Best first cars and student cars 2021

Nick Francis

04 Nov 2021

Buying your first car can be a tricky process. That’s why we’ve picked the best first cars and student cars based on their affordability, practicality, fuel economy and, of course, style and driving dynamics. Either new or used, these are ideal for those on a budget.

1. Dacia Sandero 

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The Sandero is the cheapest new car on sale in Britain today, but it is by no means the slowest, smallest, or even the ugliest. In fact, we think it’s quite a handsome thing. All of that means it’s a great bet for anyone who wants solid value for money. Based on the Renault Clio it drives nicely and offers good fuel economy, and its 323-litre boot is one of the biggest in the class and means it’s very practical. 

2. Hyundai i10

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The handsome little Hyundai i10 looks and drives far better than its modest price tag would suggest. On the used car market you can pick one up for very cheap, and you’ll get an easy-to-drive and relatively practical little car that shouldn’t let you down thanks to Hyundai’s great build quality. It’s not going to win many drag races, but the engines on offer are smooth and reliable 

3. Renault Zoe

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If you have access to a charger then the Renault Zoe could be one of the most affordable cars to run on this list, as it’s electric rather than petrol or diesel. Over the years it could save you a lot in running costs, and with a real-world range of around 190 miles, depending on which model you buy, a single charge will be enough for at least a week of day-to-day driving. The Zoe is also a great looking car that has the power to turn heads as it glides silently by.

4. Skoda Citigo 

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Skoda no longer makes the Citigo but it is still a great used car buy. It offers superb fuel economy, with an official figure of 55.4mpg, and it’s a lot fun to drive when you’re in a town or city, ducking and diving along congested roads. You’ll take great satisfaction in slotting it into car parking spaces that are too tight for big, expensive SUVs. Despite its dinky dimensions it’s surprisingly practical, with 959 litres of room in the back with the rear seats folded. That’s more than enough room to swallow all the kit someone needs for university. 

5. Nissan Leaf

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The Nissan Leaf is the sister car of the Renault Zoe so you get the same economy benefits that come from driving an electric car. Like the Zoe, the Leaf is plenty of fun to drive thanks to the instant shove offered by electric cars, and it’s a doddle to manoeuvre around town. Some might think the Zoe is the better looking of the two cars, but that’s a matter of taste. Either way, you can be proud that you’re doing your bit to save the planet when driving a Leaf. 

6. Renault Clio E-Tech Hybrid 

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Want the cheap running costs of an electric car but also the long-range capabilities of a petrol car? Then the self-charging hybrid Renault Clio is ideal. This is a relatively new car, so you’ll be paying a bit more for it, but with an official economy figure of 64mpg you’ll make that money back on running costs. The Clio drives sweetly and has one of the highest quality interiors in the small car class. We also think it looks great. 

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Nick Francis

04 Nov 2021