The nine best fun first cars

18th November 2022
Ethan Jupp

Getting your first car can be an ordeal, especially if you’re not interested in cars at all. Happily, we are and we assume you are too, so we can A) assume you know what you’re doing when searching for a car. That’s to say, you know values, how insurance works and to ask about MOT and service history. More importantly, B), you might want something at least a little bit fun. So contrary to most first car lists that talk about the practical stuff (rightly so, to be fair), we’ve come up with a list of possible first cars, with a view to having a bit of fun in those first exploratory miles and years as a road user. We’ve ideas to suit all budgets, so let’s get into them.


1. Mini

We love a Mini here at Goodwood. We have grids full of the old blighters T1 and skipping their way around our track at the Revival and Members' Meeting presented by Audrain Motorsport. First and foremost though, both in its original form and its 'New' Mini form, it’s known (by us at least) as a car that brings fun to the people. As such all Minis are great options for a first car, that’s been bringing a sense of humour to young fun-loving drivers for over 60 years.

Image by James Lynch


2. Peugeot 106

Nice as the new Minis are though, they didn’t quite capture the effervescent spirit of the originals. They were sent up-market and BMW-ified. It was the French that really took over that playful spirit in their entry-level vehicles. And it’s here we can speak from experience, as we challenge anyone not to have fun at any speed, driving a Peugeot 106. Small, scrappy, balanced and prone to a bit of lift-off oversteer, it’s about as raw a driving experience as any track-honed supercar. Get one while they’re still cheap.


3. Volkswagen Up! GTI

Not many cars do it like the Mini and the 106 used to these days, though VW did make a good go of channeling the spirit of the original Golf GTI. We love the Up! GTI, and clearly so do buyers, given it’s been out of stock for much of its time on sale in the UK. The drawbacks? It’s not exactly cheap and cheerful like the 106 still is, or like those original ‘New’ Minis still are. It’s also got a GTI badge, which means insurance might be a struggle. Our advice? For this and many of the more ‘out there’ options to follow? If you can swing it, do.


4. Aston Martin Cygnet

Boy oh boy, is this a left-field option. An Aston Martin? For a first car? Well, the Cygnet is the Aston that forgoes its V12 in favour of Toyota iQ underpinnings. Yes, a tiny city car, trimmed like an Aston. It's not spectacular to drive but the cabin is a lovely place to be. They’re still expensive and honestly, they didn’t sell that well for good reason, but what a conversation piece it’d be.


5. BMW i8

As would a carbon-chassis, mid-engined BMW sportscar with butterfly doors. How in the world is this potentially suitable as a first car? Well, it’s got a tiny 1.5-litre engine, skinny tyres, is a hybrid and safe as houses. They’re still expensive but there really aren’t any 1.5-litre 40mpg capable cars quite like it.


6. Renault Twingo 133

Okay, back to the more conventional stuff. The Renault Twingo 133 was when new and still is, a fantastic hot hatch first car. Insurance prevailing (possibly difficult given that RenaultSport badge) these are great fun to drive, great-looking and reasonably equipped. We miss cars like this, so you should buy one while they’re still around.


7. Mazda MX-5

Convertible, rear-wheel-drive, really? Yes, the MX-5 is a great first car. We know so, because Goodwood colleagues have done it for themselves. Famously nothing more than a concoction of the sportscar bare essentials, an MX-5 is a perfect way to introduce yourself to the basic joys of driving. They’re also relatively cheap, though earlier cars are increasing rapidly in value.


8. Suzuki Swift Sport

Twingo 133 highly appealing but a little scared of French reliability? The Suzuki Swift Sport does everything the Twingo does, with more equipment and Japanese reliability. It looks cool, is great to drive and shouldn’t let you down with the right TLC. One of the great tiny hot hatches of recent years, though the latest one was a bit of a disappointment. 


9. Caterham 160

Okay, hear us out. While it is a Caterham, the 160 has a tiny 660cc three-cylinder engine. Perfect for insurance, right? Okay, even with engine size in three figures, this might have been a stretch. Do some quotes on price comparison sites and see what you get. We’d love to hear your findings…

  • Peugeot

  • VW

  • Caterham

  • Suzuki

  • Renault

  • Mazda

  • BMW

  • Aston Martin

  • Mini

  • List

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