Getting a good deal on car insurance can be a real minefield, especially for young drivers, as there are so many factors involved in how insurance premiums are calculated. The driver’s age, occupation, location and driving record all play their part, but one of the best ways to aim for a low premium is to buy a car with a low insurance group. Car insurance groups run from group 1 (the cheapest, for small city cars) to group 50 (the most expensive, for high performance cars) and are calculated by the insurance industry depending on a variety of factors such as repair costs, parts prices, standard safety equipment and security equipment. Fitting a 'black box' that monitors how you drive can also reduce your car insurance quotes.
There are very few new cars on sale today that insurance companies put into the lowest insurance group, but here we give a run down of the best cars with low insurance groupings that'll keep your motoring costs down.
Best for: All-round ability
Built between: 2017-
Price from: £7,000
While several other manufacturers have struggled to keep their smaller cars in a low insurance group, Volkswagen has managed to keep its lower-powered Polo models in insurance group 1 to the benefit of running costs. It’s an impressive feat and while you will have to settle for the 1.0-litre Evo engine (in non-TSI guise) with just 79bhp, you can specify Match, Beats or United trim levels, so you shouldn’t feel too short-changed. The rest of the Polo range sits between group 8 and group 12, so it will have to be the 1.0-litre Evo if you want your Polo to be cheap to insure.
If you accept you won’t be travelling very fast in your Polo, it really is a superb car on so many levels, offering a spacious interior and one of the largest boots in the supermini class. Fixtures and fittings are of a premium quality and all the controls have the solid feel that you expect from a Volkswagen. It’s a refined cruiser, too, and while it’s not as much fun to drive as a Ford Fiesta, it’s surefooted and pleasant enough. And, with a five-star Euro NCAP rating, it’s a safe choice, too, especially for new drivers.
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Best for: Cheap thrills
Built between: 2017-
Price from: £4,700
The slightly odd way that insurance group bandings work is ably demonstrated by the Kia Picanto. You would have thought that be opting for the smaller 66bhp engine with the entry-level ‘1’ trim level would lead to a sure-fire group 1 banding, but not so: it’s actually in group 5. However, opt for the same engine but with an automatic gearbox and a ‘2’ trim level, and the car is in group 1 for insurance. Go figure.
We’d advise against the ‘1’ trim level anyway as it’s a little lacking, but ‘2’ adds items such as alloy wheels, air conditioning and electric windows all round. You will pay a slight penalty at the pumps by opting for the automatic gearbox, and it’s worth noting that it’s no ball of fire, either, 0-62mph taking a leisurely 16.6 seconds.
But for punting around town, the Kia Picanto in this specification is a fine choice, with light controls and decent handling. It’s ride can become a little bouncy around town, but it still delivers plenty if cheap insurance is your overriding purchasing decision. Older Picantos with small engines are worth looking out for as a used buy, as several models have been classed in group 1 for insurance purposes in the past.
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Best for: Big car ability
Built between: 2015-
Price from: £4,500
The Skoda Fabia might not grab you as a particularly desirable small car – it looks a little dowdy when compared to its VW Group compatriots with which it shares parts – but it’s hugely competent in most departments and has the added bonus of a group 1 insurance group. The bad news is that to benefit from the low insurance group, you’ll have to choose the entry-level engine, a 1.0-litre petrol with a paltry 59bhp, and it’ll have to be the hatchback model as the estate version isn’t available with the lowliest engine option.
It’s not all bad, though, because in SE spec you still get manual air-conditioning, front- and rear parking sensors, alloy wheels and a 6.5-inch touchscreen. Where the Fabia really scores well, though, is with its versatility. It’s a very roomy car with ample leg- and head room front and back, and a surprisingly big boot.
It’s pleasant to drive, too. Granted, with a 16.2-second 0-62mph time, progress will be on the leisurely side, but you’ll certainly be comfortable while pottering along as it absorbs bumps and ruts very effectively. It’s safe, reliable and dependable, and is an eminently sensible buy.
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Best for: Sharp styling
Built between: 2017-
Price from: £7,000
Previous generations of the Nissan Micra were perhaps a little dull and nothing to write home about, but that all changed when the fifth generation Micra made its debut in 2017. Its styling was sharp and modern, and while it’s perhaps not the roomiest car in its class, it does have a larger-than-average boot and an excellent safety rating (it scored the full five stars from Euro NCAP), along with decent equipment levels.
Sadly none of the current line-up sits in the group 1 insurance category, but if you’re happy buying second-hand then the 2017-2019 Micra models fitted with the 70bhp 1.0-litre petrol engine fit the bill with a group 1 rating. It’s not the most exciting engine and can struggle a little, especially when fully loaded, but if it’s cheap insurance you’re after then it certainly ticks the right boxes.
It could be specified in Visia, Visia+ and Acenta trim levels, and we’d recommend looking out for an Acenta model, which has plenty of standard kit including climate control, touchscreen and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It’s not exciting to drive, but if you are happy with the slightly lacklustre engine, then it’s a good option for affordable insurance.
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Best for: Pint-sized fun
Built between: 2012-
Price from: £3,000
As we’ve already mentioned there are some strange anomalies within the world of insurance groups, and this is yet again demonstrated by the Volkswagen Up. Given that the larger, more expensive and more powerful Volkswagen Polo manages to gain a group 1 rating, it does seem odd that the smaller, cheaper and less powerful VW Up’s lowest insurance rating is group 2!
