Australia's Best First Cars for New Drivers

So, after months of booking professional driving lessons (or months of precariously ploughing around a quiet car park on Sunday afternoons), you’ve helped your kid pass their driving test and they’re now a licensed driver.

However terrifying it may be for you, dreams of hitting the open road are now coursing through their mind, urging them to jump behind the wheel and take their first taste of real freedom.

But those wheels have yet to materialise. And road trips are a pretty slow process without a car.

As a parent, you’ve got a whole lot of choice, and your picture of ‘best first car’ probably looks a little different from theirs. But just because you’ll trade convertibles for kinder cost and speed for safety specs, that doesn’t mean you can’t find something they’ll love.

Knowing where to start your search, however, isn’t quite as easy. With so much to choose from, where should you begin? To give you a hand, Bartons has compiled a guide for picking up the best first car.

What's The Best First Car for Australia's Newest Drivers?

Good question – there’s a lot to consider. We’ve compiled a list of the best first cars around, based on the following criteria:

  1. Purchase price: How much is it going to set you back?
  2. Running costs: What will they be spending at petrol stations?
  3. Internal features: What’s going on inside the vehicle?
  4. Safety features: How safe are they in the car?

The Contenders

Based on the criteria above, we have compiled a shortlist of our top choices for your new driver’s best first car:

  • Ford Focus
  • Toyota Corolla
  • Mazda 3
  • Hyundai i30

Ford Focus

The Ford Focus needs little introduction. Since its creation over 20 years ago, the Focus has been a go-to purchase car for P-plate and experienced drivers alike. Bursting with useful features, it’s a solid choice for anyone looking to get on the road.

Purchase Price

Ford Focuses are slightly pricier than other cars on this list. If you’re looking to drive a top 2017 model off the forecourt today, your budget needs to be north of $20,000. More advanced models, such as the ST, can set you back over $40,000.

Running Costs

The Ford Focus Sport, Trend and Titanium versions are by far the cheapest models to drive. Their turbo-charged, 1.5 litre four-cylinder engines consumed the least fuel in official tests, packing a punch with only 5.8 litres/100km.

Real world tests, however, have suggested you’ll be using a bit more than that – depending on how you drive it. If you want to really open up the engine and see the sheer power the Focus can produce, you’ll be visiting the petrol station a bit more often. In their long-distance test of 3,000km, Wheels magazine reported a thirsty 8.0 litres/100km.

Internal Features

The 2017 Ford Focus has put right many of the features it was lacking in previous models. This time around, you can expect to see:

  • 8.0” colour screen
  • SYNC 3 voice control
  • Keyless entry and drive
  • Reverse camera
  • Rain sensing wipers

Safety Features

The new Ford Focus is a strengthened version of previous models, fortified to protect the driver and passengers in the event of a crash. It also has a 5-star ANCAP Safety Rating.

Toyota Corolla

This fun, nippy little car from Toyota has quickly risen to popularity for city drivers after easy manoeuvrability and parking in tight spaces.

Purchase Price

Prices for the new Toyota Corolla run anywhere from $20,000 to $33,650 for the Hatchback, making it a slightly cheaper option compared to the Ford Focus – depending on the model you choose. It’s also an economical choice for first-time drivers. Earlier models will cut costs further if you’re willing to forego extra features.

Running Costs

Overall, running costs for the Corolla aren’t bad. The 1.8 litre 4-cylinder manual Ascent comes in at 6.7 litres/100km while the automatic delivers 6.1 litres/100km.

Internal Features

Easy to use controls and an attractive dashboard complement the Corolla. Some of the key features include:

  • USB port
  • Cruise control
  • Climate control
  • Auto-off headlights
  • Steering wheel mounted audio controls
  • Satellite navigation

Safety Features

The Corolla is a great city car, with low running costs. It holds the following key safety features:

  • Dual front airbag package
  • Reverse parking camera
  • Anti-lock brakes
  • Flashing brake lights during heavy braking

Premium ZR models also come with lane shift warning and automatic emergency braking to avoid the chance of collisions. You will, however, have to pay more for these privileges. Overall, the Corolla has a 5-star ANCAP Safety Rating.

Mazda 3

The Mazda 3 has been in battle for the past decade with the Toyota Corolla and the Hyundai i30. And the newest 2017 model is a seriously strong contender.

Purchase Price

Depending on the model you opt for, you can expect to pay anywhere from $20,490 to $34,000 for a 2017 Mazda 3.

Running Costs

The Mazda 3 is one of the manufacturer’s cheapest cars to drive, with the cheapest 4-cylinder 2.0 litre Neo version running at 5.9 litres/100km. /p>

Internal Features

The 2017 is far more internally pleasing to the eye than its predecessor, with solid build quality and several cool features:

  • Ambient temperature display
  • Infotainment system
  • Bluetooth hands-free phone capability
  • Smooth cruise control

Safety Features

As one of the mid-priced options among our contenders, the Mazda 3 competes well with its safety features:

  • Rear parking sensors
  • Whiplash protection system
  • Emergency stop signal
  • City brake support

The Mazda 3 also has a 5-star ANCAP Safety Rating.

Hyundai i30

Accompanied by an invaluable aftersales package, great value for money and generous onboard equipment, the Hyundai i30 is our top pick for a new driver’s best first car.

Purchase Price

The Hyundai i30 truly offers a great deal of bang for your buck. First hitting the market in 2014, the latest model was introduced in January 2017. Ranging in price from $21,490 to $25,485, the Hyundai i30 has won Australia’s best car award 6 times in a row.

Running Costs

If you’re looking for a smooth driving model with the best fuel efficiency, the 1.6 litre T-GDi is your best bet, running at 7.5L/100km. /p>

Internal Features

The well-built, sophisticated and high-tech i30 has a variety of internal features that make it a solid best first car:

  • Spacious cabin
  • Precise internal instruments, dials and switches
  • Fully adjustable wheel and driver’s seat for ultimate on-road comfort
  • Multifunction steering wheel
  • Automatic headlights
  • Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity
  • Four-speaker stereo on entry level, 6 speakers on all other models
  • USB and AUX ports
  • High-tech built-in satellite navigation with traffic monitoring
  • Keyless entry
  • Rear vision camera

Safety Features

Hyundai has a spotless safety record, with a 5-star ANCAP Safety Rating. The i30 also comes with a 5-year unlimited kilometre warranty. It is, however, unlikely you’ll need this, as previous owner reviews herald the i30 as being incredibly reliable. Here are some of the i30’s key safety features:

  • 6 airbags
  • Anti-lock brakes
  • Electronic stability control
  • Hill-start assist
  • ISOFix child seat mounts
  • Auto-locking door locks
  • Front seat airbag deactivation for rear-facing child seats
  • Driver’s knee airbag

Our Pick

From running costs to internal features and its enviable safety record, the Hyundai i30 makes an excellent choice for any road user. We give it 5 stars and rank it in first place for your child’s best first car option.

Discover the i30 for yourself today and book a test drive now.

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