Your First Car, Finding the Best One for You

Volkswagen+Gol+%28Left%29+alongside+the+Nissan+March+%28right%29.

Photo Courtesy of René Villegas

Volkswagen Gol (Left) alongside the Nissan March (right).

Pablo Escandón and Pedro Gomez

As TCS students reach the age of 16, the possibility to drive a car is suddenly available. This is an exciting time as driving a car for the first time is an introduction to adulthood and independence. However, the decision of buying a car is challenging for both parents and their children, as the need for safety, efficiency, and practicality is limited by low budgets.  

Among the most popular cars TCS students drive are entry-level hatchbacks from brands like Mazda, Nissan, and Volkswagen. These cars are attractive as they offer good technology, safety, and efficiency in a well-priced package. However, the large number of offerings from all sorts of brands makes the compact hatchback market competitive and makes it so that families have a hard time choosing the best car for their children. 

Mazda 2

Despite being the most expensive car in the segment, the Mazda 2 is probably the most popular car students drive, despite the price range of up to 20 million pesos more expensive than its competitors. However, this car remains hugely popular amongst young drivers as it features premium options like paddle shifters, leather seats, and a heads-up display at a fraction of the cost of more premium offerings. 

“I really like that my car has a heads-up display and paddle shifters as they make the driving experience be easier while making it a lot more sporty and better looking, ” Cristobal Villegas, Grade 11, said

Both sedan and hatchback versions are available which allows for added practicality and better safety ratings than its competitors. The Mazda 2 offers similar performance to the Volkswagen Gol and Nissan March, however, it features a smaller 1.5-liter engine rather than a 1.6 which allows for better fuel economy. Despite this, the car’s performance does not meet expectations as little more performance is expected from a car that is significantly more expensive than its competition. Consequently, students prefer to look for similarly priced alternatives that offer better performance or a larger size for a similar price.

“When I bought it, the Mazda 2 was much cheaper but right now I believe that with the increase in prices there are much better options for the money,” Villegas said.

Nissan March

The Nissan March is another popular first car among students, with a combination of affordability, features, and efficiency. This compact hatchback is characterized by an easy driving experience and agile handling as its small dimensions make it easy to fit in tight spaces. This car is attractive as it offers Japanese reliability and simplicity at a cheaper cost than cars like the Mazda 2 without sacrificing comfort and interior space. 

“I like that it’s small which makes it very maneuverable and easy to drive while still having good comfort and interior space” Senior Pedro Gomez said.

The Nissan March, however, has many flaws that make it less attractive than its competitors. For instance, its design is dated, as the current model is just a refresh of a design revealed over 10 years ago. Many young drivers believe the design in both the interior and exterior is a huge flaw and would prefer a more modern design.

“I wish that the car was more sporty and modern looking as I don’t really like the car aesthetically,” Gomez said.

Despite all this, the main flaw of the Nissan March is its safety. It received a 2 out of five-star rating in the Latin NCAP crash test; way lower than the Volkswagen Gol (2 stars) and the Mazda 2 (5 stars). Most parents look for safety above all. Other cars within the same price range offer better safety by having better structural rigidity, airbag technology, and build quality.

“I don’t like that this car can wreck itself very easily because of its small size and high center of gravity, I don’t like how unsafe it is,” Gomez said.

Volkswagen Gol

The Volkswagen is another common car for new drivers, as its small size, German build quality, and great value make it the sweet spot in the segment. When it comes to price, the Volkswagen Gol is around the same as a Nissan March which places it way below the price of the more premium Mazda 2. Although it’s compact on the outside, its interior is spacious and fits 5 passengers comfortably. However, unlike the Nissan, its small size does not sacrifice as much safety, as it still manages to get 3 stars in the Latin-NCAP test. This places the Volkswagen above the Nissan March regarding safety but below the more expensive Mazda 2 which has a 5-star rating. 

The Volkswagen Gol is offered in both manual and automatic versions, with the automatic getting an extra 10 horsepower from a 16-valve engine, however, many students often choose the manual version because of its low cost and complete driving experience. 

“I like that my car has a manual transmission because I think that knowing how to drive a manual car is an essential skill for everyone, I also like how I feel more connected to the car and understand how it works.” Luciana Restrepo, Grade 11 said.

When it comes to the interior, the Volkswagen Gol features a better interior than the Nissan March with the addition of soft-touch materials, an optional infotainment display, and better build quality overall. The Volkswagen design is generally more liked by the students as its design is modern and elegant despite being an economy car. For this reason, the ‘VW’ is the sweet spot as it offers decent safety, design, and practicality at a fraction of the cost of the Mazda 2.

Conclusions

When it comes to the best car for teenagers, it’s simply a matter of the specific needs of the user and the budget they have. When looking for a lower-budget alternative students should consider both the Volkswagen Gol and the Nissan March as great options. However, if parents are willing to spend more for added safety, practicality, and features; the Mazda is a fantastic option as well.

Despite all this, the best value in the segment is offered by the Volkswagen Gol since it performs decently in every category and is a good all-around option for new drivers. Additionally, parents should consider looking at the used car market, where great cars are available at a discounted price while still having a factory warranty and good reliability. However, when buying a car the general recommendation for young drivers is that they take the time to test each car and see which fits them best and which makes them feel safe and comfortable when driving.