Essentially I've been quite lucky as my Grandfather saw fit to leave me a bit of money and am deciding on whether to go and get that 'sensible dream car' that we all have in our minds.
Mine is the VW Scirocco, and i've managed to convince myself that getting the 2.0 TDI GT is a good and sensible idea. It'll do 65mpg when driving to uni, cheap to tax at £120 a year, holds its value very well and insurance is only £1300 (20 with 3 years claim free driving, father on the policy as named driver). This, and the fact that I have loved them since first seeing the concept car and therefore unlikely to want to sell it in 3-5 years to 'upgrade' means I'm nearly sold..
I don't want to go ahead without giving decent consideration to alternatives though, but struggling to think of a similar sports car that is also a genuinely sensible option. Things like the 350Z/TT are a little too flash, whilst running costs of a BMW etc will be much higher, although I do love the new Z4.
None of these are new by the way, looking at an absolute max of £15,000.
Superminis such as previous generation Ford Fiestas and Vauxhall Corsas are always popular as first cars because they are plentiful and relatively cheap to run and repair.
Forget the jokes about Italian cars, because Fiat in particular has an enviable reputation for making cheap but inherently tough cars. The chic 500 won't yet be available in the bargain basement but there are plenty of affordable Puntos, while the Citroën Saxo (the Peugeot 106 is essentially the same thing) and older Renault Clios are the pick of the budget French cars. Seat Ibizas from Spain are also cheap and plentiful.
Older Japanese cars tend to be dull but engineered for longevity. Look at Nissan Micras, Honda Civics, Mazda 121 and Toyota Yaris.
Seat Leon is apparently a great car, especially the Cupra, though it's more expensive to insure. But apparently the TDi version is good too. You could look at it.
It is, my dad had the FR tdi and it was chipped as well. We surprised quite a few boy racers at the lights and on the open road with it He's since exchanged it for a 59 plate orange Focus ST and thats an even better car for this thread