With the summer holidays almost over, young drivers fresh out of university may be looking for their next car. Here is our pick from under £1000
19 August 2015

The summer holidays are almost over, and university graduates and fledgling professionals may be after an affordable set of wheels that's also a hoot to drive. Buying new isn't an option for everyone, and for those seeking a second-hand bargain, these trusty but fun motors are well worth a look.

1 - Suzuki Swift 1.5 (2004-2010)

We’re huge fans of the Suzuki Swift. In terms of character, the Sport model is possibly the closest modern warm hatch to old-school gems such as the Citroën AX GT. But while the Sport may be out of reach for early 20-somethings, they could have the next best thing: a nippy and well-equipped 1.5-litre Swift GLX.

The 1.5 retains the Sport’s wide track and feelsome steering, making it a hoot to drive on challenging B-roads, and the 101bhp motor can average 44mpg and still push the Swift from 0-62mph in 10.0sec and on to a maximum of 115mph. We found a 2009 model with only 13,000 miles under its belt for £5k.

2 - Peugeot 106 Quiksilver (1998-2003)

Back in the late 1990s, Peugeot spotted a gap in the market for a watered down GTi model to rival Citroën’s Saxo Furio. The result was the limited edition 106 Quiksilver. It had the 106 GTi’s suspension and bodykit but was propelled by a 1.4-litre eight-valve engine instead of the GTi’s 1.6 16-valver.

The 75bhp Quiksilver is a sharp steer thanks to its 850kg kerb weight, and it feels much faster than its 11.2sec 0-62mph time suggests. Driveshaft problems and rear axle issues are common, but just under £1500 will get you a clean 2002 Quiksilver with a respectable 78,000 miles on the clock.

3 - Mini Cooper (2001-2007)

When the first-generation BMW-owned Mini hatch arrived in 2001, it came with premium pricing and a level of desirability that set it apart from other cars of its size. The Cooper model was powered by a 115bhp 1.6-litre four-pot petrol engine, which helped the car to a 0-62mph time of 9.1sec and a top speed of 124mph, and in our original road test we were gobsmacked by the impressive roadholding ability.

Early Mini Coopers have since depreciated to the extent that they’re now within the reach of younger buyers. They have reasonable group 21 insurance, too. A fiver under £4k will get you a 2007 Cooper with a full service history and 69,000 miles on the clock.

4 - Volkswagen Up (2012-present)

Young buyers seeking a desirable badge and quality interior on their sprightly hatchback should look no further than Volkswagen’s Up city car. In 74bhp 1.0-litre guise, it’s nippy enough around town and has an addictive, charismatic three-cylinder thrum that urges you to chase its 6200rpm redline. It’s an agile and predictable thing to steer, too.

The VW also has the lowest running costs here, plus it’s the cheapest to insure. Standard kit is generous and in five-door form it can carry three passengers with ease. For £8500, you can have a two-year-old flagship High Up five-door, with only 15,000 miles.

5 - Ford Puma 1.7 (1997-2002)

The Puma coupé may not be blessed with the most masculine design, but what it lacks in stylistic virility it more than makes up for with an engaging and involving chassis. And despite being powered by a 125bhp 1.7-litre Yamahadeveloped engine, it has relatively low group 23 insurance.

The 0-60mph sprint is cracked in 9.2sec and the Puma can romp on to 121mph, so it’s got the poke to back up its sweet handling. There are plenty of Puma 1.7s in the classifieds for under a grand. We found a tidy 2001 example, with only 74,000 miles on the clock, selling for £900.

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Our Verdict

Suzuki Swift

The Suzuki Swift may not be as well finished or as spacious as some rivals, but its aggressive pricing makes it an attractive option

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Comments
14

11 August 2015
Considering how likely young male drivers are to crash the most modern car, the VW Up is probably the safest bet. If I had a kid, I wouldn't let them loose in an old banger, definitely not the 106 or Puma.

11 August 2015
Sorry to be picky, but the 2007 Mini mentioned above would be the R56 (second version of the "new" Mini) rather than the R53 which is intimated here. They had the same engine with this changing from 2008 onwards, but the R56 was seen as a much improved car over the previous version. For me I prefer the R53 as it happens, but if young people are in the market for these cars then it's worth pointing out that the example you mention in the classifieds is in fact the newer version :-)

11 August 2015
AddyT wrote:

Sorry to be picky, but the 2007 Mini mentioned above would be the R56 (second version of the "new" Mini) rather than the R53 which is intimated here. They had the same engine with this changing from 2008 onwards, but the R56 was seen as a much improved car over the previous version. For me I prefer the R53 as it happens, but if young people are in the market for these cars then it's worth pointing out that the example you mention in the classifieds is in fact the newer version :-)

Jesus.


11 August 2015
nope, addy t, you are spot on, the example to purchase should have been an earlier model. on a different note, with the exception of the up, the others will cost a student a fortune to insure as we have found out as we wanted a small car for us that our daughter could also use, we chose a seat mii which in spite of being a similar proposition to say a vauxhall viva worked out over £500 cheaper to insure with her on our policy so lord knows what a puma or mini would cost.

12 August 2015
Unless the student has a few years no claims under their belt, most of these vehicles will be well out of the reach of affordable motoring due to the cost of insurance. I can only assume that Aaron Smith has not yet had the pleasure of purchasing car insurance for a son or daughter !

12 August 2015
Hard to believe Autocar 'publishing' an article like this without even a mention of insurance - a major factor in the cost equation. These subjects are better left to Mr Ruppert.

12 August 2015
Harry P wrote:

Unless the student has a few years no claims under their belt, most of these vehicles will be well out of the reach of affordable motoring due to the cost of insurance. I can only assume that Aaron Smith has not yet had the pleasure of purchasing car insurance for a son or daughter !

If said son or daughter has a part time job so they can afford £30 or so per week out of their own earnings for the (or contribution to) insurance, then it could soften the blow for the parents! Living in a cheap post code area can help too, but moving house might not be an option. An article like this would indeed be enhanced with some chat about typical insurance costs a sort of "17 yo living in Swindon" type of thing. But then, for anyone actually in the market for a starter car, it doesn't take a lot of effort to go on a comparison site before Kicking tyres. Soon helps set expectations into a realism zone. Worked with ours.

14 August 2015

Hi Harry P, as stated in the standfirst, the article is aimed at those fresh out of university - ie. at least 21 years old. My brother purchased a two-year-old Peugeot 106 Quiksilver at the age of 19 and insured it fully-comp for £1200 back in 2004.

I myself owned and insured a Citroen Saxo VTR and Toyota MR2 GT T-Bar while in my early 20s, with no trouble at all. Once you get over 21 and with a few years no claims under your belt, insurance isn't that bad.

Best regards

19 August 2015
"The best cars for students"..."young drivers about to head off to university" - neither of which suggests this is a piece for those 'fresh out of university'.

20 August 2015

Apologies Bullfinch. The original article was published on 14th August and indeed stated 'fresh out of university'. It was recently incorrectly re-uploaded and the intro and standfirst edited to say 'head off to university'. The article is now as it was originally. Best regards

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