Top 10 best student driver cars of 2022
Learning to drive is one of the most exciting, but also potentially nerve-wracking, things you will ever do. So one of the best ways to avoid unnecessary stress is to study in a car that is cheap to insure, easy to drive and park, and affordable to own and operate.
Starting your road trip in an affordable car also means that breakdowns, dents or prangs aren’t quite as annoying or expensive. Additionally, if you pass your test, you have the choice of either keeping it or upgrading to a brand new car that gives you the experience and confidence to drive safely and with care.
Here we have listed 10 of the best used cars for learner drivers. They are all small enough to be nimble and easy to drive, can be found at reasonable prices and, perhaps most importantly, can be found in lower insurance groups.
They also have small, efficient petrol, diesel, or hybrid engines, so while they might not be the fastest accelerating cars, they make up for it with low running costs. Most petrol models on the list easily manage 40-50mpg, while the all-electric Renault ZOE taxes and can drive in low-emission zones like those found in London and Oxford.
Top 10 best cars for learner drivers 2022
- Volkswagen up!/SEAT Mii/Skoda Citigo
- Ford Fiesta (Mk7)
- Skoda Fabia (Mk3)
- Toyota Aygo/Citroën C1/Peugeot 108
- Kia Picanto (Mk3)
- Renault ZOE
- Opel Corsa (Mk4)
- Citroën Nemo Multispace/Fiat Qubo/Peugeot Bipper tipi
- Toyota Yaris Hybrid (Mk3)
- fiat 500 (2007-2021)
1. Volkswagen up!/Skoda Citigo/SEAT Mii
As a three-time winner of the title “City Car of the Year” at the Auto Express Awards, it’s no secret that we at the Volkswagen up! are very impressed, and its sister cars, the SEAT Mii and Skoda Citigo, are just as impressive. In fact, this whole family of compact cars is not only easy to maneuver and park, but also comfortable and fun to drive.
While the up! is the only model you can still buy brand new, all three versions are plentiful on the used market at great prices. While there are electric versions too, these fetch much higher prices, so we’d recommend sticking with the perfectly capable 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine. This engine should easily deliver over 50mpg and is even a fairly low polluter with CO2 emissions of 117g/km.
However, the best news is that there is at least one version of the up!, Citigo and Mii that sit in the lowest insurance group.
2. Ford Fiesta (Mk7)
Whether you’ve been driving it for days, weeks or years, the Ford Fiesta has proven itself to be a great all-rounder for generations – so much so that it often tops the UK car sales chart. It’s fun to drive, practical for its size, reliable and good value.
Our pick here is the Mk7 Fiesta, which was produced from 2008 to 2018 as these cars currently sit in the sweet spot of low prices and modern features. There’s plenty of variety too, with multiple trim levels and a range of petrol and diesel engines available nationwide.
Find a Fiesta Mk7 in Zetec trim and you’ll get a decent dose of creature comforts; such as electric windows in front, central locking with radio remote control, heated windscreen, air conditioning and alloy wheels.
3. Skoda Fabia (Mk3)
The Skoda Fabia is another supermini that offers refinement, practicality and reliability – thanks to the proven fundamentals it shares with the Volkswagen Polo. However, the reason the Fabia makes this list over the VW is that it tends to sell for a lower price, making it a great value.
There are three petrol and one diesel engine choices, and if you’re not too concerned about performance, the 1.0mpi non-turbocharged petrol sits in Insurance Group 1 with a range of trim levels. Unless you’re pushing it too hard, another benefit of this engine is its 55+mpg fuel economy.
As for trim levels, the base ‘S’ trim level is a little sparse, so we’d recommend going for at least ‘SE Drive’, as that includes some useful additions like fog lights and rear parking sensors.
4. Toyota Aygo/Citroën C1/Peugeot 108
Despite coming from different manufacturers, the Toyota Aygo, Citroen C1 and Peugeot 108 are all pretty much the same car – with the only noticeable difference being their looks. While the model you choose will depend mostly on price and personal taste, all three make great choices for a learner because of their sheer simplicity.
Compact, fitted with the essentials and very cheap to run – thanks to an economical 1.0-litre engine that should easily return over 55mpg – there’s little to complain about when all you need is a reliable, no-frills wheelset.
All three models are reasonably safe, but be sure to shop around as some pre-owned examples have been fitted with optional active safety features for added peace of mind.
