Best first cars: affordable style for less than £5,000

We pick the best first cars for new and young drivers who want a dash of style from their new wheels, along with cheap insurance, affordable running costs, and driving fun.

Words by: First published: 15th August 2016
When you're shopping around for your first car, it couldn't be easier to find something that's every bit as stylish as you are. As you’ll see from our choices, the classifieds are full of super-stylish cars that are ideal for first-time drivers, with low prices, economical engines and affordable insurance.

To reflect the kind of cars first-timers are looking for, we’ve chosen models that cost no more than £5,000 and are a maximum of five years old. Within this list is everything from tiny city cars to two-seat convertibles, and even an SUV.

Scan through our list, and if you find something that tickles your fancy, simply click on the link below to go through to our classified listings, where you could well find your perfect first car waiting for you.
Mini hatchback
When you’re talking about stylish little cars, you can’t ignore the Mini. There’s a huge choice out there, and thanks to the wide scope for personalisation, no two Minis are alike. The aptly named First models are the cheapest to insure, but like every Mini, they're great fun to live with and fantastic to drive.

Find a Mini in our classifieds | Owner reviews
Fiat 500
Like the Mini, the 500 is inspired by a classic model, but it looks anything but dated in the modern world. On the contrary, it’s just the thing for nipping around town. As long as you stick to the smaller engines, you won’t be paying too much for fuel or insurance.

Find a Fiat 500 in our classifieds | Owner reviews
Toyota iQ
Never mind something a little bit different, how about something genuinely unique? Not only does the iQ look like nothing else, its tiny body means it’s a doddle to drive on city streets, and yet there’s still – just about! – enough room for four inside. It’s packed with equipment, too, but stick to the 1.0-litre engine for the lowest running costs.

Find an iQ in our classifieds | Owner reviews
Citroen C1
The C1 is basically the same car as the Peugeot 107 and Toyota Aygo, but to our eyes it’s the smartest of the lot. It’s also easy to drive and really cheap to run, with some models in the lowest possible insurance group. To cap it all, it's very economical and surprisingly spacious, so you'll always have room for your mates.

Find a C1 in our classifieds | Owner reviews
Kia Soul
You might think an SUV is out of reach for first-time drivers, but that's not true; you can easily find this good-looking Kia for well within our £5,000 budget. For that money, you’re getting a spacious car that can ferry your friends around, and best of all, the Soul had a seven-year warranty from new, so you should still have at least a couple of years’ valuable cover left on any car you buy.

Find a Soul in our classifieds | Owner reviews
Renault Wind
You might be surprised to find a two-seat convertible recommended as a first car, but the Wind is nothing if not different. It looks sportier than most cars you'll find at this price, but its party piece is the roof, which can fold up or down in 12 seconds.

Find a Wind in our classifieds | Owner reviews
Seat Mii
The Mii comes from a family of triplets – sister to the VW Up and Skoda Citigo – but we think it’s the most exclusive of the three, with lots of bold colours and exterior styling packs to choose from. Once you’re on the move, the Mii feels anything but small, it's brilliant to drive, and has space for four inside. Most versions also sit in one of the lowest insurance groups.

Find a Mii in our classifieds | Owner reviews
Smart Fortwo cabriolet
There’s something instantly attractive about the tiny, two-seat Smart, and we don’t just mean its city-friendly size. For a start, its design makes it stand out a mile – in a good way – and the soft top makes it an even more versatile car, allowing you plenty of opportunities to pose in your new car as soon as the sun comes out.

Find a Smart Fortwo cabriolet in our classifieds | Owner reviews
Alfa Romeo Mito
The Alfa Romeo name may not immediately spring to mind when you search for your first car, but hear us out. Not only is the Mito one of the most glamorous looking three-door hatchbacks, it scored a maximum five-star Euro NCAP safety rating, and there are some very economical engines available.

Find a Mito in our classifieds | Owner reviews
Suzuki Swift
A whole heap more exciting to look at – and drive – than your average small hatchback, the Swift is a perfect first car. It’s fantastically easy to drive, cheap to run, and has a maximum Euro NCAP safety rating. Suzuki also has a great reputation for making reliable cars, so buying a used one should hold no worries.

Find a Swift in our classifieds | Owner reviews
Dacia Sandero Stepway
The beauty of the Dacia is that, because it was so affordable as a brand new model, you can get a nearly new car for our £5,000 budget. Being a Stepway, it has a more rugged off-road look and more equipment than the basic Sandero, while there’s also plenty of room inside and all the engines are reasonably economical.

Find a Sandero Stepway in our classifieds | Owner reviews