Best Of

Best cars for students

Starting out on student life is a huge step, but you'll find it all the more enjoyable with a car. Better still, as our favourites prove, there's a huge selection of practical, reliable and cool cars available.

First published: 10th August 2017
Student days can be fantastic. The first steps away from the family home, the parties, the growing feeling of independence, it all adds up to a time that’s one of the most significant in your life.

You'll feel all the more independent if you have a set of wheels, though. A car can help with everything from getting to and from lectures on time, to carrying out day-to-day tasks such as shopping, or even heading off somewhere at the weekend.

Students usually have to live on a shoestring budget, however, so they'll want something that's extremely cheap to run and dependable. That’s why our selection includes everything from the coolest of city cars, to simple, robust transport, with a hybrid, a connected supermini and even a warm hatch thrown in. On top of that, they’re all cars that you’ll remember driving for the rest of your life.

Our selection comprises:
  • Fiat 500
  • Dacia Sandero
  • Honda CR-Z
  • Seat Ibiza
  • Suzuki Swift Sport
Fiat 500 – the chic one
The Fiat 500 sells by the boatload, and much of that is down to those cutesy looks; the car’s appearance has barely changed since the modern car was launched in 2007.

The style from a bygone era continue inside, too, with an old-school instrument pod and retro-looking controls for the ventilation and audio. However, the tech behind the style is all thoroughly 21st century, and the 500 has a five-star crash test rating.

Our favourite engine is the 68bhp 1.2-litre petrol; and, although that may sound a little weedy for a car like this, it's more than enough. In fact, it has a certain zing to the way it performs, both in town and on the motorway, and our only disappointment is that the suspension struggles to cope with poor road surfaces.
  • Our pick of the range: 1.2 Pop Star
  • List price: £12,490
  • CO2 emissions: 110g/km
  • Fuel economy: 60.1mpg
  • Boot space: 185/550 litres
Dacia Sandero – the functional one
The Dacia Sandero is the motoring equivalent of Aldi. It offers a great deal for not a great deal of money, and it provides proof that lots of people are happy with simple, basic transport that’s cheap to buy.

It’s far more spacious than rivals that cost the same, too; and, while the trims inside are perhaps not that attractive to some eyes, they're designed to last a lifetime.

We like the 75PS 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine, which gives decent acceleration and is reasonably economical. It's a bit noisy, but if anything does go wrong, there’s a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty to back you up.
  • Our pick of the range: SCe 75 Ambiance
  • List price: £7395
  • CO2 emissions: 117g/km
  • Fuel economy: 54.3mpg
  • Boot space: 320/1200 litres
2011 Honda CR-Z – the cool hybrid one
When Honda came up with the CR-Z hybrid, the company was trying to make environmentally conscious motoring look cool. They certainly succeeded, both outside and in. Not only does the CR-Z look sporty, it drives sportily, too, with direct steering and suspension that feels firm but supple.

The interior is stylish too, although some of the plastics feel a little flimsy; and, although the car was designed as a 2+2, in reality it’s better to treat it as a two-seater with extra luggage space, because adults won't fit in the back seats.

It'll also help to keep costs down, as it's more economical than most. However, you’ll struggle to match the 56.5mpg that the official tests say it can achieve.
  • Our pick of the range: 1.5 iVTEC Sport
  • Guide price: £4500
  • CO2 emissions: 117g/km
  • Fuel economy: 56.5mpg
  • Boot space: 207/401 litres
2016 SEAT Ibiza – the connected bargain one
The previous-generation Seat Ibiza offered a stylish alternative to humdrum rivals such as the Vauxhall Corsa and Renault Clio, and that will surely make it appeal to students.

Our favourite engine - the 95PS turbocharged 1.0-litre petrol unit - doesn’t need to be revved too hard if you want to get across country at a quick pace; and, at the same time, it doesn’t drink much fuel.

If all this makes the Ibiza sound like an attractive option, SE trim is the one to choose. That's because it comes with all of the main tech you’re likely to need, including Bluetooth connectivity. Best of all, the Ibiza has a five-star rating from safety experts Euro NCAP, which will keep mum and dad’s minds at ease.
  • Our pick of the range: 1.0 EcoTSI 95 SE 5dr
  • Guide price: £8000
  • CO2 emissions: 94g/km
  • Fuel economy: 68.9mpg
  • Boot space: 270/554 litres
2012 Suzuki Swift Sport – the super-cheap warm hatchback one
Students tend to place quite a premium on being cool; and, if that’s the case, the Suzuki Swift Sport is off to a head start. It’s a diminutive pocket rocket that sits four-square on the road and has cool enhancements including alloy wheels and privacy glass.

The 1.6-litre engine needs to be revved hard to get the very best from it, but that’s part of the car’s appeal; and, the sharp steering and nimble handling are guaranteed to make you grin.

The Swift should also prove reliable; and, while critics might complain that the interior places more emphasis on long life than luxury, we think that’s ideal in a car like this.