5. Kia Picanto (Mk3)
The latest Kia Picanto has been on sale since 2017 and used examples are now starting to fall in price making them very affordable on used car financing.
The Picanto’s basic trim levels are also among the easiest to understand. If you exclude the special editions, you simply have a choice of tier 1, 2 or 3 – the higher the number, the higher the specification.
The entry-level Picanto 1 has electric front windows, central locking with remote control, a two-speaker stereo and steel wheels. We’d recommend going for the 2, though, as it offers 14-inch alloys, electrically heated and adjustable door mirrors, air conditioning, power rear windows, Bluetooth and a four-speaker audio setup.
6. Renault ZOE
Many people believe that electric cars are the future. So if you want a head start in EV motoring, the Renault ZOE could be the perfect option.
Earlier models can now be found used for less than £8,000. Note, however, that some of these earlier ZOEs have a leased battery, meaning you’ll have to pay an additional monthly cost.
The smaller 22kWh ZOEs are most common at the lower end of the price spectrum. These cars have a single 89hp engine and should realistically be good for a range of around 100 miles. If you plan to make frequent long journeys, the ZOE might not be the right choice for you, but for shorter trips around town it could be a solid buy – especially if you’re considering the savings in motor vehicle excise duty (road tax). and the low emission zones.
7. Opel Corsa (Mk4)
A firm favorite of driving schools across the country, the Vauxhall Corsa is arguably the fiesta’s closest rival. As a result, the Mk4 Corsa built between 2014 and 2020 offers a similar level of quality and practicality, and while it’s not quite as sharp as the Ford, it’s still good to drive.
Standard trim is pretty generous too, and since the entry-level ‘Life’ trim is surprisingly rare, chances are you’ll find a better-equipped Corsa that fits your budget well. The Excite trim level is particularly luxurious, with air conditioning, Bluetooth connectivity, DAB digital radio, heated front seats and a heated steering wheel.
Plus, just like the Fiesta, there’s a range of petrol and diesel engines to choose from. The vast majority are in single-digit insurance groups, but unfortunately the more powerful turbocharged petrols are best avoided, as these can drive up premiums by a significant amount.
8. Citroen Nemo Multispace/Peugeot Bipper Tepee/Fiat Qubo
If you’re a learner who needs a car that’s more family-friendly than a supermini or city car, then the Citroen Nemo Multispace, Peugeot Bipper Tepee and Fiat Qubo are three van-based sister MPVs that shouldn’t break the bank .
What’s better is that these models are based on the Fiat Punto, which means they’re still relatively compact and shouldn’t be too intimidating to drive or park – not to mention the low running costs. With sliding doors at the rear and more than 350 liters of luggage space, they are also extremely practical.
The only real downside to these cars is that they’re far from the final say when it comes to style or performance. However, with good examples available for under £5,000 and low insurance on both the petrol and diesel models, there are few other ways to get so much space at such a low price.
9. Toyota Yaris Hybrid (Mk3)
If you want to keep your carbon footprint low but don’t want to go all-electric, the Toyota Yaris Hybrid could prove to be the perfect middle ground.
While there are also conventionally powered versions of the Mk3, we’ve chosen the hybrid for this list as earlier examples can now be found for around £7,500 and should return well over 55mpg while emitting less than 85g/km of CO2.
There are different types of hybrid cars, with the Yaris being a full hybrid, which Toyota calls “self-charging”. It never needs to be plugged into an outlet, so all you have to worry about is filling it up with petrol – something you shouldn’t do very often. With regenerative braking, energy is automatically fed back into the battery while driving, which is particularly effective in city traffic. Toyota’s hybrid engines are also known for their reliability, so you don’t have to worry about the Yaris letting you down.
10. Fiat 500
If you want your car to have some character, there are few better options than the Fiat 500. It’s small, efficient and should put a smile on your face thanks to its cute retro design.
When the 500 was new the level of customization was quite extensive, so there are a number of different specs available depending on your personal needs and tastes. We recommend going for a post-2016 500 if your budget allows, as these cars have undergone mechanical tweaks and equipment upgrades.
This generation of 500 was a big seller for Fiat, so used examples can be found in abundance – shopping for a bargain shouldn’t be too difficult, and you can walk away from any examples with problems like curb wheels or a patchy maintenance history.
Do you want to buy brand new instead? Check out our list the best first cars for new drivers…