I got my daughter a Polo 9N a couple of years back for a grand ; it has passed two MOT's without advisories and hasn't given a moments trouble .Want to get a small 5dr car which is cheap to buy and insure me + a provisional driver (20y old son).
Current list includes a VW Up, Vaux Corsa, Smart for four, possible Toyota Aygo.
I will always go German rather than pacific rim or British . Can't go wrong with VW .Something like 300 people die a year as a result of collisions involving teenage drivers. (i.e. kids aged between 17-19) Even though teenagers barely drive anywhere. That's a quarter of all UK deaths on the road.
Google teenage driver deaths and you'll see they're usually in small hatchbacks: Corsa, Fiesta, Clio.
A boy from my son's school drove off in a huff one Sunday evening after a row with his family. He drove his Corsa into a tree less than half a mile from home. It killed him. I suspect a stronger car would have harmed him, but left him alive.
So I'd strongly advise the Focus or Golf. They are VERY solid cars, which also have a track record for reliability and easy resale. Buy one that's been used by a young family, rather than by another young driver. (The Honda Jazz is a great car, but it's a rare British 20 year old that'll want to drive one)
You'll need to shop around for the right "black box" insurance company to cover those cars, but it's worth it.
Insurance is expensive because one in five teenage drivers collides with something in the first six months of driving. A black box does its bit to reducing that risk, by recording the driving pattern and issuing the child with a report on the quality of his driving.
Here's a couple of articles / sets of stats about it:
Young drivers - Brake the road safety charity
RAC highlights teenage driver death toll