The 20 best first carsIf you’re looking for your first car and you’re able to buy a new car, you’ve got some cracking models to choose from.

Young drivers looking for a cheap new car are spoilt for choice these days, because in recent years the biggest automotive strides have been made in the city car and supermini segments. As a result, the best small cars to buy are safer, quieter, more efficient and more highly equipped than ever before.

Haggle hard and new car discounts can be generous. Buy the right model with a long warranty and you should find that running costs are significantly lower than for a high-mileage used car that may regularly need cash spent on it. Throw in ultra-frugal engines and much higher levels of safety (one to set parents’ minds at rest) and there’s no doubt about it: if you can buy something new for your first car, your driving career is definitely starting on the right road.

Here, we run down the 20 best factory-fresh cars for new drivers, listed alphabetically in order of insurance group. Young driver insurance can be prohibitive but all the cars here have a low insurance group of 1, 2 or 3 – although there is a surprise at the end for three widely-regarded cars for new drivers…

The top 20 best first cars

1: Hyundai i10

The 20 best first cars: Hyundai i10

Prices start at: £8,705 (1.0 S)

Lowest insurance group: 1

Euro NCAP crash test rating: 4 stars

A group 1 insurance rating car, the i10 is very well equipped even in base 1.0 S guise, the improbably roomy Hyundai i10 is an impressively sophisticated first car in its latest guise. Five doors are standard and although it doesn’t get a full five-star Euro NCAP crash test score, it is to the latest stricter standards so still fares well.

2: SEAT Mii

The 20 best first cars: SEAT Mii

Prices start at: £8,195 (1.0 S 3dr)

Lowest insurance group: 1

Euro NCAP crash test rating: 5 stars

The SEAT Mii is a steal: to all intents, it’s a Volkswagen Up, just with a £600 lower list price. OK, it’s very basic (it lacks air con, for example), but the five-star Euro NCAP crash test score is standard and you can’t get a lower insurance group than this.

3: Skoda Citigo

The 20 best first cars: Skoda Citigo

Prices start at: £8,210 (1.0 S 3dr)

Lowest insurance group: 1

Euro NCAP crash test rating: 5 stars

The Skoda costs just a few pounds more than the SEAT Mii and, for some, has a slightly cooler image. If this doesn’t steer you in its direction, maybe the locality of the dealer will – otherwise, it’s just like the Mii.

4: Volkswagen Up

The 20 best first cars: Volkswagen Up

Prices start at: £8,765 (1.0 Take Up 3dr)

Lowest insurance group: 1

Euro NCAP crash test rating: 5 stars

For some, only the real thing will do. You pay more to get a Volkswagen badge but, because the used car market likes it too, it’ll retain more money – which might make the monthly finance payments similar to the SEAT and Skoda.

5: Dacia Sandero

The 20 best first cars: Dacia Sandero

Prices start at: £5,995 (1.2 Access)

Lowest insurance group: 2

Euro NCAP crash test rating: 4 stars

You don’t need to be made of money to get a brand-new first car: the Dacia Sandero start from just £5,995. That’s less than some three-year old superminis! OK, it’s basic, but it’s still got a reassuring four-star Euro NCAP safety score, and has a three-year warranty. Stick a small deposit down and the finance monthly payments are minimal: clever stuff.

6: Fiat Qubo

The 20 best first cars: Fiat Qubo

Prices start at: £12,000 (1.4 Active)

Lowest insurance group: 2

Euro NCAP crash test rating: n/a

If your first car has to be big and distinctive, the boxy, blocky Fiat Qubo might be for you: it’s called Qubo for a reason, y’know. OK, it’s a bit pricey, but not much is bigger for such a low insurance group. Embrace the leftfield?

7: Kia Rio

The 20 best first cars: Kia Rio

Prices start at: £10,345 (1.25 1)

Lowest insurance group: 2

Euro NCAP crash test rating: 5 stars

Kias have seven-year warranties: get this just after you pass your test and it’ll be good until your mid-20s. It’s able enough for you perhaps to consider keeping it for that long too: it’s certainly better value (and potentially cheaper to insure) than the Ford Fiesta it competes with for similar money.

8: Peugeot Partner Multispace

The 20 best first cars: Peugeot Partner Multispace

Prices start at: £13,285 (1.6 VTi Urban)

Lowest insurance group: 2

Euro NCAP crash test rating: 3 stars

The Fiat Qubo is massive, but if even that’s not big enough, how about the enormous Peugeot Partner Multispace? We’re amazed this massive beast has such a low insurance group – if you’re a committed dedicate driver, this’ll be a brilliant first car. Just remember to charge them all enough for petrol money – that 1.6-litre VTi’s a thirsty thing.

9: Renault Twingo

The 20 best first cars: Renault Twingo

Prices start at: £9,495 (1.0 Expression)

Lowest insurance group: 2

Euro NCAP crash test rating: 4 stars

We love the rear-engined Renault Twingo. In its purest 1.0 Expression form, it’s at its best – you don’t need to spend more than this. Putting the engine in the back gives a parent-reassuring four-star Euro NCAP crash test score too.

