PassMeFast’s Top 10: Affordable First Cars for Under £17,500!

Baby blue Fiat 500 parked on road

If you’ve recently passed your driving test, or you’ve decided to get behind the wheel for the first time as a fully qualified driver, you’re likely in the market for your first car. With the variety that’s on offer nowadays, and the tight budget you’re probably facing, it can be difficult to know where to start. And that’s where we come in! We’ve compiled a list of the top affordable first cars that you can buy for under £17,500 (with low insurance premiums)!

On the lookout for a car that’s more environmentally friendly? We’re way ahead of you! Check out PassMeFast’s top 10 budget friendly electric cars for under £28,000!

Buying a first car

Generally speaking, if you want to keep costs down—both on the upfront cost of the car itself and its corresponding insurance premiums—you’ll want to consider buying a smaller car that has less power and a smaller engine. Once you’ve spent a couple of years or so building up a safe driving history, you’ll be able to get lower premiums for bigger car models.

With that in mind, our list below contains compact cars on the cheaper end of the market. To give you an idea of what kind of premiums you might face should you choose to buy one of them, we’ve also included the insurance group that they belong to. Cars belong to one of 50 car insurance groups—those at the lower end of the scale are cheaper to insure.

If you’d like to know more about car insurance, head on over to our guide on what to check for when you’re buying car insurance.

10. Citroën C1 Live

Starting from £10,315.00
Insurance group: 10E

First up on our list of affordable first cars is Citroën’s C1 Live. Touted as “the city car with a unique personality”, this model is perfect for those on a tight budget—it’s the cheapest car on our list. Though it falls under the highest insurance group on our list, bear in mind that 10 out of 50 really isn’t all that bad.

The C1 Live is easy to drive, so it’s ideal for new drivers and those who are just getting back behind the wheel after a long break. It’s powered by a 3-cylinder 1.0 litre petrol engine with 72hp that can reach a maximum speed of 99mph and can go from 0 to 62mph in 14.0 seconds. Fuel consumption for this model rests at a pretty decent 58.85 MPG, and CO2 emissions are at relatively low level of 108g/km.

Compact in size, the C1 Live has enough room for four adults—though it might feel slightly cramped. The 196 litre boot might not seem that impressive, but if you fold the rear seats, you’re looking at a sizeable 780 litres! Additional features include keyless entry and start, sign recognition and active city brake technology. It also comes with a 7” touchscreen with mirror screen technology that allows you to access your smartphone’s apps—meaning you can get directions and make calls while focusing on the road.

If you’re looking for an affordable city car, and you’re not too fussed about going on long road trips or having a lot of space, the C1 Live might be a good option for you.

9. Fiat 500 POP Mild Hybrid

Starting from £13,170.00
Insurance group: 8

The next affordable first car on our list is the Fiat 500 POP Mild Hybrid. Let’s face it, it wouldn’t be much of a list of top first cars if we didn’t include the Fiat 500—it’s a rite of passage for most new drivers. Slightly steeper in price than the C1 Live, the Fiat 500 POP rests in a slightly lower insurance group of 8.

The Fiat 500 POP is powered by a 3-cylinder 1.0 litre hybrid engine with 70hp. It can reach a maximum speed of 104mph, and can go from 0 to 62mph in 13.8 seconds. Wondering why it’s called a ‘mild hybrid’? It’s because it comes with a small battery which assists with acceleration to “improve responsiveness”, allowing for a faster engine restart during start and stop. Though this makes it more efficient than previous Fiat 500 models—with fuel consumption at 53.3MPG and CO2 emissions at 118g/km—it still falls short of the true capabilities of a full hybrid.

If you’re looking for a lot of space, you probably shouldn’t be looking at the Fiat 500. Though it fits four adults inside, it can get slightly claustrophobic. It’s got even less boot space than the C1, coming in at 185 litres. The car comes with a handy display of key indicators that relate to the car’s battery level and flow of energy, and even comes with recommended gear options for optimal performance and efficiency. If you’re looking to hook up your smartphone for maps or music, it’s also compatible with both Apple and Android.

8. Skoda Fabia Hatch S

Starting from £14,605.00
Insurance group: 8E

Increasing slightly in the price range is the Skoda Fabia Hatch S, coming in at £14,605. Another favourite choice for first cars, the Fabia S Hatch is perfect for city driving and was the winner of the What Car? Awards 2020. With an insurance group rating of 8E, you’re looking at reasonable insurance premiums too.

