It never takes long for the starter car conversation to, well, start. The best first car is always going to be the one you can afford to buy and, more fundamentally, the one you can truly afford to insure. I’ve been told that youngsters these days want something brand new and stylish, but good parenting dictates that they drive what they’re given.
The default firstie has for some time been the Citroën C1 and its Peugeot and Toyota siblings. These seem to give some patchy ownership experiences, however; some old ones have proven money pits. But the fact that the C1 sits in insurance group 2E is the most significant factor here.
I was interested in a 2005 1.0 Rhythm in five-door format with 256,000 miles, which would worry some but inspired me. There was zero description, but its registration was visible, thankfully. The good news is that it had an MOT for eight months with just a few advisories, relating most to rusty suspension parts. So it could take you through a couple of driving tests before you drive it into a skip. Dare you? It looked remarkably solid, just a bit rough around the edges. For £300, I think I would.
The Picanto is another useful piece of kit with four real doors and four real seats. Being a contemporary Kia, it’s reluctant to break down. Its insurance group is 8A, which bears further investigation according to personal circumstances, but £999 for a 90,000-mile 2009 1.0 seemed rather attractive. It had just the two previous owners, a year’s MOT and a dealer warranty. A safe and sound enough way to start motoring life.
The Vauxhall Corsa is another obvious choice, being cheap, cheerful and eminently insurable. Registering in group 3E, a 2001 three-door 1.0i Expression from a private seller with 72,000 miles, four previous owners and a full service history was up for £595. It had some interesting alloys that I think were aftermarket, but it was difficult to tell. It would be worth changing them for steel wheels if they’re not standard.
Suzukis are great, so a relatively recent and tidy Splash is worth thinking about, not least thanks to a 7E insurance rating. These are very underrated for some reason; the 1.0-litre engine will return more than 50mpg. I found a 2010 car with 78,000 miles on offer for £2299 at a dealer. That would be a decent price if you negotiated a warranty and a proper service.
If that seems a bit rich for a first-timer or their family, let’s go back to that Franco-Japanese co-operation in the shape of the Toyota Aygo. An £850 three-door from 2006 showing 93,000 miles and with a full year’s MOT seemed to me like the one to have. It certainly had more life left in it than that moon-and-back C1.
Tales from Ruppert's garage