If you’ve just graduated from university, or just scored your licence, it’s likely that you’re in the market for what just may be your first car. But before you dash out and accept anything thrown your way, it’s important to do a bit of digging. Of course, your first vehicle must be purpose-built for safety, whether it’s new or used. That’s not debatable!
But as you look for the safest car, you don’t want to sacrifice practicality, style, affordability, or fun. Read on to learn more about the top 10 first cars for new drivers in 2021.
1. Toyota Corolla
There’s a reason why the Corolla’s the best selling compact of all time. And its latest entry is better looking than ever, with a colourful styling that belies its ‘beige’ reputation, standard equipment where it counts, and an interior that feels more premium than you’d expect. Taken altogether, it’s no surprise that the Corolla is our pick for top all-around compact.
The Corolla’s wider track, lower centre of gravity and highly-rigid structure—along with features like multi-link rear suspension and active cornering assist—combine to create a fun driving experience, especially with the optional 169 hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder (don’t even get us started on the six speed manual). The Corolla features a smartly designed suspension that results in excellent ride quality regardless of road conditions.
2. Subaru Impreza
This is the best all-wheel-drive car for entry-level drivers. The standard all-wheel-drive security and a comprehensive suite of safety features make the Subaru Impreza a go-to choice. Our favourite model for new drivers is the Impreza Premium hatchback, which goes for $24,050.
It features the EyeSight Driver Assist Technology package that comprises automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assist, and fog lamps.
If you’re after looks, the 2021 Subaru Impreza will be your best bet. The new car’s flowing lines add more character and confidence to the Subaru.
3. Honda Fit
Honda’s Fit seeks to provide basic transportation for teens and young adults looking to buy their first car. Whether you opt for lower or higher trims, you get impressive space and versatility in a compact package.
Additionally, all 2018 Fits, except models with automatic transmission, include active safety features. If you want a money-saving option, you’re better off with the 2019 Honda Fit, which starts at just $15,590.
This value-packed model meets the needs of most new drivers. With a seating capacity of up to five adults, the Fit is spacious enough to relax and unwind over long drives.
4. Volkswagen Golf
Don’t let the Volkswagen Golf’s small stature and modest looks fool you. The Golf blends practicality, affordability, and remarkable driving dynamics to stand out from the rest.
Ideal for first-time buyers looking for a solid car to drive, the Volkswagen Golf’s dynamic engine provides just enough motivation to keep a regular driver going. The base 2021 Volkswagen Golf has an MSRP of $23,195 and brings a 1.4-litre inline-4 engine with a manual transmission.
For an additional $800, you can upgrade to an automatic transmission and enjoy extra safety features like forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert. The Wolfsburg trim adds significantly more features for a $1,700 premium.
5. Toyota Camry
The Toyota Camry is one of the best midsize cars for drivers who are new to the road. The sedan has been the best-selling passenger car in Canada for 15 straight years, and it’s easy to see why. When it comes to flawless reliability and great value, the Camry is second to none.
Newer Camrys come loaded with the Toyota Safety Sense package, which bundles a pedestrian detection system, lane-departure notification, and automatic high beams. These driver assistance features help keep new drivers safe behind the wheel.
What’s more, Toyota Camrys don’t cost a fortune. The 2019 and 2020 models will cost you around $26,000 to $30,000, depending on the equipment included. Used Camrys can be as low as $15,000, making them great for budget-conscious drivers.
6. Kia Rio
Kia Rio is the ideal first car if you’re a new driver looking for an extended warranty. A standard Kia comes with a seven-year or 100,000-mile warranty. As such, you can buy a three-year-old model and still enjoy the manufacturer’s coverage for four years.
In 2017, Kia Rio was upgraded inside and out. It now brings a number of standard features including power door mirrors, air conditioning, and Bluetooth.
An entry-level 2021 Kia Rio goes for as low as $16,050, making it one of the cheapest cars for first-time shoppers.
7. Chevrolet Cruze
The Chevrolet Cruze is incredibly grown up and gives new drivers a more refined driving experience with low running costs. It has ample space for five (plus luggage), so this is perfect if you have a young family.
The Cruze allows you to choose from the standard sedan or a sportier hatchback body. The MSRP for the 2021 Chevy Cruze hatchback version is $19,600. If you prefer to pay less, you can find 2019s for thousands less.
As to safety, nearly all Cruze models come with rear-view cameras, rear parking sensors, and low-speed forward automatic braking. These are compelling features for new drivers who are conscious about their safety while on the road.
8. Honda Civic
With a 4.5-star safety rating out of a possible 5, the Honda Civic is a secure and reliable vehicle for anyone new to driving. The 2021 Civic offers a choice between one diesel engine and two gasoline engines. The 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo gasoline engine is particularly suitable for newer drivers.
The Civic comes with a multi-link rear suspension that allows for more precise handling. Upper-spec versions may also include adaptive dampers to ensure a more comfortable ride. On price, the base 2021 Honda Civic Sedan MSRP starts at $23,400. You won’t find many cars at this price point that combine the level of safety and playful handling of the Civic. It’s also genuinely fun to drive and easy to maneuver on the road, thanks to its Vehicle Stability Assist technology.
9. Mazda3 Sport
For new drivers who want a vehicle that can handle harsh conditions, it’s hard to go wrong with the Mazda3 Sport. This car offers an all-wheel-drive setup, allowing you to conquer whatever Canadian roads throw your way.
With the Mazda3 Sport, you’re well equipped to navigate through ice, snow, and rain without worry. The 2020 model starts at $22,650, placing it in the league of the cheaper but functional sedans on the market.
If you’re strapped for cash, the 2020 Mazda3 four-door sedan might be an ideal pick. It retails at $19,830 and seats up to five adults comfortably. This makes it an excellent choice for commuting with classmates to and from school.
10. Hyundai Elantra
The Hyundai Elantra is another top car to buy for first-time drivers in 2021. It takes the typical cues from a sedan but drives more like a sports car. At $19,650, the 2021 Hyundai Elantra carries one of the lowest price tags in the compact car class. The chart-topping Limited trim’s price is capped at $25,450 and brings all the safety features you can reasonably expect from a small premium car.
New Elantra models come with advanced safety tech features to boost your confidence while on the road, such as forward collision alerts with pedestrian detection, driver inattention warning alerts, and a lane-departure warning system with lane-keeping assist.
Have You Found Your Ideal First Car Yet?
When shopping for a vehicle for the first time, you need to consider your budget while weighing the must-haves and the nice-to-haves. Safety should obviously be on top of your must-haves list. Without it, things can go south very quickly, especially if you’re still an inexperienced driver. Once this is checked, you’re free to equip your new ride with other luxury features as you wish. Here at Car Digest, we wish you the best of luck in your search for a car!