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Car hunter: Interesting first cars

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 chris_ebbs@dennis.co.uk.

The best buys:

Great warranty: Kia Pro_cee'd

Kia pro_cee'd front cornering

For: Sleek styling, remains of warrantyAgainst: Few examples, rear access

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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, cheapAgainst: Awkward styling, reliability

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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.

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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 dieselsAgainst: 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.

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