Which cars have British motorists learned to drive in over the years?

As it’s our 75th anniversary this year, we’ve been reflecting on trends in British motoring, and have conducted our own in-depth survey of the UK’s car owners to learn more about people’s automotive attitudes, memories and habits.

One question we asked people was “What car did you learn to drive in?” Over three quarters of respondents remembered, and in this post we break down the results.

Good to know: We polled 2,000 people aged 18 to 55+, but nearly 60% of those who shared an answer to this question were aged 25 to 44, so the picture is dominated by how the UK car market looked from around 1994 onwards.

Key findings

1 in 4 car owners today learned to drive in a Ford, and more than 1 in 10 (12%) in a Ford Fiesta, making that the most likely model for current drivers to have learned in.

The Vauxhall Corsa (11%) takes second place, and the Nissan Micra (6.3%) completes the top 3.   Nobody learned in a Porsche, which is probably for the best.

Top 10 learner cars by brand

 Brand% of total

Given that 4 out of 10 of the UK’s most popular cars of all time are Fords, it’s hardly surprising to see Ford comfortably topping the manufacturer rankings for learner cars; a quarter of car owners in Britain today learned to drive in a Ford.

Below them, accounting for 15% of learner cars, are Vauxhall. We’ve been Vauxhall partners since 1961, and we’re proud to see this trusted British brand so high up the list.

We’re also approved dealers for two other leading learner brands – Peugeot and VW – and our wider choice of quality used cars also includes plenty from Ford, Nissan, Toyota and more.

Unfortunately, you won’t find any Austins for sale at JCT600 these days – the marque was finally discontinued back in 1987. But if you’re interested in cars with real heritage, some of our best examples at the time of publication include this 1961 Porsche 356 and this Porsche 911 from 1968. We don’t recommend these as learner cars, though!

Top 10 learner cars by model

 BrandModel% of total

There wasn’t much in it here, looking at positions 1 and 2. We continue to rate the Vauxhall Corsa as one of the best cars for new drivers, so it makes total sense that this model – first launched in the UK back in 1993 – is the car many motorists first practised in. The Corsa continues to evolve today, with the new electric Corsa-E available to buy right now from JCT600.

At the other end of the top 10, the VW Golf has always been a favourite at our six Yorkshire Volkswagen dealerships – see what we think of the latest version in our Golf 8 video review.

Many of our readers won’t be old enough to remember the Austin Metro (in 8th place). The Metro enjoyed peak popularity in Britain in the 80s, before ceasing production in 1998 – a time when Buffy the Vampire Slayer was the hottest thing on TV, Britney Spears was bursting onto the scene, and Google had only just launched. But according to our research, 1 in 50 contemporary UK car owners learned to drive in the iconic Metro. If you’re scratching your head, you can see what these cars looked like below (but we prefer this slightly bonkers pick-up version, to be honest).

Man standing next to 1984 blue Austin Metro

Amongst the many other models people recalled learning in were the Fiat Panda (described by former Ferrari chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo as the best car in the world), the charmingly-named Toyota Starlet (produced from 1973 to 1999), and the Vauxhall Chevette – “the closest it got to excitement was the GLS specification with its velour trim and standard cigarette lighter,” according to Classics World.

One person said they learned in a Ford Mustang, although we can only speculate on the era and version. Perhaps something utterly sensible like this 5-litre cabriolet from 1991…

Do you remember what car you learned in? Any stories you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you – Tweet us @JCT600.

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