Let’s be honest, the number one consideration when buying your first car is price.
Once you’ve decided what you want to spend, it’s time to look at the other factors. Important considerations include..
- Can you handle the vehicle as a new driver?
- Registration costs
- Suitability for your intended usage (eg. driving to work, driving long distances...)
- Reliability (particularly if second hand)
Taking all of these factors into consideration, we’ve assembled a list. Our picks for Australia’s 7 best first cars. Safe, reliable cars that look a million bucks but cost significantly less. Ideal whether you're on your learners permit or P-Plates.
Let’s break down our top picks.
1. Mazda 3
If you are buying a new car then the Mazda 3 is great value for money. They look sporty and feel zippy to drive.
They are comfortable inside and there’s legroom in the back for driving your mates across town. Australia has a lot of second hand Mazda 3’s, so you can get a good one without breaking the bank.
Remember that there is a five-year manufacturer's warranty. So if you buy a Mazda that’s only a year or two old, you have that reassurance.
Newer Mazda 3s are also impressively fuel-efficient. They average between 5.3 - 8.2 litre/100km for normal driving conditions. A Mazda 2, is another great first car option if you prefer something a little smaller.
2. Ford Fiesta
Because Ford Fiestas are a smaller compact car they are extremely easy to drive and the perfect city run around.
Every Fiesta since 2010 has a 5-star ANCAP safety rating. It’s a very cheap car to run with a very small yet turbocharged engine that manages 8.6 L/100km in the city and 6.7 L/100km on the highway.
Even the older Fiesta’s from the mid-2000s can achieve this fuel economy. Not to mention, it’s a great looking car. The hatch has a distinct shape to it and an iconic front nose that set it apart. While it is short on rear legroom, there’s ample space in the hatchback boot for all your gear.
3. Hyundai i30
It’s amazing how cheap you can pick up a second-hand i30 that’s only a few years old. For what you get, they are a very cost-effective car to buy from the showroom too, and a great first car, either way.
The Hyundai i30 has had a 5-star ANCAP safety rating since 2009. This car’s design hasn’t changed much over the years, and the older ones have aged well.
A 2013 i30 looks like it’s only a few years old. They are economical. Averaging between 7.68 L/100 km - 5.3 L/100km for city driving. The newer ones are more economical too.
4. Subaru Impreza
The Impreza is a practical mid-sized car and an economical around towner.
It’s a little bigger with better legroom in the back than other cars in its class, but the Impreza is still easy to handle and fun to drive. The older Subaru Imprezas have a distinct look about them.
Perhaps inspired by the WRX which inspired a cult following, the 2015 - 2018 Subaru Impreza look a little tougher and takes some risks. If you think every car on the road looks the same, a Subaru Impreza doesn’t. They are also a quiet and practical car, with a 5-star ANCAP safety rating. All great attributes for a first car.
Looking For A Low Priced New Car? See The Top 7 New Cars Under $20k In Australia
5. Kia Rondo
The Kia Rondo is an affordable car to buy secondhand or new. It has a lot of technology for its price range and this has been true for years.
This means that if you are buying an older Rondo, you’ll still get tonnes of features that we think are valuable in your first car. Rondos that are newer than 2014 - 2015 will have a reversing camera with parking assist lines, cruise control, and a place to connect your phone.
They are a bigger car than a nippy Ford Focus but are still easy to handle than a small SUV. Every Kia Rondo after the major 2013 redesign has a 5-star ANCAP safety rating. And you wouldn’t want a Kia Rondo from pre-2013. They were considered some of the ugliest cars to ever hit the roads.
As a larger car, Rondos are a little thirstier than some of the other cars on our list, but still economical using only 10.6 L/100km for city driving.
6. Renault Megane
The Renault Megane is a magnificent looking car both inside and out. If you’re willing to drive a car that’s a few years old you’ll score one for $10,000 - $15,000. Last year’s model Megane is still a great looking car.
It’s wider than a lot of sedans. In Europe, they get a bit of slack for being difficult to navigate through tight streets. In Australia, that’s not a problem, and you’ll welcome the extra space and statesman feeling.
Since 2016 most models had a touch screen infotainment screen. It’s also a very safe car. It’s maintained a 5-star ANCAP safety rating since 2011 and it’s economical too. Only 7.5L/100km in the city. In more recent years, especially the Hatchbacks, achieving 5.6L/100km.
7. Toyota Camry Hybrid
Buying a new Camry is fairly expensive for a first car. But if you can afford a new Camry, it's a great choice. They look sleek and drive incredibly well.
But a used Camry from recent years looks great too, and the hybrid option makes it one of the most economical cars on the planet.
It’s also extremely quiet, safe and easy to drive. Camrys are nippy when they need to be as reliable as any Toyota. Hold on, isn’t buying a second-hand hybrid a bad idea? Surprisingly no. The batteries in these cars last for hundreds of thousands of kilometres and only cost a few thousand to replace.
If you are getting an old one, insist on a battery test. The 2021 Camry is capable of an incredible 4.9 L/100km city driving. In 2011 the Camry Hybrid still managed 6.8 L/100km in the city. If you’re driving to and from work every day, buying a Camry as your first car might be one of the best financial decisions you ever make.
There are so many cars to choose from, and buying your first car is something you only get to experience once.
The cars on the list are all sensible decisions, but ultimately it’s your decision, and you need to do a tonne of research and settle on a car you’ll be proud to call your own.