Price from £13,000 (est)
On sale Winter
What’s great? Likely agile drive; classy cabin; refinement
The latest version of the Astra has an awful lot to live up to: not only must it continue Vauxhall’s Insignia-inspired transformation, but it must also match and eclipse the recent launches of arch-rivals, including the Ford Focus, Renault Megane and Volkswagen Golf.
Although there are no official pictures yet, our computer-generated image shows that styling will follow the Insignia’s. Early photos show the front end takes after the larger family car’s.
Likewise, the Astra’s cabin quality is likely to take a huge step forward, with innovations such as digital dash readouts and an electronic parking brake.
Other optional extras are likely to include an adaptive lighting system and a special camera that recognises speed limit and no-overtaking road signs.
The engine line-up will probably feature a broad line-up of petrols and diesels, starting with a 1.4 turbocharged petrol. Direct-injection technology, in conjunction with fuel-saving systems, will increase power outputs but lower emissions.
An estate will go on sale shortly after the launch of the five-door, with a three-door Sport Hatch likely after that. A Twintop coupe-cabriolet and a 250bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol VXR model may follow later.
Price from £14,495 (Sports Coupe), £14,200 (Sport Tourer), £20,000 (Renaultsport)
On sale January (Sports Coupe), summer (Sport Tourer and Renaultsport)
What’s great? Quality cabin; engaging drive, reasonable price
The hatchback is already on sale, but the three-door Sports Coupe, Sport Tourer estate and Renaultsport models arrive in 2009.
The coupe sits on a chassis 12mm lower than the hatch and has sportier handling.
Power is supplied by 1.6-litre (110bhp) or 2.0 turbo (180bhp) petrol engines, or two 1.5 (86bhp and 106bhp) diesels and a 1.9 (130bhp) diesel.
There are three trims. Standard kit includes climate, stability and traction controls, six airbags, alloy wheels, heated mirrors and four electric windows.
The estate will cost about £1200 more than the five-door hatch, while the Renaultsport is expected to have a £20,000 price tag.
Price £18,000 (est)
On sale Autumn
What’s great? Green credentials; decent performance
That icon of environmental motoring, the Toyota Prius, is going to be greener and meaner than ever before.
Although full details have yet to be confirmed, early indications suggest the new car has a smoother, more aggressive look.
A larger-capacity 1.8-litre petrol engine should make the Prius faster. Combining this with its electric motor, the new car should be capable of more than 70mpg on average, while emissions should be below 90g/km.
That’s 10-20% better than the old Prius, which will make the new model the cleanest small family car on sale.
The old nickel hydride battery will still be used, but there could be a switch to more powerful lithium-ion batteries in 2010 if they prove reliable. They would boost electric power and be lighter and easier to position.
Price from £12,000 (est)
On sale April
What’s great? Volkswagen Golf rival receives a thorough overhaul
Considering one in three Mazdas sold around the world is a 3, you can bet the company has put a lot of hard work into its updated car.
Mazda promises the new 3 will be more refined and sportier, but with top-drawer economy. Much of that will be down to improvements in conventional engine technology, but a stop-start system will also be introduced.
The interior will be more distinctive, with a striking centre console and funkier switches.
Mazda engineers have also developed an all-new 2.0-litre direct-injection petrol engine with around 150bhp, as well as a new 2.2 turbodiesel with either 123, 161, or 182bhp.
A hot MPS version of the car is thought to be arriving a few months after the other models in the range. Expect about 260bhp from its 2.5-litre engine.
strong fuel economy.