Great $10k learner-driver cars that aren't a Suzuki Swift
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We’ve spent a bit of time in the office this week talking about the best cars for a learner driver – or more importantly, the best cars for a learner that a young first-time motorist could actually afford.
We did at least agree on one thing: that $10,000 is a good amount to spend on a car for a learner driver. It’s an amount that’s achievable (especially with a bit of parental help, as is often the case), but it can also get you into something relatively modern and safe.
Check out DRIVEN’s vidcast/podcast Zooming this week (series 3, episode 5) for our “30 second sell” conversation starter on the topic, but as is often the case with these things, the arguments – sorry, discussions – lasted long after the on-air action had finished.
The answer to any small-car question is usually “Suzuki Swift”, because it’s so wildly popular while also being kind of cool to buyers of all ages.
So you could just go shopping for a $10k Swift and that’d be job done. In fact, if you want to do that, click here.
But we also reckon it’s well worth exploring learner cars that aren’t a $10k Suzuki Swift. Here are five we really like.
A small-medium SUV makes sense for a learner-driver: elevated driving position to help with the confidence and/or parking, plus decent presence on the road for safety.
The default used SUV is the Toyota RAV4 and rightly so. They are plentiful, reliable and in some quarters actually considered quite desirable.
We reckon the holy grail would be a short-wheelbase 3-door from the first (1994-2000) or second (2001-05) generations. They’re hard to find, but out there. Otherwise, the world is your oyster with the 5-door models.
A supermini-sized hatchback might appeal for those first driving experiences – so why not feed a little sensory pleasure into the equation with a model that steers and handles really well?
The Mazda2 (or Demio as a used import) offers all the ease-of-use and size virtues of a supermini, but it’s also a neat little thing to drive and has a bit more class than your average small hatch.
Mazda has also always offered the 2 with a manual gearbox option, so if you’re keen to bring three pedals into the equation this might be a good place to start.
The Cube is either iconic or absurd, embarrassing or eminently desirable depending on who you ask.
But we reckon it makes a great learner-driver car. Not too fast but not micro-car slow either (1.4-1.5l engines), good visibility around the boxy body shape and nice simple cabin controls – albeit a bit idiosyncratic on some versions.
There are plenty of Cubes around for much less than $10k. So you’ll be able to choose from first-generation (1998-2002, and it’s symmetrical!), second (2002-08) or third (2008-19).
If you want a small hatch you could always go shopping for a Toyota Corolla – there are plenty to choose from. But why not the “German Corolla”, otherwise known as the Volkswagen Golf?
A Golf, any Golf, is considered quite desirable by young drivers, so learning to drive in one might encourage that extra bit of pride in the process. More than a Corolla, anyway (sorry Corolla – we do love you too).
There’s plenty of variety in powertrain and body shape (3-door, 5-door, wagon, even a midi-MPV) with Golf as well, so you should have plenty of scope to find the one that suits.
At some stage a week we will go by when we don’t write about NZ’s cheapest new car, the Suzuki Celerio. But this is not that week.
The good thing about the Celerio is that it’s bargain new-vehicle price means you can get a late-model example for our $10k budget, which is good news for driveability and safety.
It’s no looker, but its suitably compact and actually quite nice to drive because underneath it’s basically an older-generation Swift. Which brings us nicely back to where we started.