Revisiting Top Gear’s 17-Year-Old Challenge 10 Years On

It has become apparent that new generations of drivers are facing all new tests and challenges, as well as steeper costs in relation to their motoring habits (e.g. vehicles, car insurance, and lessons).

You may remember having to complete the ‘reverse around a corner’ and ‘three-point turn’ manoeuvres during your driving test, but they have now been removed. In their place, we’ve seen the introduction of ‘driving with a satellite navigation system’ and ultimately, longer driving tests. In the past, in order to complete the likes of a three-point turn, examiners would have to take drivers into quiet, residential areas — often avoiding rather stressful built-up areas and traffic.

Another concern is the fact that he cost of taking a driving test is always increasing. That got us thinking. It’s been ten years since the Top Gear trio of Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May competed in the ’17-Year-old Challenge’.

For this challenge, the presenters used £2,500 to buy and insure a car. The other minor stipulation was that the car had to be fit for a 17-year old and everything they’d need from it.

Of course, a lot has changed in the last decade, and inflation has certainly had an influence. Prices in 2020 are 33.03 per cent higher than they were in 2009 therefore if the Top Gear boys had £2,500, to keep things fair, we’d have £3,325.67, embarking on the same mission, ten years later.

According to Money Super Market, £1,036 is the average price of a fully comprehensive insurance policy for a 17-year-old. We’re pre-emptively taking that out of our overall budget.

Read on to find out how to best use a budget of £2289.67 to buy a car that will meet every need of a 17-year-old.

Audi A4 Estate - £1,995.00
You would only need around 2,000 to get your hands on a used AudinA4 estate 2.0L TDI. Okay, we won’t beat around the bush and suggest this vehicle is low mileage — it’s not. However, although 130k miles on the clock of a low quality car will set the alarm bells ringing in even the most relaxed of individuals, with a car such as the A4, which the RAC described as ‘strong in every department’, you can drive with confidence. Regular Audi servicing is enough to keep the cars in tip-top shape for a long time!
Transmission has been an issue with some of the previous A$ models. But by the time we reached the 2005-08 generation, these problems had been ironed out. The S-Line model, which we have priced here, delivers 167bhp for a 2.0L engine, meaning you won’t be left drastically searching for that deliverance of power when you require it.

This spacious model has an impressive luggage capacity of 442 litres when the seats are up. That said, unfortunately there aren’t parking sensors, meaning if you aren’t the most confident of parallel parkers, this wagon might not be the best suited.

Abundant with tech, this model has withstood the test of time. Cruise control and electric seats are certainly enough to make those long road trips that little bit more comfortable. We all know 17-year-olds have a great affinity with music and thanks to the cash you’ve left over, you could easily replace the standard Audi radio with a Pioneer Bluetooth system and subwoofer.

Skoda Fabia - £1,995.00
Skoda have progressed from being the ‘joke’ of the motoring world that they once were. Following major investment and a buyout from the Volkswagen Group, Skoda quickly became one of the most sought-after cars on the market. The Fabia shines bright like the Polo or the A3, while the Octavia exists as a fierce rival for any executive saloon in the modern motoring world.
Much loved by taxi drivers, reliability is one of Skoda’s main fortes.
Pick up a 2011 Fabia for the same price as the A4 and be comforted by the fact you’ll be getting returns of 55 mpg— helping to keep costs low in the long run. Although it’s only a 1.6L diesel, the 103 bhp engine is enough to outweigh many alternative small cars.

The interior of this model is also something to behold. You’ll be quick to spot the modernity present, with ergonomic aesthetics and a multimedia system complete with satellite navigation system, ensuring a road map isn’t a necessity.

BMW 3 Series - £1,995.00
The BMW 3 Series model manufactured between 2005 and 2011, emanates the class associated with German engineering. This is, in many ways, a car of utter beauty. Superbly, designers took heed of previous customer feedback and assigned it to the development of this 3 Series with an emphasised focus on interior space and standard equipment taking precedence.
Although mid-range in terms of size when considering the other two vehicles which have made our shortlist, don’t be concerned about transporting cargo as it certainly offers suffice boot space. Likewise, unlike its German counterpart, the A4, the 3 Series comes complete with rear parking sensors to help you tackle those rather tight spaces without worrying about unforeseen bumps.

For new drivers that have just passed their test, steering wheel control is a saving grace. Unfortunately, and we know this mightn’t come as this biggest shock, the BMW does deliver the lowest mpg return, with around 28 in urban conditions.

Clearly, a lot has changed since the 2009 Top Gear challenge. Way back in 2009 when Top Gear picked their choices, it was a Volkswagen Golf MK III, a Hyundai Scoupe, and a Volvo 940 Turbo Estate which stood on the top step. Who knows what the future will hold from this challenge, perhaps 17-year-olds will next be visiting their to get their hands on the perfect starter car of the future.