All hail new and learner drivers! Over the next few posts, we’ll be focusing on car-owning newbies, with a look at the choices and challenges they face in 2020. And just to keep the geezers happy, we’ll take a walk down memory lane and go misty-eyed over the beloved first cars of yesteryear.
First cars aren’t what they used to be. We remember the days when a first car usually meant a flimsy, unreliable eyesore, with minimal safety equipment and rust bubbling through on the sills (and we loved ’em!). But today’s lucky learners can choose from a range of super little cars that are delightful to drive and easy to live with.
So what should the discerning young driver choose in 2020? There are plenty of decent offerings from the likes of Toyota, Peugeot, Ford and Nissan. But as VW Specialists (the clue’s in our name!), we’re going to concentrate on the best choices from VW Group — and bias aside, it’s a sector where our favourite group really excels. Here are our top selections.
Tiny, fun and neat, the Volkswagen Up! is a great choice for a young drivers’ first car. It’s the cheapest in the VW range, with a brand-new car starting at just over £9,300 and 2016 models available for around £4,800. Insurance is also low, with only the top-of-range Beats version reaching Group 2. Despite all this economy, it still looks and feels like a proper Volkswagen, with all the quality we associate with that brand.
OK, it’s not going to break the land speed record, but the Up!’s small size makes it a cinch to drive, park and manouevre around city streets. No wonder it won Auto Express’s City Car of the Year for 2017, 2018 1nd 2019.
The Skoda Citigo is essentially a repackaged Volkswagen Up! All the mechanical underpinnings are more-or-less identical with its German counterpart. But because it’s built in the Czech Republic, the Skoda Citigo is a fair bit cheaper to produce, and therefore cheaper to buy. A new base level Citigo is around £8,000 and you can find decent 2016 models for £3,900.
In our opinion, the Citigo therefore offers all the advantages of the Volkswagen Up! at a discounted price — so if its styling appeals, it’s well worth a look.
The SEAT Mii is the third VW Group stablemate to the Up! and the Citigo. Again, there’s little to choose between the three variants.
Fantastic as the Up!, Citigo and Mii are, they won’t suit every new driver. As superminis, they were designed to be ultra-compact. And whilst that’s great for city driving, it’s not so good if you need to transport three full-sized passengers or a lot of cargo. If what you really need is a subcompact, you should definitely consider the SEAT Ibiza.
Compared to the superminis, the cabin is considerably larger, and the boot space moves up from 251 litres in the Up! to 355 litres in the Ibiza (around 950 litres to 1165 litres with the seats folded). The car will look and feel a little sportier too. But crucially for younger drivers, this doesn’t come at the cost of massive fuel bills — the frugal 1 litre engine is still good for 53.3mpg combined.
A brand new Ibiza will set you back over £15,000, but there are legions of good second-hand models available.
You might think that if Up! and the Citigo are built on the same platform, then the Ibiza and Fabia must also be sisters under the skin. But that’s not quite right. In 2020 models, the SEAT Ibiza is built on the VW Group’s MQB A0 platform, which it shares with the Volkswagen Polo and the Audi A1. The Fabia, however, still uses elements from the previous platform.
Does this mean that the Skoda isn’t quite as advanced as the other marques? Yes, but not enough to make much of a difference. Where you may notice a difference, though, is in the lower price. Once again, the Skoda is at a considerable price advantage, with the entry-level model coming in at just over £12,000 — a hefty 3K less than the Ibiza.
Both the SEAT and Ibiza are reasonably comfortable, practical and a doddle to drive.
In the next part of this series, we’ll take a look at the thorny topic of insurance for new drivers, and the rise of ‘black box’ trackers.
Photo of Citigo courtesy What Car?
The Welsh VW Specialist blog covers a wide range of automotive topics, from the contentious to the light-hearted. We are an independent garage specialising (as the name suggests!) in all the VW group marques, including Audi, Volkswagen, Skoda and SEAT. Welsh VW Specialists provide services, repairs and MOTs, delivering a main dealer level of care at affordable prices. To book your vehicle in, or for any enquiries, get in touch.