10: Skoda Fabia

The 20 best first cars: Skoda Fabia

Prices start at: £10,600 (1.0 S)

Lowest insurance group: 2

Euro NCAP crash test rating: 5 stars

The Skoda Fabia virtually defines the perfect small car. Euro NCAP currently hasn’t tested a supermini that’s safer than this, which parents will love; it looks crisp, is great to drive and is swimming in space, which first-time drivers will welcome too. Highly recommended.

11: Vauxhall Adam Rocks

The 20 best first cars: Vauxhall Adam

Prices start at: £13,995 (1.2)

Lowest insurance group: 2

Euro NCAP crash test rating: 4 stars

The Vauxhall Adam Rocks is a bit of an anomaly. All 1.2-litre Adams have a lowest insurance rating of three – except this one; because it doesn’t have a big glass sunroof and, presumably, a tougher and more impact-friendly body style, it gets a unique group 2 rating. Ideal first-time car stuff – provided you can afford it…

12: Vauxhall Corsa

The 20 best first cars: Vauxhall Corsa

Prices start at: £9,175 (1.2 Sting 3dr)

Lowest insurance group: 2

Euro NCAP crash test rating: 4 stars

A smarter buy to the Adam Rocks is the excellent Corsa Sting. OK, the engine isn’t all that hot, but it’s loaded with kit, looks great and drives way better than you’d ever believe. It’s really surprised us, the 2015 Corsa – you won’t feel stung if a Sting becomes your first car.

13: Fiat Panda

The 20 best first cars: Fiat Panda

Prices start at: £8,945 (1.2 Pop)

Lowest insurance group: 3

Euro NCAP crash test rating: 4 stars

The pretty Fiat 500 has surprisingly high insurance ratings: the smart first car money is on its roomier, more practical five-door cousin, the Panda. For many, this is the cooler choice anyway – James May owns one too, if celebrity recommendation is important.

14: Ford Ka

The 20 best first cars: Ford Ka

Prices start at: £8,945 (1.2 Studio)

Lowest insurance group: 3

Euro NCAP crash test rating: 4 stars

The Ford Ka is certainly cheap. And sold by the nation’s biggest dealer network. If you want a four-star Euro NCAP car that won’t cause too many headaches, it’s one choice. But there’s a far better one sitting next to it in the dealership…

15: Ford Fiesta

The 20 best first cars: Ford Fiesta

Prices start at: £10,195 (1.25 Studio 3dr)

Lowest insurance group: 3

Euro NCAP crash test rating: 5 stars

The Ford Fiesta is Britain’s best-selling car for good reason: it’s brilliant. Even the base 1.25 Studio feels a million dollars to drive, and if this five-star Euro NCAP car is your first, prepare to be spoiled for life. It’s not the cheapest to insure, but it’s still one of the best out there.

16: Kia Picanto

The 20 best first cars: Kia Picanto

Prices start at: £8,345 (1.0 1 3dr)

Lowest insurance group: 3

Euro NCAP crash test rating: 4 stars

It’s odd that the little Kia Picanto drops into a lowest insurance group rating one higher than the bigger, better Rio. Still, the Picanto makes up for it with much lower list prices – and it still comes with a lengthy seven-year warranty if you plan for your first car to last.

17: Smart Forfour

The 20 best first cars: Smart Forfour

Prices start at: £11,620 (1.0 Passion)

Lowest insurance group: 3

Euro NCAP crash test rating: 4 stars

The Smart Forfour oddly has a lower base insurance group rating than its new two-seat Smart Fortwo sibling. Maybe car insurers believe peer pressure makes youngsters safer. It’s certainly cool, although not as cheap to insure, or buy, as the similarly cool Renault Twingo with which it shares so much beneath the surface.

18: Citroen C1

The 20 best first cars: Citroen C1

Prices start at: £8,345 (1.0 Touch 3dr)

Lowest insurance group: 6

Euro NCAP crash test rating: 4 stars

We include the next three cars as they’re some of Britain’s best-selling city cars so will be familiar to many as a first new car choice. Sadly, they’re not the cheapest to insure, due to a surprisingly poor group six entry insurance rating.

19: Peugeot 108

The 20 best first cars: Peugeot 108

Prices start at: £8,345 (1.0 Access 3dr)

Lowest insurance group: 6

Euro NCAP crash test rating: 4 stars

Why the Peugeot 108 is rated so much higher than other similar cars in this class is hard to fathom…

20: Toyota Aygo

The 20 best first cars: Toyota Aygo

Prices start at: £8,695 (1.0 x 3dr)

Lowest insurance group: 6

Euro NCAP crash test rating: 4 stars

… And not even the parent car to them all, the Toyota Aygo, can do any better. The Toyota suffers from higher list prices too – one to consider only if you’re able to get a good first insurance policy deal on your first car.