Esquire’s Guide to the Best First Car


When you’re finally ready to splurge and get your own set of wheels, the first question is what, exactly, are you going to get? Car buyers today are spoiled for choice, as automobile manufacturers have realized first-time car buyers are a booming segment of the car market. It’s only logical, then, for them to offer simple yet dependable options for the best first car. 

What is the best first car?

If you were to create a Venn diagram, the best first car is where the circles for “practical” and “affordable” meet. No-nonsense, uncomplicated and easy to operate, the best car for first-time buyers also shouldn’t be intimidating but should look good enough for its owner to be proud of when one drives it to school, work, or wherever one needs to go.

If you think you’re ready to get behind the wheel of your first automobile, here are our picks for the best first car, in no particular order:


1. Honda City

Honda also has the Brio and the Jazz, both of which a lot of new car buyers can also consider, but the City is tops in simplicity and reliability. The 1.5-liter engine means you’ll never have to worry about power when you need it. It’s safe, fuel-efficient, and spacious but not bulky, which is basically what you’re looking for in a first car.

2. Toyota Vios

When it comes to the basics—fuel economy, safety and overall dependability—the Vios checks all the boxes. The 2019 variant even comes with a touch screen seven-inch display and provisions for Bluetooth, USB and AUX connectivity. There’s a reason the Vios is one of the country’s bestselling vehicles.

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3. Nissan Almera

With the base model costing less than P700,000, the Almera is Nissan’s most affordable model, and also its champion for best first car. The top-of-the-line will cost you a bit extra, but then you get nifty features like push-button start, rear fans (to keep your passengers cool in dreadful Manila heat), six airbags and steering wheel controls for its entertainment system.

4. Kia Soluto

Kia has seen a resurgence since the Ayala conglomerate took over the distributorship in the country. One of its first announcements was that it was bringing in the Soluto, a subcompact sedan packed with features. Starting at around P625,000, the Soluto has a 1.4-liter Kappa dual-CVVT engine, a seven-inch touchscreen digital display (already equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto), rear parking cameras, power door locks, and remote entry.


5. Suzuki Celerio

Our sister site TopGear also chose the Celerio as one of its top picks for best first cars, and it’s easy to see why. With the base price starting at just P558,00, the hatchback is incredibly fuel-efficient, spacious and nice to look at. The 1.0 DOHC engine isn’t much, for sure, but for first time drivers and car owners, it’s enough to take them point A to B and vice versa.

6. Mitsubishi Mirage

Mitsubishi’s subcompact is available either as a hatchback or as a sedan and has its share of fans who can appreciate its utilitarian design, fuel efficiency and safety features. The 1.2-liter engine’s mileage is at an impressive 21 kilometers per liter. It also has a 6.75-inch touchscreen display infotainment system equipped with GPS navigation system. No wonder it’s a favorite vehicle for Grab drivers.

7. Volkswagen Santana

Apparently, the German carmaker is showing it can also offer high-performance vehicles at more customer-friendly prices. The Santana for instance, may start at around P686,000 but it’s not short on features. With a 1.4-liter engine, the Santana can zoom from zero to 100kph in about 12.4 seconds and achieve a top speed of just over 180 kph.

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Paul John Caña
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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