i couldn't afford the payments if anything went wrong and i was unemployed.
You should avoid any lease, HP or other finance scheme in your circumstances. It's a new job and obviously you are optimistic but it is always possible that either you don't like the organisation or the organisation doesn't like you.
Personally I have never spent more than about £500 on a car and I've had some really smart ones. Often you will find that larger cars with more specifications cost less than small three-door cars once they approach ten years old. It's worth having a browse on autotrader.co.uk or your local papers. Using a dealer will cost more than buying privately and the dealer guarantee isn't worth a lot. I find that if the seller seems genuine and has had the car for a while, it's worth looking further at what is on offer. It's worth spending time researching how to inspect vehicles however you buy.
It's definitely a bad idea to tie yourself into a finance scheme. A personal loan would be preferable but the best option is always going to be to take an affordable wad of cash from your bank account and go "shopping" with that in your pocket.