After 100 hours driving with mum and dad and a nerve-wracking practical test you finally have a license and all the freedom that comes with it.

Now you want your own set of wheels so you can go for long trips up or down the coast, and leave your car parked out front of a mate’s house overnight without needing to call mum first and ask if it’s okay. 

You’re wondering, what’s the best car to get on your Ps in 2022? There are so many options to choose from. Can’t someone assemble a list of the best options that tick all the boxes you care about? Yes, and here it is.

7 cars that are cheap to buy, cheap to run, can fit all your stuff in the boot, look decent, and are safe to drive. 

Key Tips For Getting Your Driver's Licence In Australia

1. Mazda 3

The Mazda 3 is consistently one of Australia’s best-selling small cars.

We can hear you asking, “Why would I want a car that everyone else has?” Short answer, because they are really good. The market is also flooded with second-hand ones which pushes down the price. 

Discover The 7 Most Reliable Small Cars

If you shop around a little, you’ll find a Mazda 3 that’s only 5 years old for less than 20k. If you want one for less than 10k, you can find a few on OnlyCars from 2012 or earlier. Mazda has a reputation for making extremely reliable vehicles, so even an older model will serve you well if the previous owner has taken care of it.

Mazda 3s are easy to drive, look sporty, have great speakers, comfortable seats, and plenty of legroom in the back. Not to mention they are extremely fuel-efficient.

We are talking about  5L - 7L per 100km in the city. It’s a front-wheel-drive, so you’ll have better traction and won’t need to worry about skidding if you press the accelerator a little too hard in the wet going around a corner. This is a very easy car to drive and has been for years. 

Read Our Mazda 3 vs Honda Civic Comparison

2. Toyota Corolla

You can’t go wrong with a Carolla.

That Toyota reliability keeps these cars going well into the hundreds of thousands of kilometers. The handling is superb. They are cheap to repair and so economical you’ll forget how expensive petrol is getting.

A new Carolla base model will cost you around $25k. If that’s out of your price range you can get second-hand ones less than 5 years old for around $15k. Or you could get a Carolla that’s older than you for a couple of thousand bucks. Just make sure you have a mechanic look over it.

A 2016 Toyota Corolla is still a capable car, with a reversing camera, cruise control, and dual front airbag package. If you want to connect your phone via Bluetooth or Android Auto / Apple Carplay you’ll need to get a high-end variant or a more recent model. 

See How A New Toyota Corolla Compares To The Mazda 3

3. Kia Picanto

The Kia Picanto is a smaller hatch that’s easy to maneuver around the city and is comfortable enough to take you on long drives down the coast. It’s an adorable car, with a sporty front grille that’s standouts in the class.

Depending on how you drive it the Picanto will use between 5L - 8L / 100km, with the newer models being more economical than the older ones.

The build quality is exceptional for a car in this price range, and it’s amazing what Kia gives you for the money. The new Picanto 2022 models cost around 20k.

A 2018 model with a few Ks on it will sell for about 15k. You might be able to pick one up for $10k if you shop around a bit.

Kia has an industry-leading 7-year manufacturer warranty with no limit on Kms for all cars. Worth considering if you’re thinking about getting a 2018 model. It still has 5 years of protection.

The Picanto is definitely a budget-friendly option. There are also the sporty GT models which still don’t have much in the way of horsepower but they sure look like they do. You can drive something unique without breaking the bank.

The cost-effective newer options and Kia’s consistently high performance for safety means you will feel confident behind the wheel, and that your car isn’t a lemon that’s going to stop one cold morning. 

Related: Best Cars For First Time Drivers In Australia

4. Suzuki Baleno

It’s not the most exciting car to drive, but it is a reliable, economical, and safe vehicle. All of which are traits that should be far more important on your Ps than horsepower and 0 to 100 times.

The Baleno is a great-looking car. The curving lines on its bonnet and front complement the headlights and grille with a fresh swept-back style that sets it apart. Inside it’s modern and comfortable, and the build quality is solid. There is a lot of plastic, but it somehow manages not to feel cheap. 

The Baleno is another affordable car that costs between $18k - $25k brand new.

If you look at older models online, you will notice that prior to a major relaunch the Baleno badge belonged to a completely different and extremely ugly car. 

This is essentially a different vehicle. Besides the name, the new Baleno and the old, have next to nothing in common. 

Related Reading: The 7 Best New Cars In Australia For Uni Students

5. Hyundai i30

The i30 is Hyundai’s answer to the Mazda 3 and VW Golf. In recent years it’s surpassed the competition in many ways, notably by focusing on tech and designing a comfortable modern interior.

It’s a very popular car in Australia and ranges in price from 20k to upwards of 50k for the high-end variants. 

If you’re looking at that price tag and thinking it’s a little out of budget then a second-hand i30 is a great option for a P plater. Hyundai has a 5-year transferable manufacturer's warranty, so it’s worth buying a car that falls within that period for extra peace of mind. 

A 2010 i30 will trade for about $10k, but you need to be aware that the style of these cars has changed dramatically over the years and the older ones aren’t as sleek as the newer models.  

Learn More About The Hyundai i30

6. MG 3

The MG3 is a very affordable vehicle that somehow costs only $17,990 for the 2022 base model drive away. That makes it a superb option if you'd prefer to buy something brand new rather than a used vehicle.

MG is one of about six manufacturers in Australia that offers a 7-year unlimited KM manufacture warranty that’s transferable. This means that this car will hold its value better than most and you don’t need to stress about the costs of keeping it running until at least 2029.

It looks way better than it should for this price, and the 1.5L engine is powerful enough to make this light hatchback feel nippy off the lights.

It’s a front-wheel-drive which we’d recommend for all P platers and It’s economical managing 5.8L/100km in normal driving conditions. 

Unfortunately, the MG3 is missing Android Auto. It has Apple car play, but if you send green text messages you’ll have to connect via Bluetooth.

Recommended Reading: 20 Reliable Used Cars In Australia

7. Mitsubishi Mirage ES

The Mirage ES is a sleek car that looks like it goes fast. In reality, it’s doesn’t. Truth be told the 1.2L 3-cylinder engine is gutless.

There’s no question, the Mirage will get you from point A to B and look good doing it, but you’ll need to push on that accelerator a little harder to pass someone on the freeway.

That might be exactly what a P plater needs. Driving a car that sounds like a jet taking off any time you ask it to do something bold is sure to keep young hot-heads in check.

We know, we know. You’re the best driver to ever grace the roads. Forget everything you just read, here’s another reason to consider a car that only manages 78 horsepower; The base trim starts at $14,990. This is Australia’s cheapest new car.

Haven't quite saved enough for your car yet? Apply for low-rate car loans through Approved Car Loans so you can get on the road sooner!

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Jordan Ballard

Jordan Ballard

Automotive Content Editor

Jordan is a car finance and automotive industry specialist at Only Cars. With over 20 years of experience with frontline and management roles in sales, finance and other areas, Jordan has an incredible understanding of the automotive industry. As Automotive Content Editor, Jordan loves sharing his passion for cars with the Only Cars audience.