What Car? Personal Shopper: best first car for £12,000

Want a new car but don't know where to start? Just send us your criteria and we'll give you our recommended new and used car choices, and tell you how much we can save you...

Kia Picanto

Buying new

  • Our recommended choice: Kia Picanto 1.25 3 5dr
  • List price: £12,975
  • What Car? Target Price: £12,367
Kia Picanto

Well, isn't this convenient? The comfortable, spacious and keenly priced Kia Picanto has just been named as our City Car of the Year for the second year running.

Go for Kia's 1.25-litre petrol engine and you'll enjoy its peppy performance, which makes overtaking easy. It pulls keenly from low revs, too, so getting away from traffic lights or intersections should be a breeze. The Picanto's small dimensions mean it's a doddle to park and thread through urban traffic, too.

Our favourite 3 trim level comes with everything you could want, too, including 15in alloy wheels, climate and cruise controls, rear parking sensors, a rear-view camera and a responsive touchscreen infotainment system.

Should your son want to carry friends, the Picanto is deceptively spacious, with enough space for up to four passengers and a boot that's one of the largest in this class – bigger, in fact than those of rivals such as the Hyundai i10 and Volkswagen Up. 

This version of the Kia Picanto would normally cost you £12,975, but even in this market What Car? New Car Buying can lower that price for you. Our latest Target Price deals bring that price down to £12,367, and our approved dealers could save you even more if you ask for a quote.

Find a great Kia Picanto deal, or read our full review

  • Also consider: Dacia Sandero 0.9 TCe Ambiance 5dr
  • List price: £8595
  • What Car? Target Price: £8498
Dacia Sandero

Welcome to the class above, because your £12,000 budget is actually enough to get you into our recommended version of the Dacia Sandero, with plenty left over. It's also surprisingly roomy inside and is offered with an economical range of engines.

Find a great Dacia Sandero deal, or read our full review

  • Also consider: Suzuki Celerio 1.0 Dualjet SZ2 5dr
  • List price: £8999
  • What Car? Target Price: £8999
Suzuki Celerio 2019 front right cornering shot

You might expect the Celerio's 67bhp 1.0-litre engine to feel a bit weedy, but its peppy performance is actually well suited to a car as small as this. Indeed, the Celerio is an ideal choice if you don't want to spend a lot and will mainly be driving on city streets.