The original Sidewinder we all start with is a fairly versatile ship. The hold is a little small and it's not really a combat ship, but it lets you get started with your trading and fighting as long as you are patient with the first and careful with the second. I traded mine in for a Cobra Mk. III before too long, but there was also one other ship I wanted to take a look at.
The Eagle is, for now, the most manoeuvrable ship in the game. It's hardly a heavy weapons platform, but it does serve as one of the earliest examples of a dedicated fighter. You can pick one up for 44,000 CR, but mine is already valued at about 1-Million CR thanks to the upgrades it has. I had planned to use it as a cheap fighter to practice combat which I would not worry about losing, but I think I got carried away with the upgrades.
Two things stood out when I bought my Eagle, comparing it to the Sidewinder and the Cobra.
- It out-flies just about anything that doesn't outrun it. I have seen strategies for killing them, but the only way to get an Eagle off your tail is to kill it or outrun it; there is no out-turning one. In one particular fight, a wingman (in a vulture) and I took out three Imperial Eagles without them ever getting a shot off on me. In one case, I kept my target in my crosshairs about 50% of the time and could even get a bounty scan in during a dogfight.
- It can be a little power hungry. With most systems upgraded to C, my power generator needed to be class-A or the weapons shut down everything. Even life-support turned off the first time I deployed hard-points. That said, I was putting out some very impressive damage even compared to the Vulture on my wing.
I know the Cobra is a competent fighter, but I think (as long as I can keep it from being hit) my Eagle will be my go-to for low-level combat missions.