10 Good First Cars for 17 Year Olds: Top Picks for New Drivers

7 min read

Russ Rodriguez, Vehicle Writer


Embarking on the journey of becoming a newly minted driver can be a rite of passage for many teenagers. Acquiring their first set of wheels is a momentous event in a 17-year-old’s life, fraught with excitement, responsibility, and the freedom to explore the open road. The quest to find an ideal first car is pivotal, as it needs to balance safety, affordability, reliability, and style—all factors that contribute to an exceptional driving experience for budding drivers.

As a new driver, the type of vehicle you choose can play a significant part in your driving confidence and your safety on the road. It’s essential to select a car that not only aligns with your personality but is also equipped with modern safety features, delivers excellent fuel efficiency, and won’t break the bank with insurance premiums and maintenance costs.

Ideal Features of a First Car for New Drivers

When it comes to selecting the perfect first car for a 17-year-old, several features stand out. These are designed to ensure the driver’s safety, comfort, and ease of handling as they navigate this new chapter in their life.
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Safety: Look for vehicles with a strong track record of safety. A robust set of airbags, stability control, and good crash-test ratings can potentially save lives. Cost: Affordability is critical, from the initial purchase price to ongoing costs like insurance, fuel, and maintenance. Reliability: Opt for cars known for their durability that require minimal repairs over time. Fuel Efficiency: A car with high gas mileage reduces the cost of travel and is kinder to the environment. Easy Handling: New drivers should choose cars that are easy to maneuver and park, especially in busy urban environments.

Standout First Cars for Teenage Drivers

Let’s dive into the top ten vehicles that new drivers should consider, ensuring that each selection encapsulates the balance of essential features outlined above.
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The Ford Fiesta

The Ford Fiesta has earned its reputation as a stalwart companion for new drivers. Its compact size doesn’t skimp on style or performance, making it an ideal match for teenagers.
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  • Safety: Equipped with advanced safety features and good crash-test ratings.
  • Cost-Effective: Boasts a reasonable purchase price, with affordable parts and insurance premiums.
  • Fuel-Efficient: Excellent mileage that will keep those fuel costs down.
  • Handling: Nimble steering and a comfortable ride make it perfect for novice drivers.

The Ford Fiesta is a cornerstone for economy, practicality, and safety, perfect for hitting the mark as a top-tier first car choice.

The Honda Civic

With a blend of reliability and style, the Honda Civic continues to be a favorite for new drivers. Known for its longevity, this car is a practical investment that stands the test of time.
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  • Safety: Strong ratings for safety make it a trustworthy choice.
  • Reliability: Hondas are synonymous with reliability—expect fewer trips to the mechanic.
  • Fuel Efficiency: Competitive fuel economy in its class.
  • Handling: Predictable and smooth handling ideal for new road-goers.

For 17-year-olds looking for a stellar combination of dependability and safety, the Honda Civic is hard to beat.

The Toyota Corolla

The Toyota Corolla is synonymous with endurance and cost-effectiveness. This classic car is suited for new drivers who prioritize a hassle-free driving experience and exemplary reliability.
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  • Safety: Toyota’s Safety Sense comes standard, offering peace of mind.
  • Affordable to Own: With low depreciation and running costs, it’s a smart economic choice.
  • Fuel Efficiency: Strong MPG ratings promise lower fuel expenditures.
  • Easy Maintenance: Widely known for requiring minimal upkeep and offering widespread parts availability.

When durability and affordability are key, the Toyota Corolla emerges victorious.

The Mazda3

Mazda3 offers a great mix of sportiness and practicality that can appeal to young drivers craving a bit more zest from their ride while not compromising on the essentials.
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  • Safety: Top safety scores complement its spirited drive.
  • Value: Despite its sporty lean, it remains an economical choice for budget-conscious buyers.
  • Fuel Economy: Competes well with other vehicles in its segment.
  • Driver Engagement: Offers a dynamic driving experience that’s still user-friendly for novices.

