Car Choice: It pays to be boring if you want to get on the road for less

James Ruppert
Sunday 03 January 2010 01:00

Clive Allen is 17, and, like every teenager who has passed his test, wants ideas for a first car. He has a budget of around £4,000. Clive does not like Nissan Micras, Ford Kas, or Renault Clios. So he is looking for a first car that's decent and fairly new, with insurance accounting for about £1,000 of his budget.

A car for the head

I got in touch with Clive, because he needs to be realistic about insurance. At his age, he will have to endure a boring car for the sake of a lower premium. He made some inquiries and was quoted £2,300 annual premium on a Ford Ka and £1,800 on a Volkswagen Polo. The cheapest insurance group is a priority, and that also means finding a car that is not going to cost more than £2,000. So Clive really should find a boring Vauxhall Corsa with the smallest 1.0 litre engine, and the lowest specification: it is probably the most sensible thing he could do. Not that around £1,800 would buy the very best example, but it would be a start. It has a reasonable boot and is comfy enough around town – and even on motorways – and at least the 1.0 engine will help Clive save money as it returns around 50mpg on average. For just £1,150, a 2000 1.0 Envoy from a dealer with just 60,000 miles on the clock will get Clive on the road and saving money.

A car for heart

Clive really does want a car for the heart which is hopefully funky and not a Nissan Micra or Ford Ka. In that case maybe he should consider a Toyota Yaris, which in 1.0 form is insurance group 2, and like all good small cars is cheap to run and easy to drive. By providing relatively upright seating positions and a sliding rear seat, passenger space is not a problem, despite the fact that the Yaris is so compact. Indeed the Yaris lets you choose between passenger and luggage accommodation, which is the way it is in the real world. That upright position means that the driving position is almost like an MPV and the central dashboard layout also means excellent space up front. When it comes to cubbyholes you are spoilt for choice – there is a space for every nick-knack. The boot may be small, but there is a low loading lip and it is well shaped.

Inside, the only downside is the cheap plastics that abound. However, it is all screwed together very well, although some find the digital speedo hard to read. A 1999 Yaris 1.0 S with 85,000 miles in white from a private seller will cost Clive £1,395. It is a start to his driving career – not an exciting one but the right choice in terms of practicality and budget.

Looking to buy?

Please write to Car Choice, Features, Independent on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5HF or email James Ruppert at, giving your age, address and phone number, details of the type of vehicle in which you are interested, and your budget.

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