Target Price £12,602
Who says you can't have a bit of style with your space? Not Citroën, that's for sure. In this amazing little creation – it's barely longer than a conventional supermini – you'll find five-star space and practicality, all in a body Pablo himself would be proud to put his name to.
The key to that versatility is the car's height – because it's taller than a regular 'mini, the people inside can sit more upright. So not only do they have more space, there's also a decent boot. When you want to turn your people-carrier into a van, those rear seats split and fold 60/40, with each piece sliding back and forth. Also, like all the best modern MPVs, they fold flat to leave a level floor, too. You can even do the same with the passenger seat.
Mid-spec VTR+ is the best trim to go for, with the full package of airbags. Steer clear of the rather weedy 1.4-litre petrol engine and plump for the 1.6 petrol, which gives the best compromise between price and performance. You can still expect a respectable 40mpg on average, and you'll be impressed with how the car drives.
Admittedly, the soft suspension does mean that the car leans a bit through corners, but more importantly, it gives a smooth, comfortable ride at any speed. The steering is effortlessly light at low speeds and, because there's plenty of grip, the handling always feels secure.
Target Price £11,019
We could fill up this page listing the accolades the Fiesta has already won in its short life, but we'll settle for the big one: What Car? Car of the Year 2009. As we said at the time, 'Just occasionally, a car comes along and belts you between the eyes as soon as it turns a wheel. This year, that car is the Ford Fiesta.'
That was back in January, but we're still gob-smacked by Ford's supermini. First, there's the way it looks: even on today's roads, no other supermini is quite as smart. As well as the stylish lines outside, you'll find an elegantly crafted interior, which is as easy to use as it is pleasant to look at. The driving position is spot-on, too, and even if this isn't the biggest supermini, most passengers should be fine in the back.
Where the Fiesta really scores over its rivals is in the way it drives: there's sharp handling, a smooth ride and class-leading refinement. No matter whether you're pottering down to the shops, cruising hundreds of miles with the kids in the back, or blasting down your favourite B-road, you'll have a smile on your face.
Perhaps the hardest part is to decide which Fiesta to recommend. The super-frugal Econetic model will appeal to the 'greens' and the Zetec S puts fun at the top of the agenda, but for us this 1.25 Zetec is the pick of the bunch – great-looking, fun to drive and cheap to run. It's a car for all reasons.
Target Price £10,750
How the motoring world has changed. Who'd have thought, even just five years ago, that we would be recommending not one, but two Hyundais as Best Buys. Yet, alongside the i20 (see page 99) is this, the i30: a fine small hatch.
Yes, we'll admit that this isn't the most emotional car in these pages. Our road tests are full of words such as 'solid', 'competent' and even 'uninspiring', but that's the key to this car's appeal. It's a no-nonsense hatch that does all the important things well.
Let's take space and practicality. There's loads of room in the front – no great surprise – but what's really impressive is that there's enough room in the back for rear passengers to really stretch out. Even the boot is a good size, and the seats split and fold to extend it.
What seals the deal is what you get for your cash. It might cost less than virtually every Ford Fiesta, but it has enough space to rival a Focus and still comes with alloys, air-con, stability control and six airbags.
When you get this on the most basic car, why spend more? The 1.4-litre engine is impressively smooth and flexible, and averages more than 45mpg. There's even
a five-year, unlimited-mileage warranty.
Target Price £13,271
It looks like an SUV, but the Qashqai is really a small family hatch in disguise. Funky styling is what makes it a breath of fresh in the class, and it stands out a mile from any Golf or Astra.
Most importantly, it doesn't ask you to make any sacrifices. In fact, it's pretty much at the top of the class in several respects. The driving position is great – the view out is improved by the fact that you sit a little higher than in a conventional hatch – the cabin is roomy and the build quality and cabin materials feel a cut above the rest of the class.
The Qashqai is good to drive, too, with a comfortable ride and plenty of grip, although the tall body does lean a fair bit in corners.
Target Price £10,344
For sheer class and refinement, the Clio is still a hard act to beat. True, it has been overtaken by the Ford Fiesta in many ways, but it still impresses as a thoroughly mature supermini.
It looks even sharper after its recent face-lift, but the comfortable ride and great refinement remain as good as ever. There's plenty of space inside, too, and the running costs are affordable. Admittedly, the list price is a little high, but get a big discount and that needn't be too much of an issue.