The Fabia Hatch S is powered by a 3-cylinder 1.0 petrol engine with 94hp—offering a bit more power than both the C1 and Fiat 500. It can reach a maximum speed of 115.57mph and goes from 0 to 62mph in just 10.7 seconds. Pretty impressive, right? Its overall fuel consumption rests between 44.10 and 50.40MPG, which isn’t too bad, and its CO2 emissions are between 128.00 to 145.00g/km.

If you like the look of the Fiat 500, but need a bit more space, the Fabia Hatch S is a good option. It’s more spacious on the inside, fitting four adults comfortably, and comes with a 330 litre boot! Not too shabby if you’re in the habit of doing large weekly shop—if you fold the rear seats, this increases to a whopping 1,150 litres! It comes with a 6.5″ infotainment system, which is compatible with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, so you can view maps on the touchscreen. It also comes with Front Assist and a Stop-Start system. It’s rather entry level, but you can opt for add-ons like cruise control, front and rear parking sensors and manual air conditioning.

7. Hyundai i10 SE

Starting from £12,820.00
Insurance group: 5A

Next up on our list of affordable first cars is the ever-popular Hyundai i10 SE. This hatchback was designed for city driving, so if you’re not planning on totting up the miles in the near future, it’s a worthwhile choice to consider. Hyundai describes the model as a “Small car, but makes a big impression”, so beware of judging it until you’ve looked at what it can do!

The Hyundai i10 SE comes with a 3-cylinder 1.0 litre petrol engine with 65bhp. The maximum speed it can reach is 97mph, and it can go from 0 to 62mph in 14.6 seconds. Though this is slightly slower, and far less powerful, than the other models we’ve looked at so far, don’t be too quick to shrug it off. There’s plenty more below that might just swing your vote. More efficient than the Fabia Hatch, the i10 SE’s fuel consumption is at 56.4MPG and its CO2 emissions are at 114g/km. Though it deals with city driving well, you might struggle a bit if you switch to the motorway.

Relatively spacious for a compact car, the i10 SE has 5 seats and a 252 litre boot, which increases to 1,050 litres with the seats down. If you struggle with gear changes, you’ll be pleased by the i10’s 5-speed manual transmission which was designed for precise and smooth gearshifts. If you’re looking for more features to have at your disposal, the i10 SE delivers. It comes with Lane Keep Assist, Lane Departure Warning, Brake Assist and Hill Start Assist. Its infotainment screen is an impressive 8″ and is compatible with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Compared to other versions of the i10, the SE might seem slightly basic when it comes to its security and safety features. If money isn’t an issue, you might want to consider upgrading.

6. Ford Fiesta Trend

Starting from £16,640.00
Insurance group: 5

The next entry on our affordable first cars list is the Ford Fiesta Trend. As with the Fiat 500, the Ford Fiesta is somewhat of a staple model for first time buyers. In fact, it’s one of the prevalent models in the UK. It might not look like much at first glance, but it really does pack a punch—for good reason too, given the slightly heftier price tag. (Though with an insurance rating of 5, low premiums will ease the burn of the upfront cost!)

So, what does the Ford Fiesta Trend have to offer? As you’ve probably come to expect by now, it’s powered by a 3-cylinder 1.0 litre engine. It offers 75bhp, can reach a maximum speed of 103mph and can go from 0 to 62mph in 14.5 seconds. So, it offers a bit more power than the i10, but it near enough matches its speed. Its fuel consumption is 53.3MPG, which is at the same level as the Fiat 500 mild hybrid, and its CO2 emissions are at 121g/km.

It might not look especially stylish, but the Ford Fiesta Trend is dependable, a decent size and a good drive. It doesn’t feel as cramped on the inside, and its boot space surpasses that of the i10 SE with 292 litres—increasing to an impressive 1,093 when you fold the rear seats down. Similar to the i10, it has an 8″ touchscreen infotainment system with is compatible with most smartphones. Its safety features include Lane-Keeping Alert, Lane-Keeping Aid, Hill Start Assist, Speed Limiter and Auto-Headlamps.

If you’re looking for more capabilities, you can upgrade to the City Pack to get rear parking sensors and power-foldable door mirrors with puddle lights.