Teen drivers will find the Mazda3 an exciting yet reliable companion on the road.

The Volkswagen Polo

The Volkswagen Polo is a subcompact with a premium feel, offering a refined experience for teens stepping into their first car without an exorbitant price tag.
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  • Safety: Exemplary safety features and strong build quality.
  • Cost: Competitive pricing packaged with German engineering.
  • Fuel Mileage: Impressively frugal on fuel for its class.
  • Handling: Assured handling and a comfortable ride are key attributes.

For those who want a touch of class and long-lasting build, the Volkswagen Polo checks all the right boxes.

The Subaru Impreza

Subaru’s Impreza is the go-to vehicle for those looking for all-wheel-drive confidence, especially in areas with challenging weather conditions, ensuring new drivers can handle diverse driving situations.
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  • Safety: Excellent safety and crash-test results; AWD adds a layer of security.
  • Affordable Repairs: Subaru’s are known for their affordable maintenance options.
  • Fuel Efficiency: Respectable fuel economy for an AWD vehicle.
  • Easy to Drive: AWD and good visibility make it an easy and safe drive.

If weather conditions are a concern, the Subaru Impreza stands out as a solid and secure option.

The Hyundai i10

The Hyundai i10 might be small on the outside, but it’s big on features, making it a fantastic city car that doesn’t overlook safety or style.

  • Safety: Comes standard with a comprehensive set of safety equipment.
  • Low Cost: Highly affordable, with one of the lowest insurance group ratings.
  • Fuel Savings: Its compact size translates into excellent fuel economy.
  • Maneuverability: An outstanding choice for navigating tight city streets.

Maneuverable and economical, the Hyundai i10 is ready for urban exploration with ease and safety.

The Kia Rio

Kia’s commitment to quality and value is embodied in the Rio, a compact car that outshines its modest price point with features often found in more expensive vehicles.

  • Safety: Equipped with essential safety technologies and solid safety scores.
  • Affordable Ownership: Competitive pricing with a long warranty period.
  • Efficiency: Strong fuel economy for cost-conscious young drivers.
  • Handling: Straightforward and steady driving characteristics.

For those seeking value and extended warranty assurance, the Kia Rio comes with compelling credentials.

The Chevrolet Spark

For 17-year-olds who desire a fresh and zippy car, the Chevrolet Spark caters with its colorful palette and sprightly personality—without sidelining practicality.

  • Safety: Adequate safety features for a car of its size and class.
  • Cost-Friendly: One of the most affordable new cars available today.
  • Fuel-Friendly: Optimized for fuel-saving urban jaunts.
  • Agile: Effortlessly navigates through traffic and into compact parking spots.

The Chevrolet Spark shines in its role as an affordable and cheerful city companion.

The Skoda Fabia

Rounding out our list, the Skoda Fabia provides substantial space and a mature drive experience often compared to more substantial cars, but with the benefits that come from being a smaller hatchback.

  • Safety: Proven safety credentials for reassuring protection.
  • Cost Management: Affordably priced with low overall running costs.
  • Fuel Mileage: Efficient engines that help save at the pump.
  • Ease of Driving: Uncomplicated driving dynamics, especially for newbies.

For teens needing space and a mature feel, the Skoda Fabia offers up these qualities with assurance.


Choosing the right car is more than an exercise in aesthetics for a young driver—it’s about making an informed decision that balances safety, cost, fuel efficiency, reliability, and handling. Whether it’s the steady reliability of the Honda Civic, the spirited nature of the Mazda3, or the nimble city readiness of the Hyundai i10, there’s a vehicle on this list that’s sure to be a perfect match for the needs and preferences of any 17-year-old new driver.

Whichever choice is made, remember that a car is not just a means of transportation; it’s a companion on the journey, a protector on the road, and a statement of individuality. Happy driving!

Russ Rodriguez, Vehicle Writer
Russ Rodriguez

Mission Statement Russ Rodriguez is a passionate Vehicle Writer dedicated to providing the latest and most accurate information about vehicles.