Car hunter: Interesting first cars

11 Oct, 2012 11:00am Chris Ebbs

Our reader has £3,000 to spend on a distinctive first car

Dear Chris,
After passing my driving test, I’m now shopping for my first car. I have £3,000 to spend, but want something a little different. Can you help?
Debbie Marks, E-mail 

If you'd like help choosing your next car, contact

The best buys:

Great warranty: Kia Pro_cee'd

Kia pro_cee'd front cornering

For: Sleek styling, remains of warranty
Against: Few examples, rear access

The Pro_cee’d is the sleeker three-door version of the five-door Kia Cee’d, and the lack of rear doors isn’t the only difference.

The Pro_cee’d sits lower than the five-door, giving it a sportier feel. This does mean the suspension can seem a little firm, however, so it’s not the most comfortable option to choose.

As it’s a Kia, you get the balance of a seven-year 100,000-mile warranty, along with excellent build quality, which should help give peace of mind for a first car.

The Pro_cee’d was only launched in 2008, and can be hard to come by at this budget, although prices are set to fall as an all-new car starred at the Paris Motor Show. We found a 90,000-mile 2008 1.6-litre diesel for £3,050.

Running costs are also reasonable, with a low group 17 insurance rating, which will be important for a first car.

Best equipment: SEAT Ibiza

SEAT Ibiza front tracking

For: Low price, lots of choice, cheap
Against: Awkward styling, reliability

Its more popular Volkswagen Polo cousin may get all the attention, but the Ibiza is certainly worthy of consideration as a first car. It’s less desirable than the VW, so prices are lower for newer examples, and there are plenty to choose from.

For your budget, you can even opt for one of the higher-spec Sport models – we found a 1.4-litre petrol three-door on an 06-plate for £2,995. Just be wary, as the Ibiza doesn’t share the same strong reliability as the VW – it placed a rather poor 86th in the 2008 Auto Express Driver Power owner survey.

Watch out for lower-spec models, as these can be stingy on spec, particularly compared to the Kia. The looks aren’t quite up to those of the Pro_cee’d, either, with rather dumpy styling, especially at the front end.

The stylish choice: Fiat Grande Punto

Fiat Grande Punto front tracking

For: Residuals, fuel-efficient diesels
Against: Poor quality, performance

Fiat is often overlooked by those in the market for a first car, in favour of the likes of the Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa. This is a shame, because the Grande Punto is a good-looking and affordable option for those who have just passed their test.

The engine range is a little disappointing, and the petrol cars in particular are short on power. All models, including diesels, have a poor gearshift and don’t feel overly engaging on the open road, either.

Still, there’s a good choice of three or five-door versions to pick from. We found a 1.9-litre Multijet diesel Sporting with 94,500 miles on an 07-plate for bang on £3,000.

Running costs are comparable with the SEAT and Kia, but interior quality lets it down, and isn’t up to the standard of the other two models here.