- Published 5 December 2019
- 3 minute read
- By John Redfern
The best cars to lease for first-time drivers
Getting your driving licence is the path to personal freedom. No more relying on friends and family for lifts, or endlessly waiting around for public transport. You are master of your own mobility.
Choosing a first car usually means sticking to a tight budget, though, limited by the cost of insurance and the need to find something reliable and economical.
Why leasing can make sense for first-time drivers
Picking a personal lease on a new car can have many advantages for novice drivers. Leasing – also known as Personal Contract Hire (PCH) – avoids the pitfalls of trying to find a reliable used car, and lets you get behind the wheel of something new and shiny.
Most lease deals ask for an affordable payment upfront as a deposit, with a fixed monthly fee agreed for a set number of years. This means there are no surprises when it comes to what you pay each month.
Once the lease is up, you can simply hand the car back and move onto something bigger or better. A pre-agreed mileage limit, and the need to keep the car in good condition, also help set a good motoring mindset from the off.
The six cars featured here all fall into low insurance groups to keep costs down, plus have small dimensions to help with parking.
Kia Picanto: from £145 per month
Available to lease from £145 per monthLease Now
The Picanto might be the smallest Kia, yet it still crams in modern styling and space for up to five adults. It also features the biggest boot in the city car class, adding to its practicality.
The interior is just as well-designed, with comfortable seats and a useful 7.0-inch touchscreen to control the media system. It has six airbags around the cabin, while other safety systems can be added as options.
The entry-level 1.0-litre MPI model might not be the quickest car on the road, but it can achieve impressive fuel economy of 64 miles per gallon. This all helps with saving money. Kia also offers a seven-year warranty, meaning any reliability worries will be taken care of over even the longest lease period.
Dacia Sandero: from £120 per month
Available to lease from £120 per monthLease Now
If cost is the most important factor when it comes to choosing a first car, the Dacia Sandero is undoubtedly the star performer. Interior space rivals cars from the class above, but prices are barely more than what you might pay for a monthly phone contract.
I recommend avoiding the cheapest Access model, as this does without air conditioning, electric windows or even a radio. Instead, go for the mid-range Essential version, which provides the basic features expected from a brand-new car.
It might not have the coolest styling inside and out, but it is serious value. Think of it as a life hack to getting on the road for the least amount of cash.
Fiat 500: from £123 per month
Available to lease from £123 per monthLease Now
Few cars have their own Twitter subculture, but the Fiat 500 is the Italian city car with a genuine following. It can also be possible to have one as your first car, providing you are prepared to live with slightly higher group seven insurance.
The 500 is born to nip around the city, with compact dimensions making it one of the most manoeuvrable cars on sale. It also has retro styling that oozes charm on the outside, plus classic touches on the inside. The only negative is limited space in the back seats and boot, but this is a small price to pay for being so on-trend.
First-time drivers will need to opt for the cheapest 1.2 Pop model to keep insurance low. This engine is still peppy enough around town, and has the benefit of good fuel economy.
Volkswagen Up: from £160 per month
Think of the Volkswagen Up as the German answer to the Fiat 500, with strong styling and the prominent VW badge on the bonnet.
It might only have four seats inside a compact cabin, but this has the benefit of allowing passengers greater room. Those boxy lines also mean the boot is bigger than you might expect, helping make this pint-sized Volkswagen a fun and practical first car.
Paying slightly more for a car like the Up means getting a fancier upmarket interior, better made than anything else on this list. The higher Move Up version, for example, comes with air conditioning and a 5.0-inch multimedia touchscreen.
Skoda Fabia: from £158 per month
Available to lease from £158 per monthLease Now
If space is important in a first car, the Skoda Fabia proves to be something of a bargain. Being in the supermini class, it’s roomier inside than many on this list, yet it costs the same as some of the smaller options.
A recent update to the Fabia has given it a new look outside, with a bold front grille and wide stance. Even the cheapest S version comes with a DAB radio, Bluetooth mobile phone connectivity, electric front windows and six airbags throughout. All versions feature plenty of clever storage space.
Cars with the 1.0-litre MPI engine fall into the cheapest insurance group, making the Fabia even more of a bargain for new drivers. A combination of low price and practicality make this a prime choice for taking your tentative steps onto the road.
Ford Fiesta: from £2528 per month
Available to lease from £228 per monthLease Now
Generations of new drivers have grown up getting behind the wheel of a Ford Fiesta, and it continues to be the best-selling car in the UK. Ford has recently introduced a new entry-level model, which makes it even more affordable for first-time drivers.
Called the Trend, the cheapest Fiesta is powered by a 1.1-litre engine. This means a group five insurance, even though the performance is more ‘lemon and herb dressing’ than ‘chilli sauce’. Still, the Fiesta is fun to drive whatever the engine, and easy to handle and park around town.
Unlike many base models, Ford has fitted the Trend with a bounty of standard equipment: air conditioning, alloy wheels, an alarm and even metallic paint. It’s a reminder why so many drivers, new and old, keep coming back to the famous Fiesta.
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