Margeaux Erasmus, the editor of the University of Pretoria student publication Perdeby wants to compare a trio of compact student cars.

These rides must meet the demands of her youthful student readership. Price is pertinent – as are safety features – to keep first-time buyers and their parents at ease.  Of course, style and fun-factor is important too. In the vibey campus atmosphere nobody wants to look like a square.

There are three ideal candidates, with a maximum price of R110 000, sourced from our used car database.

Student Fiat 2

One for the dames

The Car: 2009 Fiat 500 1.2 Pop

The Dealership: Pinnacle Cars

The Reason: An icon reinvented, the dainty 500 makes sense for urban commuters. It’s helped Fiat salvage their reputation for fun, compact, accessible cars. The chic styling will appeal to the trendy student – but it’s less likely to be favoured by the guys. A five-star EuroNCAP safety rating despite its size is assuring too.

The Mileage: 44 000 kilometres

The Money: R104 950

The Engine: 1.2-litre petrol (51kW and 102Nm)

How Much Does It Drink?: 5.1l/100km

What Brenwin Says: A happy little car with heaps of character. Its size makes parking a breeze for the first-time buyer. The 500’s retro charm is endearing, but this is certainly one for the fairer sex.

What Margeaux Says: The 500’s Italian charm is something to be reckoned with. It is the perfect little car for those students who want to get around swiftly, with a bit of luxury. The interior is beautiful and I love the steering wheel’s audio controls. The 500’s easy driving is also something that should not be overlooked, especially if a night about the crowded town is your kind of thing.

CITROEN C1 MARSEILLE MARS 2005

A rose by any other name

The Car: 2012 Citroen C1 1.0 Attraction

The Mileage: 27 000 kilometres

The Reason: It’s the Citroen C1, also known as the Toyota Aygo and Peugeot 107, as a result of a partnership between the three manufacturers. All much of a muchness, but the Citroen certainly looks better – endowed with that French flair. It’s extremely light on fuel and pretty fun to drive. Some have even billed it as a spiritual successor to the iconic Citroen 2CV. This low-mileage  example is going for a good price too.

The Money: R85 000

The Engine: 1-litre petrol (50kW and 93Nm)

How Much Does It Drink?: 4.5l/100km

What Brenwin Says: The cheerful Citroen is likable indeed. Frugal, cheap and inexpensive to maintain – it really ticks the boxes on the student car criteria list. It’s a (tad) less girly than the 500, so it’s a little more palatable for male tastebuds.

What Margeaux Says: The Citroen C1 is a true city-slicker. It looks quirky too and parking the little car is very easy. That three-cylinder engine is loud. Small luxuries such as electric windows, central locking, air-conditioning and radio sweeten the deal. Unfortunately the small boot limits the car’s road trip capabilities.

Student Polo 2

Predictable Polo

The Car: 2011 Volkswagen Polo Vivo 1.4 Trendline

The Dealership: Lindsay Saker Hyde Park

The Mileage: 51 000 kilometres

The Reason: Volkswagen’s Polo Vivo was tasked with replacing the iconic Citi Golf. Unlike that archaic box, this is a modern offering, based on the proven underpinnings of the previous generation Polo. It might be on the bland side – but unlike the Fiat and Citroen, it’s a truly unisex car. Given the Volkswagen badge, you won’t struggle when the time comes to sell. Good road manners and a solid on-road feel, the Vivo is an enjoyable daily drive.

The Money: R109 900

The Engine: 1.4-litre petrol (63kW and 132Nm)

How Much Does It Drink?: 6.2l/100km

What Brenwin Says: It’s a predictable choice. But the Vivo does what it says on the tin. This is affordable motoring – but with the added quality and refinement synonymous with the Volkswagen brand.

What Margeaux Says: The Vivo the conservative. It is a solid car that will be ideal for those students who have to travel far. The spacious interior also makes it the perfect car to travel with three or four of your friends. It is a bit bigger than the others. That might limit parking opportunities. Friends will love the remote control for the radio, which will allow them to control the tunes from the backseat.

The Conclusion by Margeaux

I’ve decided that the Fiat 500 is really what every student needs. The Citroen C1 might boast the best price tag, but the difference a little extra money makes is tangible when comparing the C1 to the 500. The C1 feels too tin-like, whereas the 500 feels more solid and complete.

Despite the fact that the Volkswagen Polo Vivo will suit students who want that extra security and stability, it is boring compared to the 500. The sedan model I drove reminds one of a car mom would use to take the kids to piano lessons.

And boys, if you think that the 500 is a bit feminine just remember one thing: girls love Italians.