The Best Cars For Student Life and Top Tips For Student Motorists​

Heading off to university or college? Swansway Group offers tips on economical and safe, new and used cars and advice on how to avoid motoring mishaps​.

University. Truly the most adventurous years of our lives. Full of freedom and discovery, it’s a rite of passage in life, where the dawning of a new chapter of adulthood and your career ahead blends with the vibrancy and the raw zest of youth in one unique 3-year bubble!

Make no mistake about it, if you’re a student at university already or just about to begin, take a moment to congratulate yourself for getting this far and raise a toast to the future ahead.

Now, you may not realise it yet, but the freedom that is being a student comes hand-in-hand with taking a little responsibility for yourself… and this doesn’t just mean learning to wash your own pants!

Commuting frequently between your accommodation, lectures and back home is one such responsibility. To help manage it, you may be contemplating the purchase of your first car, which can be a daunting thought and could well be the first really big investment you make in life.

So, to help with this, let’s take a look at the things you should be researching before you take the plunge and buy your new motor. We’ll also propose a few cars to consider - realistically good options for a budding young student.

Get Your Sensible Head On…

If you’re into cars, you may well have dreamt of owning something flashy and sporty, or maybe even quirky and cute. These are nice aspirations, but for your first car as a student, you need to get practical and think:

  • ●Can I afford the insurance?
  • ●What tax bracket does it sit in?
  • ●How much fuel will it use?
  • ●Will I struggle to park it outside of my student digs or close by?
  • ●Is it easy for someone to pinch?
  • ●How safe would I be if the car was in an accident?
  • ●How much room is there for carting my stuff to Uni and home again?

These are possibly not the things you’d like to think about when choosing your first car and heading off to pastures new, but they’re definitely what you should be considering. You need to make sure that the car you pick works for you; after all you’ll need it to transport at least five bags of dirty laundry at the end of every term!


Six Of The Best

With these thoughts in mind, we’ve taken the liberty of picking out some of what we think are the most appropriate cars for students, based on a selection of different factors. For budget reasons, we’ve restricted these to used cars, as when you’ve tuition, accommodation and a life to lead at uni, those purse strings can be a little tight!

Model Engine Size MPG CO2 Emissions NCAP Safety Rating Boot Space rear seats up/down Length Insurance Group (max. 50)
SEAT Mii (2015) 1.0L 60.1 108g/km 5* 251L/951L 3.557m 4
Citroen CW (2014) 1.0L 65.7 99g/km 3* 196L/780L 3.440m 7
Peugeot 108 (2015) 1.0L 68.9 95g/km 4* 196L/868L 3.475m 6
Honda Jazz (2013) 1.2L 53.3 123g/km 5* 354L/1314L 3.995m 13
VW Polo (2011) 1.4L 60.1 139g/km 5* 280l/952L 3.972m 9
FIAT 500 (2012) 1.2L 58.9 113g/km 5* 185L/550L 3.546m 6

*Other engine sizes are available.


So, what are you looking at here?

Well, low insurance and a high MPG will minimise your running costs, as will clever features such as a START/STOP engine which will ensure that your car is never left running while in a queue. With CO2 emissions, lower is better and can often result in little or no Road Tax payments, so it’s definitely worth considering.

Safety-wise: NCAP is an assessment program that tests all cars when new and assigns a rating based on a series of safety checks. All our used cars pass through an in-depth and comprehensive restoration programme once we’ve acquired them, returning them to former glory. A rating of 5☆ here is the best, indicating the highest standard of safety features.

We’ve also included your typical insurance group - the lower the group here, the less it costs to insure - and some dimensions of boot space and car length, to help you gauge how much freedom you’ll have in parking and transporting all your stuff!

Hopefully, one of the models above has taken your fancy by now, but if you’re still undecided, here’s a little more information about them all:


The Sensational Six in Detail

SEAT Mii: With a surprisingly roomy interior, if you choose the SEAT Mii you’ll not only benefit from the lowest insurance group, you’ll also gain popularity with your flatmates. In fact, they’ll all be begging for a lift in this stylish 4-seat mii - to lectures, to the library, on days out, to the cinema...

A 251L boot space means that you’ll have plenty of room to move around your possessions, as well as have adequate capacity for stocking up at the supermarket where power adjustable wing mirrors will no doubt come in handy for parking.

Citroën C1: Quirky styling and low running costs give the C1 the ability to stand out amongst the traffic without breaking the bank, making this, quite frankly, a very cool little car!

5 full-sized seats allow you to bring an extra friend along on your travels, while the C1’s low emissions mean that road tax is free, leaving more pennies for you to spend at the Student Union.

