So, you’re looking for your first car and aren’t sure where to start? Well, we are here to help! Whether you’re just out of high school and want some independence or you’re learning to drive for the first time, here are some cars to consider and put in the shortlist.

We have categorised them into two categories to suit every budget, our favourite cars up to $5,000 as well as those up to $10,000.

Cars under $5,000

Mazda 2 2007-2013 (DE series)

Launched in 2007, the DE series Mazda 2 entered the market with cute styling and an appealing all round package. Now that they are a few years old, they are great value on the used car market with nice examples often coming up on the market for under $5,000.

There are three models of Mazda 2: the base model Neo, mid-spec Maxx and the top of the range Genki. They are all powered by Mazda’s 1.5 litre four-cylinder engine producing 76kW of power and 135Nm of torque. This is powered through either a five-speed manual gearbox or a smooth shifting four-speed automatic with the latter being the more popular choice with buyers when new. The claimed fuel consumption figure is 6.4L/100km. The Mazda 2 is well equipped with all models receiving Anti lock brakes (ABS), a four-speaker stereo, air conditioning, auxiliary input, remote central locking, traction and stability control, power windows and power mirrors. The Mazda 2 has a four-star ANCAP safety rating due to its two air bags.

Hyundai i30 2007-2012 (FD)

In recent years, the Hyundai i30 has been a popular choice for first car buyers as it offers slightly more space than the smaller hatches for not too much more money. The FD Hyundai i30 was sold from 2007 to 2012 and offered in either hatch or ‘sportswagon’ body styles.

Initially offered in three models (the SX, SLX and top of the range SR) the i30 came with a few engine choices, a 2.0 litre petrol four-cylinder with 105kW of power and 186Nm of torque and a 1.6 litre turbo diesel dour-cylinder engine producing 85kW of power and 255Nm of torque. The petrol engine had a claimed fuel consumption of 7.2L/100km and the diesel a claimed figure of 4.7L/100km. Later models were also available with a 1.6 litre four cylinder producing 89kW of power and 153Nm of torque, this meant a claimed fuel consumption of 6.9L/100km. As with the Mazda above the i30 was offered with two transmission options, a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic.

Standard feature on all i30’s was a four-speaker stereo, anti lock brakes (ABS), air conditioning, auxiliary input with USB, remote central locking, traction and stability control, power windows and mirrors (mirrors are also heated), independent rear suspension, six airbags and a full-size spare wheel. The FD Hyundai i30 also has a five-star ANCAP safety rating. Finding a nice i30 isn’t as hard as It might seem as they sold in the thousands when new and examples can often be picked up for under $5,000.

Toyota Corolla 2007-2013 (ZRE152R)

The Toyota Corolla is the best-selling car in the world, and it would only be natural to include it in the list of ideal first cars. Corollas are renowned for their reliability and longevity, which is perfect for first car buyers. Available in either sedan or hatchback body styles, the Corolla (ZRE152R) was sold in Australia from 2007 to 2013 when it was eventually replaced by a new model.

They came in a plethora of models starting with the Ascent and stepping up to the Conquest, the limited-edition Edge, the Levin SX, Levin ZR and then the top of the range Ultima. Most examples under $5,000 are the base spec Ascent models but that’s okay as they came standard with a six-speaker stereo, anti lock brakes (ABS), air-conditioning, Bluetooth, auxiliary input with USB, remote central locking, stability and traction control, power windows and mirrors, two airbags and an ANCAP safety rating of four-stars.

All Toyota Corolla models came with a 1.8 litre four-cylinder engine producing 100kW of power and 175Nm of toque through the front wheels via a six-speed manual or a four-speed automatic. Fuel economy is a claimed 7.4L/100km. Examples often come up for under $5,000 but keep your eye out for a good one.

Cars under $10,000

Volkswagen Golf 7 2013-2017

The Volkswagen Golf has always been known as a more premium hatchback compared to its competitors. For under $10,000 you can pick up an early year seventh generation Golf, which would be the 90TSI with a 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing 90kW of power and 200Nm of torque. The fuel economy for the Golf is excellent with a combined figure of 5.7L/100km. The gearbox options for the Volkswagen Golf 90TSI is a six-speed manual or a seven-speed DSG automatic.

Standard features for the seventh generation Golf 90TSI are an eight-speaker stereo, anti lock brakes (ABS) and ESP stability control, air conditioning, auxiliary and USB inputs, Bluetooth, a cooled glove box, a touch screen with audio controls, power windows and mirrors (also heated) and a tyre pressure monitoring system. It also comes standard with seven airbags and an impressive ANCAP safety rating of five-stars. Volkswagen Golfs have been known to be reliable if treated right so look for a good service history when inspecting vehicles.

Mazda 3 2008-2013 (BL)

The BL Mazda 3 was launched in 2009 and was a drastic change from the previous model. By the time it went out of production in 2013, there were a good amount of models. Now even the mid spec models can be found for under $10,000, making them ideal for a first car within our budget. In 2009 there were six different models; the range kicked off with the Neo and then stepped up to the Maxx, after the Maxx there was the Maxx Sport and then the SP25. These are the models we will be focusing on as the two-top spec variants the MPS and MPS Luxury aren’t P-plate legal in some states and don’t fit into our $10,000 budget.

The Neo, Maxx and Maxx Sport came with a 2.0 litre four cylinder producing 108kW of power and 182Nm of torque, they also had a claimed fuel consumption of 7.9L/100km. The SP25 has a more powerful 2.5 litre four cylinder with 122kW of power and 227Nm of torque, the claimed fuel consumption figure being 8.6L/100km. Standard features across the range of the BL Mazda 3 were a six-speaker stereo, anti lock brakes (ABS), air conditioning, auxiliary input, remote central locking, power windows and power mirrors, stability control and traction control. With only two airbags on some models, the Volkswagen Golf would be safer in an accident which means the Mazda 3 only gets a four-star safety rating.

Subaru Impreza 2008-2014 (G3)

The Subaru Impreza has always been a popular choice in the used car market and the G3 Impreza is a smart choice when it comes to first cars. Launched in 2007 with sedan and hatchback body styles the Impreza G3 had a few models to its range starting off with the base model R, then stepping up to the RX and then the range topping non-WRX variant the RS. All non WRX variants came with a 2.0 litre four-cylinder engine producing 110kW of power and 196Nm of torque through either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission. The combined fuel consumption figure is 8.9L/100km. All Subaru models come as standard with all-wheel drive, making the Impreza safer to drive in wet conditions than competitors.

Standard feature across the board of G3 Impreza’s is a four-speaker stereo, air conditioning, remote central locking, stability control, cruise control, independent rear suspension, power windows and power mirrors. The Subaru Impreza has six airbags as standard and also came with a five-star ANCAP safety rating.

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