo.

Whether shortlisting cars for someone young or generally new to driving to practice in, or identifying ideal cars for newbie drivers to accrue one or two years of experience in before maybe upgrading, important factors include:
Compact dimensions to make manoeuvring that little bit easier
A modest engine size to keep insurance premiums down
Plenty of safety equipment and a 5-star Euro NCAP score for added reassurance
A reputation for reliability

Inchcape has rounded up five models we think are great for first-time drivers:

1. smart fortwo

Compact manoeuvrability doesn’t get any better than this, the 1.66m-wide and 2.69m-long smart fortwo able to fit into and get through the smallest of spaces. First-time drivers still want to be seen in something that looks cool and packs in innovative features, which this car boasts by the bucket-load. The fortwo is relatively fun to drive, visibility is good, and it’s equipped with five airbags plus hill start assist as standard. Its body-shell is designed with safety in mind and upgrades to active brake assist and lane keeping assist are available. The smart fortwo costs from just £10,000, sits in insurance group 3E and its 3-cylinder, 999cc engine with 71hp is ideal for learners and new drivers.

2. Volkswagen Up!

VW is synonymous with rock solid build quality, reliability and innovation, making the smallest car in its range, the up!, an excellent model to consider for first-time drivers. Available in 2-door and 4-door guises, the up!’s footprint of 3.6m (l) and 1.9m (w) is perfect for towns and cities. Countless colour and styling choices for the paint, door mirrors, alloys, roof, dashpad and decals enable newbie drivers to let their personalities shine on the road, while the optional city emergency braking and rear-view camera packs keep them safe. The 1.0-litre petrol up! that produces 60PS is plenty for newly-qualified drivers and can be mated to a 5-speed manual or 5-speed DSG ‘automatic’ gearbox. Insurance groups span from 2E to 10E depending on which engine size is chosen up to the 115PS GTI, and with pricing from £9,325 it puts VW quality and style within reach. 

3. Toyota Aygo

Another supermini with striking looks that will delight first-time drivers seeking some visual pizzazz, the distinctively-faced Aygo is priced from £8,995 and can also be personalised to suit a person’s tastes. A four-seater measuring 3.45m in length and 1.61m in width, the Toyota Aygo is fun to drive while offering fuel economy of up to an excellent 68.9mpg. Hill Start Assist, Tyre Pressure Warning System and Vehicle Stability Control come as standard to reassure new drivers, and Toyota’s Safety Sense package is well worth the upgrade. Not daunting anyone with too much choice, Toyota keeps things simple and the sole 1-litre petrol engine for the Aygo is mated to either a 5-speed manual or x-shift automated transmission. Its insurance groupings range from 5 to 8, depending on trim.

4. Audi A1

The sleekest car in our top five, the Audi A1 oozes sophistication but still has fun looks and can be chosen in 3-door or 5-door body types for extra flexibility. With a remarkably high-quality interior, new drivers will feel confident in command of the smallest member of the Audi family, which has a standard retractable MMI infotainment screen, air conditioning and DAB radio. Unusually in the city car sector, Audi offers a 1.6 TDI diesel engine in addition to the 1.0 and 1.4 TFSI petrol engines, with power ranging from 95 to 116PS. With pricing commencing from £16,185 the Audi A1 will typically cost more to insure, though, with groups spanning from 17E to 22E - but for newly-qualified drivers with the means, this German number is highly desirable. And at 3.97m long and 1.9m wide it’s also easy to park.

5. MINI hatch

Few relatively small cars are as iconic as the unmistakable MINI – and the fact that the widely-loved British marque is now backed by BMW is great news, meaning sharp handling, strong quality and innovation. From its cutesy circular headlights to pert derriere, the MINI hatch looks great externally in both 3 and 5-door guises, while the curvaceous interior with large circular screen excites the senses. Insurance kicks off from group 11E for the MINI ONE D diesel engine that produces a manageable 95hp for new drivers while averaging up to an incredible 80.7mpg. The other best engine pick for motorists starting out is the 102hp petrol MINI ONE. Dimensions for the 3-door are 3.98m (l) x 1.93m (w) including door mirrors, and the 5-door’s 278-litre boot is the largest of all five cars we’ve rounded up.

Inchcape clearly offers some excellent car choices for first-time drivers so why not head down to your nearest dealerships to sit inside them and maybe take some for a test-drive?