Obviously this will still lead to affordable insurance costs, but if you must have a group 1 car, then a used VW Up from a few years back falls into group 1, provided you find a car with the 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine with an output of 59bhp. You’ll have a choice of trim levels, too, with the original Take Up, Move Up and High Up trim levels fitted with this engine all sitting in group 1.
While 59bhp might not sound like much power, in a car as small and light as the Up it’s still enough for pottering around town. The Up's small footprint and nimble nature also helps make it a great city car, and in most driving situations, it's genuinely fun to drive. It also has more luggage capacity than most of its direct city car rivals, and four adults should be able to get comfy inside the cabin.
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Best for: Impressive ability
Built between: 2014-2019
Price from: £3,500
The current Hyundai i10 is one of our favourite city cars, providing the sort of sophistication that you expect from a car in the class above. Sadly, no models in the current i10 line-up fall into group 1 insurance, but if you don’t mind buying used then the previous generation i10 that was manufactured from 2014 to 2019 does contain some group 1 models.
You’ll need to look for the 1.0-litre engine that was available with various different trim levels, the most plush being the Premium, which is the model we would suggest as being the best buy. Look for a recent example and you’ll also benefit from the remainder of Hyundai’s excellent five-year warranty.
Sometimes older models can fall short of expectations, but this shouldn’t be the case with the i10. After all, it was crowned our Best Used City Car in the 2019 CarGurus Used Car Awards. It’s practical, roomy (coming with five seats as standard, which isn’t always the case with city cars) and has a decently sized boot, too. It also rides well and will prove to be a comfortable companion around town.
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Best for: City car fun
Built between: 2012-2019
Price from: £2,500
Being from the same group of companies, the Skoda Citigo is closely related to the VW Up and Seat Mii, and like those cars, in its least powerful configuration, the Citigo was available with a group 1 insurance group. Sadly the Citigo is no longer offered in the UK, but if you’re happy to buy used then it could be just what you’re looking for if a city car fits the bill.
You’ll need to look for a model with the 1.0-litre three-cylinder MPI engine with an output of 59bhp, but you will have the choice of three- or five-door models, and S, SE and Sport trim levels. We’d advise against the S trim level as it really was quite spartan, with wind-up windows and no air-conditioning. When buying, do check the car you’re looking at falls into group 1 as over the years, some versions have been rated as being in insurance group 2.
Overall, though, the Skoda Citigo is a practical and fun car to own and drive, and while you only get four seats, your passengers should be able to get comfortable. It’s efficient, too, with good fuel economy, and while safety tests have become tougher over the years, the Citigo scored the full five starts in EuroNCAP crash tests when it was new.
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Best for: Cut-price Fiesta
Built between: 2016-2020
Price from: £5,800
Ford’s Ka+ was a relatively short-lived model in the UK market, making its debut in 2016 and being withdrawn in 2020 after slow sales. It was based on the Fiesta but with a smaller city car body, and while it could have done well for Ford, there were slightly too many compromises in its design that made it less attractive than other cars in its class.
To benefit from group 1 insurance, you’ll need to look for the 1.2-litre engine in its lower power output of 68bhp, but unlike the EcoBoost engines you’ll find in the Fiesta range, the Ka+’s unit is rather lacklustre.
The Ka+ was built in India but there were changes made for the UK model – primarily to its suspension – which did just about give it that Ford fun characteristic. Its interior trim did feel a little cut-price, though, and a three star rating from Euro NCAP doesn’t really cut the mustard these days when so many competitors score the full five stars. While it does come with a group 1 rating to keep insurance costs down, there are better choices on the used market.
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Best for: Fun on a budget
Built between: 2012-2019
Price from: £2,500
The third of the VW/Skoda/Seat triumvirate is another model that’s available with group 1 insurance, but like its siblings you’ll have to buy used to get a model with the lowest insurance costs. The Seat Mii was discontinued with an internal combustion engine in 2019 – it’s now a purely electric model – but if you search out the lower-powered 1.0-litre with 59bhp in S, Ecomotive or SE specification, you’ll be buying one of the best city cars with affordable insurance.
Like its close cousins, the Seat Mii gained a five-star crash rating from Euro NCAP when it was new, and it was one of the first cars to offer autonomous emergency braking as an option. As a used buy the Mii has a lot to offer: three- and five-door body styles, a practical seating arrangement and a very usable boot given the car's size. It's comfortable and fun to drive, and despite the lowly power output, it doesn’t feel out of its depth when you venture away from the city centre. As a low-cost city car it has very few peers.
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Best for: Driver involvement
Built between: 2017-2020
Price from: £6,000
The Ford Fiesta is one of the best small cars on sale right now, offering a great blend of performance, space, equipment and, best of all, fun. It’s a genuinely entertaining car to drive, even in its lowest-powered guises, and if you value driving pleasure it’s undoubtedly the best small car out there.
The fly in the ointment is that the current Fiesta line up doesn’t include any models that fall into the group 1 insurance banding: even the entry-level model garners a group 5 rating. However, search out a used 1.1-litre petrol model in the Style trim level, and you’ll be looking at group 2 insurance, which is a small price to pay for such an entertaining car to drive.
Unlike the EcoBoost engines, the 1.1-litre model isn’t turbocharged and as a result it’s not quite so much fun to drive. It’s a little slow in a straight line, then, but it more than makes up for this with an entertaining chassis.
Overall the Fiesta offers an excellent blend of talents that make it a very well-rounded machine. It sits at the top of the best seller lists year in, year out, and for a very good reason: it’s a great car to drive and own.
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