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Help me decide! - Advice for a first car??

Hello!
I’m new here and I’m looking for some advice on getting my first car. I’m a mechanical engineering student starting my first job in wales.
I’ll be commuting around 20mins a day whilst also doing some longer drives home (3+ hours on the motorway) quite regularly too, about 1-2 times a month.
I’d like some recommendations for cars with a bit of personality!
I have an interest in car maintainence, I don’t have any experience of it yet but I would love to learn and have a first car that has a relatively simple set up which I could tinker with and do simple jobs. I’m hoping to learn more to one day be able to do up classics/project cars.
I have a budget of around max £2,500. I really like the look of Peugeot 106 (but I have read they’re not great for motorway driving) or citoeren Saxo, particularly the 1.5 Diesel. Also had a look at older Micras and Fiestas. I’m thinking perhaps a diesel would suit me better as I’ll need it for some long distance driving, but I also want to be able to visit cities and I know some now have a diesel ban so I’m considering both diesel and petrol, preferably manual.
I know I will not get a car that is perfect, but something that’s got a bit of character, but still roadworthy with MOT and reliable and won’t cost a fortune in repairs, with the possibility of learning a bit more about car repairs/maintenance too. Also needs to be able to withstand motorway driving (personally I am not too concerned with comfort or road noise, doesn’t really bother me, just something that’ll be fun to drive). A future classic perhaps?
If any one had any recommendations of any other makes/models to have a look at or tips for buying I’d be really greatful.
Many many Thanks!
(from a newbie hoping to learn more soon!)
I have posted this in both the main motoring discussion and classics as I didn’t know which was most applicable. Hope that’s ok!

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