Peugeot 108: A little car that oozes character. The two-speaker sound system allows USB and AUX connectivity, keeping you in touch with your friends, family and music whilst driving.

Should you have a few extra pennies to spare, however, and you bought this car new you’d be able to take advantage of Peugeot’s amazing Just Add Fuel offer. Aside from the deposit and monthly payments, you won’t have to worry about any other costs for 3 years - insurance, tax, servicing and roadside assistance, it’s all covered! All you need to worry about is fuelling it.

Honda Jazz: If the TARDIS was in car form, it would be a Honda Jazz, designed with a massive boot so that you can bring the kitchen sink with you! Despite a massive boot space of 354 litres, it remains under 4m long, making it comparable to the others on the list for easy parking.

Honda’s Driver Assistance Safety Pack technologies, City-Brake Active System (which can warn of potential head-on collisions) and a Lane Departure Warning system make this supermini one of the safest on the road.

VW Polo: If keeping connected is a priority, the VW Polo has got it covered with Bluetooth, DAB digital radio and a 6-speaker sound system fitted as standard. Everything is within easy reach, allowing you to concentrate on your driving. If you’ll be spending a lot of time in the car travelling to lectures and placements or visiting family and friends back home, you’ll be glad of the comfortable interior.

Another positive of the Polo is the day you may decide to sell on your beloved student car. The VW Polo is one of the best cars for keeping its value, especially if you look after it properly, meaning you’ll see a good return on your investment here.

Fiat 500: If retro style appeals to you, this little number could be the one. The circular headlights and smiling grille give the Fiat 500 its own persona that has been very assuredly gaining in popularity in the last 5 years.

Large windows make for clear visibility on busy city roads and help with parking. While there’s not an awful lot of boot space, split folding rear seats allow you to transport a whole host of things regardless - whether friend, family, fruit or Forensic Science examination textbooks!

Carefully Does It

We know that you are about to spend the next 3 or 4 years balancing a tonne of information that could improve your life. So, while we have your attention, we’ll take this opportunity to get to you into the learning habit by pointing out a few useful facts that could ensure you stay safe on the road.

  • Avoid the temptation to overload your car: It sounds obvious, but make sure that you can see clearly out of all of your car windows, all of the time. As a student, you won’t need everything from home and your old teddy or host of band posters might just block your view of an oncoming vehicle, which wouldn’t do those posters or teddy any good! Make sure your vision is clear out of both front and rear windows.
  • Know how to check your tyre pressures, and do so regularly: Having the right tyre pressures improves road grip and car handling. It also helps to minimise wear on your tyres as well as keep your car running efficiently and economically.
  • Plan your route. Especially if you don’t have the benefit of a sat-nav system, you should take a few minutes to work out your journey beforehand. Driving on unfamiliar roads can leave you at greater risk of an accident if you’re distracted by being unsure of where you’re going. Print off your intended route from Google Maps or AA Routefinder and leave a copy with a flatmate. If any problems arise, they’ll know roughly where to find you.
  • Pace yourself: Longer journeys can take their toll physically and mentally. So if you’re taking a trip likely to last more than a couple of hours, factor in some time to pull over for a break, a brew and maybe even a 20 minute nap. And if you don’t fancy blowing your entire monthly budget on a service station coffee, bring a flask.
  • Cover yourself against the risk of breakdowns: Providing assistance with most things from a flat tyre to lost keys, it’s well worth sacrificing a couple of takeaways in order to afford breakdown cover. Pick a policy that doesn’t just rescue you and the car, but will also carry all of your mates safely home, or you might be dining alone for a while.
  • Take turns being ‘DES’: Not everyone wants to drink alcohol on their night out, but if you do then you’ll need a DES or ‘designated driver’. They’ll stick to soft drinks so that they’ll be capable of driving everyone home safely and legally. If it is your turn to be the ‘DES’, take responsibility and be a leader by looking out for your mates as this is one time they’ll need you most.

Easy Does It

So, there we have it - possibly your first real taste of freedom and responsibility. Stay sensible and look out for the risks, and you’ll be fine. As Alan Fisher, Deputy Manager for Lancashire County Council's Road Safety Group says:

“University life is a very exciting experience. In the excitement of socialising and meeting new friends, it is easy for people to become over-confident and careless about road safety issues.”

If you have any questions about cars, from valuing an old car to buying a new one, servicing or repairs, offers or finance, we’re here at Swansway Group to help. Pop into one of our dealerships for a chat or visit us online and we’ll be glad to help you on your way to your future.