5. Seat Ibiza SE

Starting from £16,445.00
Insurance group: 3E

We’re officially over the halfway mark on our list of affordable first cars now! The next batter up is the Seat Ibiza SE, a car that is both agile and practical. Though the Ibiza SE falls into the higher budget category on our list, it’s still slightly cheaper than the Ford Fiesta, and also belongs to a much lower insurance group of 3E.

What’s under the hood, you ask? The SE boasts a 3-cylinder 1.0 litre engine with 80bhp, so if you’re looking for a bit more power when behind the wheel, it’s got you covered. Speed-wise, it can reach a maximum of 106mph and can go from 0 to 62mph in 15.3 seconds. Though this might seem pretty slow, bear in mind that in real-life driving, you’ll rarely ever need to reach these types of speeds—even more so if you’re based in a city centre. The SE’s fuel consumption is relatively decent, resting between 47.1 to 53.3MPG. As with the Fiesta, its CO2 emissions are at 121g/km, which seems to be pretty standard amongst compact cars.

Certainly one of the most spacious models on our list, the Ibiza SE can fit four adults inside comfortably and has a boot capacity of 355 litres—this increases to a whopping 1,165 if you fold down the rear seats. Its touchscreen infotainment screen is slightly smaller to on our list, measuring 6.5″, but it’s still pretty decent. Using Full Link technology, this system can connect with your smartphone’s apps and navigation while on the move. Additional safety and security features include keyless entry, Speed Limiter, Emergency Brake Assist, Front Assist, Electronic Stability Control and Anti-Lock Braking System.

4. Renault Clio Play SCe

Starting from £15,895.00
Insurance group: 3

We’re inching that much closer to the finish line now, and coming in at fourth place is the Renault Clio Play SCe. Though it is still a compact car—voted Supermini of the Year 2020 by Auto Express—it tends to look and feel much bigger than it actually is. This makes it a good option for drivers who don’t want to feel like they’re driving a miniature car. While the Clio Play SCe rests on the higher end of the budget scale on our list, its low insurance group of 3 certainly lessens the blow.

As with most small cars, the Clio Play comes with a 3-cylinder 1.0 litre engine with 75bhp. (You can choose a model with a bigger engine, but remember that your insurance premiums will be much higher as a result.) It can go from 0 to 62mph in 16.4 seconds—slightly sluggish compared to other models on the list—and reaches a maximum speed of 100mph. It’s more or less reasonable when it comes to fuel consumption, which rests at 52.3MPG. Its CO2 emissions are identical to the Fiesta and the Seat Ibiza, resting at 121g/km.

The Clio Play offers drivers good cabin space, making it a pleasant enough experience to ferry around passengers, and plenty of luggage room—the boot capacity is at 300 litres, increasing to 1,146 litres when you fold the rear seats down. It also comes with a 4.2″ screen and a range of safety features including Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keep Assist, Over Speed Prevention and Traffic Sign Recognition. It even comes with cruise control and a speed limiter.

3. Volkswagen Up!

Starting from £13,105.00
Insurance group: 2E

Winning bronze on our list of affordable new cars is the Volkswagen Up!. Working out much cheaper than the last few models we’ve looked at, the Volkswagen Up! is not only easier on your wallet and your eyes, it also comes with a range of top features that might just win you over. Add in the insurance group rating of 2E and we’re sure you can see why we’ve placed this in our top 3!

So, what exactly have you got to work with under the hood? The Up! is powered by a 3-cylinder 1.0 litre engine with 64bhp. As with most of the models on this list, if you don’t feel like the Up! has enough power for you, you can level up to another model. Slightly faster than the Clio Play, the Up! goes from 0 to 62mph in 15.6 seconds and can reach a maximum of 101mph. If you’re interested in saving fuel, the Up!’s fuel consumption rests at a reasonable 54.3MPG. Its CO2 emissions level also rests lower than many of the models on our list, at 117g/km.

Now, space-wise, the Up! falls slightly short. It can get quite cramped in the back if you’re carrying two passengers. It also comes with less boot capacity than other models, with 251 litres overall or 959 litres if you fold the back seats down. There’s still plenty to love about the Up!, however. For starters, it comes with a smartphone navigation interface which is a 5″ colour screen enabling Bluetooth telephone and audio connection. It also comes with a multi-function camera, power-assisted steering, Electronic Stability Control and a start-stop function with battery regeneration.

