Whether it’s a gift from your parents for getting straight As or your first big purchase as you transition into your adult working life, your first car is going to be something you always remember. It may not be big or fancy, but it will be yours and will likely be the first big asset you ever have to manage. While that may seem daunting, choosing the good right car for yourself is even more of a challenge.
There are so many options out there and the first thing you have to decide is if you want a sedan like a Honda Civic, a crossover like the Nissan Rogue or something that is a little more exciting like a coupe, such as a Ford Mustang. Good luck convincing your parents on that last option, though.
More goes into the decision than simply what looks good or even what fits your budget. You’re likely to own your first car for at least five years, unless you land a big promotion really early at your first job or win the lottery. Thus, you need to consider what your needs will be during this time period as your life becomes more complicated and your responsibilities increase.
You should also take into account nitty-gritty details such as maintenance costs and the price of repair if, heaven forbid, you ever get into an accident. It’s a lot to take in and nobody can blame you for being overwhelmed. That’s why it’s nice to have a list of some of the best first-time cars to see what is out there before tailoring the options to fit your personal lifestyle.
With that in mind, here are five affordable vehicles across various categories that make for a great first car:
The Suzuki Swift is a popular hatchback available in many places around the world, and not just because it is super cheap. It treads the line between fun and practicality really well, and can make the transition into responsible adulthood a little less of a drag. The base engine doesn’t have a lot of power on tap — only 83 hp and 113 Nm of torque — but it doesn’t need more. As a hatchback, the Swift is small and light on its feet, so even the smallest kick in the pants can get it to move quickly.
Another advantage of its low-powered engine is great fuel economy. A single tank of gas can last you ages, meaning big savings in the long run. And when you’re living on a student budget, you’ll be grateful for that. To top it all off, hatchbacks are highly practical, with a lot of cargo capacity for groceries or all the laundry on your weekend trip back home. One of the downsides of the design, though, is its rather cramped rear seats.
So long as you don’t plan on carpooling all your friends around town, the Suzuki Swift is an excellent first-time buy, and with low maintenance costs and a decent warranty, it should last you a long time.
If you’re looking for something a bit bigger and more rugged than a hatchback, then the S-Presso is a nice alternative. Not quite an SUV, this subcompact crossover will still give you that higher driving position that makes the classification so popular, as well as high safety ratings that go with what could be considered a family car.
In line with that assessment, the S-Presso has more space in the back seat if you want to pack it full with people, and it will still provide you ample room in the trunk for luggage or groceries. But just because it’s a little bigger, don’t think this Suzuki doesn’t know how to have some fun. The interior definitely seems to suggest this, with its funky dash designs, which look great in bold colours.
The engine is peppy and you get the trademark Suzuki handling dynamics. Thanks to its larger size, the S-Presso doesn’t get the optimal mileage figures of a smaller Swift, but it’s still very frugal. But it’s easy to drive and provides a great peace of mind with its high safety and reliability ratings.
Unsurprisingly, the Grand i10 is another popular hatchback for modern urbanites. It’s also among the cheapest new cars to own and is just as affordable to run, thanks to excellent fuel economy figures. The powertrain isn’t all that lively, but it supplies a decent amount of low-end torque to make city driving feel less tedious, and once you get it up to speed on the highway, it cruises along without a fuss.
On the busy city street and in packed parking lots, it feels right at home, thanks to its diminutive footprint. Manoeuvring around is really easy with its precise steering and tight turning circle. To further its value as a daily driver, it provides plenty of front passenger space and the back seat is adequate for short trips around town. The trunk is commodious and easily accessed through the liftgate.
To top it all off, the Hyundai has a nice standard infotainment suite with steering wheel-mounted controls for better accessibility. Many cheaper cars forego these simple luxuries and conveniences in favour of cost-cutting, but the Korean automaker has learned how to make it work on a budget.
If all these city slicker hatchbacks and crossovers aren’t to your liking, then maybe you’d prefer the more rugged-looking Nexon? With more of a genuine SUV design, it has that sport and capable aesthetic that you can’t help but be drawn to. You also get more options than many cheaper competitors when it comes to what powers the Nexon. Two diesel engines and one petrol option mean you can tailor your purchase to your budget and desires.
There is no available all-wheel drivetrain, sadly, but the Tata does ride quite high, so it can handle some wet weather and a little mud in a pinch. The standard fog lights and independent front and rear suspension just lend credence to its reputation as a more rugged urban runabout. Naturally, all this dependability would mean nothing if the Nexon wasn’t safe. But fear not, it scored an excellent five-star rating from the New Car Assessment Programme standard and comes with some really nice safety features.
The icing on the cake is its spacious cabin and high level of utility. The trunk is accommodating and easy to access, and there are loads of little nooks to store things around the cabin.
The Venue is a popular car not just in India but around the world, earning a top-20 spot for sales in the US. It’s more than just an affordable crossover, though. It is an excellent value for money, ticking almost every box on a first-time buyer’s list of needs and wants. The price will draw you in, but it’s the spacious cabin and long list of standard specs that will see you signing on the dotted line.
The cabin is well-appointed, but what really impresses is the fact that you can comfortably seat four full-size adults. Unfortunately, the trunk is not as much of a highlight, though it is sufficient for most daily needs. Considering how little you are paying, the base Venue gets a fair amount of tech, such as forward collision avoidance and lane-keep assist, a large touchscreen for the infotainment system, and full smartphone integration.
Another low point for the Venue is its powertrain. A naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine means you don’t have a lot of horsepower and fuel economy doesn’t excel either. Luckily, the small size and weight of the crossover means that there is still enough to hustle it around town, but it runs out of breath on the highway quite easily.
Just because the abovementioned names are some of the best affordable options and among the top sellers in India, it doesn’t mean they are your only options. There are plenty of other great cars out there with attractive price tags. If you have your heart set on something practical that will last you a long time, the Kia Seltos or Soul are excellent alternatives, while the Honda Fit remains a solid pick in the hatchback segment.
However, if you want a little fun in your life, then the Honda Civic Sedan is a good option, especially if you can spring for the sportier Si model. The Ford Mustang is another good car, particularly if American muscle ponies appeal to you. It’s a little more expensive, but it’s hard to put a price on fun.
If you want the best of both worlds, you may want to consider a hot-hatch. The aforementioned Honda Civic is available in hatchback configuration, as is the Mazda 3. The latter is a very stylish option that also comes outfitted with a fair degree of modern tech features.
Regardless of what you end up buying, remember that your first car is just a stepping stone. Sure, it’s an important step, but try to have fun with and. And take the lessons you learn and apply them when you’re ready to trade in for something newer and better.