So, you just got your license. Mom and Dad want you to get something reasonable and practical, but that Corolla just isn’t hitting the spot? As an enthusiast, picking your first car is some of the best fun there is. You might feel pressured to get something ultra-safe or super slow to appease your guardians, but there are plenty of choices out there with plenty of pep and safety features. You can go fast and be safe at the same time. There are, however many cars to choose from, so we, with a little help from our Road and Track friends, managed to compile a list of 13 Nice First Cars that are actually not boring or dull.
Volkswagen Golf GTI
It is a no-brainer; it’s also easily one of the most iconic first cars on this list. Reasonably reliable, reasonably fast and with healthy tuning potential, the Volkswagen Golf GTI is one of the most successful hot-hatches and first cars of all time for a reason. It is both well-executed and reasonably priced. There’s even a higher end sportier version if you’ve got the dough.
With 200 hp, a manual (or fine double clutch gearbox), the GTI won’t be a missile on the road, but won’t be a snail either. Plus, getting that two-liter motor to 250-300 hp shouldn’t be that hard, or expensive. The well-sorted chassis and stiff architecture can handle anything a new driver will throw at it. It is a perfect balance between reliability, speed, pedigree, and looks.
Honda Civic Si
So maybe you like the idea of a GTI, but you’re not too keen on hatchbacks. Make a case for the Honda Civic Si. It does its thing with a two-liter petrol engine developing 200 hp, and thanks to VTEC, gets the same pep as a GTI without the turbo.
However, it seems to fit better in the subtler segment of the entry sports car market. After all, it is subtle. Yet, with a manual only transmission, the Civic Si in its eighth generation will provide a whole lot of fun for not that much money. It’s a win-win situation – reliable, safe, it is not ostentatious, it is quite comfortable and cheap enough. Can’t go wrong with it.
Volvo V70 R
Now, this is something for true enthusiasts and for drivers who don’t want to be like everybody else (and for someone whose parents take safety as a priority). It is a Volvo, after all.
Unlike other Volvo machines, this one is a proper sleeper. A five-pot inside coupled with all-wheel-drive and a subtly styled exterior shell make this car desirable to anyone with a sense of subtlety. Now, the truth is that one may even find a sedan S60 R, but don’t do it. The wagon has a strange appeal to it no sedan can ever achieve.
This one is a no-brainer as well. The Wrangler is fun. Pure fun! Its off-road credentials are unmatched even by modern counterparts, so if you are the kind of a girl or a guy adventure in your blood, the Wrangler is the best bet.
Older models aren’t that expensive, and they will drive you all over the world if needed (without any mods), and the Wrangler will behave rationally on the roads as well. Do not, however, expect anything in terms of speed (or comfort for that matter). It’s not the greatest daily on the market, but for out-of-the-box offroad capabilities, it is unrivaled.
Ford Mustang V6
It is not astonishingly fast, not that capable and definitely not super comfortable, but it is a Mustang. With a V6 you won’t be exactly beloved, at first, but this car should open a whole world of sports cars in a profound way. You know why? Because it is faster and more powerful than some of the V8 Mustangs that came before it. As far as rear wheel drive coupes with muscle car pedigrees go, the Mustang V6 is at the top spot.
And no, it is not expensive – to own or to maintain. If you have some money though, you could do this.
Nissan Sentra SE-R
The B15 Sentra SE-R does not exactly look exciting or extremely appealing, but it does tick the most important boxes for first-time drivers – enough driving fun, safety, plenty of room inside and a raspy engine. Considering it has a limited slip diff and stiff chassis, the Sentra SE-R can do the things it needs to pretty well.
Anything from Nissan is bound to have solid internals, and this little sedan is no exception. It may be the butt of some jokes, but its a very capable daily driver.
Subaru Forester XT
If you wanna get on the SUV/crossover bandwagon, but still want some serious fun, the only sensible thing to do is to own a Subaru Forester XT. With a 235 hp engine, awesome symmetrical all-wheel drive and known Subaru reliability, the Forester XT will provide a ton of fun.
Now, bear in mind this is an old car which started its adventure back in 2002. In that regard, you’d have to cope with a “Nineties-looking” interior and not a lot of gear in terms of luxury. Subaru still produces new models though, so depending on your budget, you could find a sweet example in a wide range of model years.
While some will not appreciate it at all, the Acura RSX actually has a whole bunch of fun talents. There are two versions available – both of which send power to the front wheels. The Type S is arguably the better deal though. With an engine rated at 201 hp (instead of the base 160 hp), 17-inch wheels and a whole lot of sporty gear, this small coupe will put a smile on any face.
The main differentiation between the base RSX and the Type S is hidden behind Enkei wheels. Beefier sway bars, stiffer suspension, and rather precise steering transforms it from being just a simple cheap coupe into a fine performer.
Mazda MX-5 Miata
This is the most obvious choice, and like the GTI, one of the most iconic first cars there is. The Mazda MX-5 Miata is the epitome of fun on wheels. The car has a small naturally aspirated engine, RWD setup, lightweight construction and control of analog nature.
It is the one to introduce you to sports cars and sports car behavior in the best way possible – affordable and with a lot of fun. Try it. It is a hard one to resist. While not terribly practical, it’ll be one of the most fun cars you’ll ever own.
Subaru Impreza 2.5RS
This is easily the most Subaru-looking car ever made. Every gearhead in the world simply knows about it and its racing brother shenanigans at rally stages all across the world tracks. In the 2.5RS iteration, the Impreza takes a few important fast car pieces and translates it to the road in an appealing, yet affordable package.
Rally heritage is important in this case. The Symmetrical all-wheel drive can do wonders even with the mere 165 hp the 2.5-liter engine cranks out.
Don’t hate us. The Fit has so many advantages it would be irresponsible if it were not included on this list. Although a small MPV hatchback, owner reports suggest this one is a fun car.
With an available manual, happy engines and top-notch reliability, it is hard not to like it. Reasonably, one cannot do much better than having a Honda Fit for the first car.
Ford Fiesta ST
Again, a no-brainer, especially because this thing is all types of fun. With 200 hp in its most potent iterations, the Ford Fiesta ST is a thrill on the city streets but will give its body and soul on hill climb twisties as well. Ford sold it here for a reason and now one can have it for around $10k.
It is not possible to have more fun and reliability behind the wheel for less. The Fiesta ST is – dare I say it? – the best entry-level daily driver on the market, and one of the best first cars out there.
Fiat 500 Abarth
Extreme fun in a package so quirky you’ll feel like a star wherever you go. The Fiat 500 Abarth is the ultimate in Italian style. It is not a car for everyone mind you, only for those who aren’t afraid to stand out from the crowd.
With 160 hp on tap from its inline-four, this two-door hatchback comes straight-piped from the factory, allowing for a sexy and addictive exhaust note.
So there you have it, some of the best first cars on the market. Choose one and you should be happy, but don’t think you’re limited to just these either.
Let us know what your first car was in the comments below!