Given its affordable price, low insurance group and its wide capabilities, it’s not surprising that the Volkswagen Up! is a favourite first car for many drivers. Add in the fact that it’s comfortable to drive and easy to manoeuvre, and you might just have found yourself a winner!

2. Volkswagen Polo MATCH

Starting from £17,125.00
Insurance group: 1E

Runner up on our list of affordable new cars is yet another Volkswagen model. This time, we’re looking at the Polo MATCH. Much steeper in price, but packing an even bigger punch than the Up!, the Polo Match comes in at just over £17,000. For a quality car, it’s still a pretty cheap price to contend with. Add in the low insurance group that it rests in, and you’re likely to be facing pretty low premiums too. Not too shabby!

So, how does the Polo MATCH compare to the other models on our list? Well, it’s powered by a 3-cylinder 1.0 litre engine with 80bhp, which is quite a bit more than the Up! offers. It can go from 0 to 62mph in 15.4 seconds, and reaches a maximum speed of 106mph—again, just about surpassing the Up!. It does fall slightly flat, however, when it comes to its fuel consumption, which rests at 51.3MPG (much lower than the Up!). The CO2 emissions level of 125g/km is also quite high.

Unlike the Up! model, the Polo MATCH offers a lot more space inside. You’ve got 5 seats with plenty of legroom, not to mention a boot capacity of 351 litres, increasing to 1,125 litres with the seats down. So, you’ve clearly got a bit more room to play with. Another upgrade from the Up! is the 8″ touchscreen infotainment system which is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible. Additional safety features include cruise control, Forward Collision Warning, Front Assist, Autonomous Emergency Braking and Driver Alert System. The Polo MATCH also comes with parking sensors, pedestrian monitoring and power assisted steering.

If the Up! intrigued you, but let you down with its limited space and lack of an infotainment system, the Volkswagen Polo MATCH might be better suited to you. It might be a bit more expensive, but when you factor in the low insurance premiums you’ll be facing, it’s a pretty good bargain.

1. Kia Picanto 2

Starting from £12,495.00
Insurance group: 1

Finally, coming in at first place on our list of affordable new cars is the Kia Picanto 2. A car made for city driving, this model is the perfect first car for drivers. Why? Not only is this car one of the cheapest to buy upfront on our list, it also happens to fall into the lowest insurance group. So if you’re looking for a car that won’t break the bank anytime soon, this may just take the cake.

Before we look at the interior and the Picanto’s various features, we’re first going to look under the hood. For starters, it’s powered by a 3-cylinder, 1.0 litre engine that has 66bhp. Now, this is much lower than most of the vehicles we’ve looked at. We’re willing to overlook it, however, with its impressive speed—boasting 0 to 62mph in just 14.1 seconds! Its maximum speed also falls at an impressive 100mph. If that wasn’t enough to win you over, its CO2 emissions are lower than most on the list, at 110g/km, and its fuel consumption level rests at a remarkable 60.1MPG!

If space is a requirement for you, then you’ll be relatively pleased with the Picanto. You can comfortably fit four adults inside. The boot capacity is at a modest 255 litres, which moves all the way up to a decent 1,010 with the back seats down. Additional features include a 3.8″ audio display, electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors and Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist. You can even upgrade to an automatic gearbox if clutch control is an issue for you.

When compared to other models, you might feel that the Kia Picanto falls slightly short. It’s lacking an infotainment system and some of the more advanced safety features. What we’re looking at here is an extremely affordable, easy-to-use car—making it an ideal option for someone’s first car. If you’re working with a bigger budget and want more bells and whistles with your first car, however, it’s worth taking a look at the other models we’ve listed.

That’s it for our list of affordable first cars for under £17,500! As long as you take the time to look through what’s on offer and carefully consider what you actually need, you’re bound to make the right choice. Let us know in the comments if we haven’t mentioned your choice for a top first car!

Keep your eyes on the PassMeFast blog for upcoming top 10 lists!

By Bethany Hall

Whether you’re a learner or a pro driver, Bethany is here to help. From defensive driving to the Highway Code, she’ll tell you everything you need know about driving. If she’s not on the road, you’ll probably find Bethany with her head in a book or binge-watching the latest TV show.

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