There are plenty of things to consider when buying a car as a student. Although you might be tempted to pick the car with the lowest ticket price, you also have to consider how much it will cost to maintain and run.
These five cars have been picked because of their reliability and economy – in other words, we’re confident they’ll serve you well for the duration of your studies.
But before you commit to buy, be sure to consider the other running costs that come with car ownership, such as insurance, fuel, servicing and repairs, and remember to factor these into your budget.
Best for: Reliability
The Volkswagen Polo is a solid choice for students wanting a comfortable and reliable city car.
Although it may not be the most exciting car on this list, the Polo is a great all-rounder, with decent fuel economy, good handling and a wide choice of engines. It holds its value well too, thanks to its desirable badge, so you needn’t worry about losing money when the time comes to change your car.
This model was named European Car of the Year in 2010, a first in the car’s history. The supermini was hailed for its punchy engines, peerless build quality and frugality.
Your best bet for keeping running costs low is the 1.2-litre petrol engine. The 2011 and 2012 models are a great buy, with certain trim levels coming in at just under £5,000.
Best for: Variety
The Vauxhall Corsa has remained a solid favourite with UK buyers since it burst onto the market in 1993. It’s cheap to buy, run and insure, so it ticks all the boxes for student drivers.
One of the best things about the Corsa has always been its variety of models. With a wide range of trims available, you’re sure to find one that suits your needs perfectly.
Students are advised to avoid the sportier SRi and GSi models (unless you’ve got enough cash left over for the hefty insurance premiums) in favour of the more efficient CDTi ecoFLEX options, some of which come with Start/Stop technology and MPG figures over 80.
If you don’t have far to travel to college or university, the 1.2-litre petrol variants are also decent from an economy point of view.
Best for: Serious style points
With the fourth-generation Ibiza, SEAT delivered a dramatic, geometric overhaul, masterminded by former Lamborghini design chief, Luc Donckerwolke. The result is one of the dishiest superminis of its class.
It’s got plenty of hustle, too, delivering a joyous drive for those pining for whip-responsive handling and lively acceleration. The 1.2-litre petrol or diesel will be more than up to the demands of a student commute.
Parents still not convinced? Look no further than its full, 5-star Euro NCAP rating, which should be all the reassurance they need that all that style is backed up by a suite of sound safety features.
Best for: Unbeatable used reliability
Thanks to its dinky dimensions and nippy character, the Yaris is perfect for use as a city runaround. It’s fun to drive and has plenty of safety features, too.
We’d recommend the diesel 1.4-litre engine. Capable of 68.9 mpg and just £20 per year road tax, it’s still got more than enough clout to cope with the odd motorway excursion.
Not only is it a frugal drive, the Yaris is notoriously reliable. Even if you do need to replace something, parts are cheap, making it a clever choice if you’re hoping to swerve hefty repair bills. Users fall for its practicality too, the rear seats fold perfectly flat, making a surprisingly roomy load space if you’re carting the contents of your student digs home for the summer.
Best for: Room and road trips
At the larger end of the supermini spectrum, you’ll find the Renault Clio. It boasts one of the biggest boots in its class at 300 litres and can comfortably seat five adults, making it the perfect choice for a weekend road trip with your friends.
The only model to win European Car of the Year twice, the third-generation Clio had a level of refinement ordinarily reserved for much larger vehicles.
Scoring full marks in the Euro NCAP safety ratings, the car’s features were well suited to young drivers, with ABS and brake assist fitted as standard, and plenty more available as options.
The 1.5-litre diesel engine can return up to 70.6mpg on the combined cycle with a top speed of 108mph.
The 2009 facelift will appeal to the style-conscious buyer, with its upmarket materials, impressive equipment and aggressive styling.
Prices correct at time of publishing and may be subject to change.