If you think that hot hatches have become too soft and civilised, the RS is the antidote. It looks like it's escaped from a Tarmac rally stage, and then there's the way it drives. Feedback through the steering is so immediate and visceral that you'll feel your brain has been directly linked to the chassis. Turn-in is aggressive and the grip on offer seems never-ending.
If the handling is sharp, the engine is as brutal as a hammer blow. With an incredible 301bhp, the RS launches forward at a rate that makes its rivals feel like they're stuck in reverse. It never feels unruly, though.
Mercedes-Benz C220 CDI Estate SE Price £26,186 Target Price £24,238
The C-Class is one of the best Mercedes for years, and this is our favourite version of the estate. It's more than roomy enough for load-lugging duties, but still manages to look good, too. The engine performs strongly, the C-Class corners neatly and the ride is comfortable. Add a solid-feeling cabin and that Merc badge and you've got a winner.
Nissan 370Z Price £26,900 Target Price £26,900 4star The Nissan 370Z is a thug of a car – and we mean that as a compliment. The V6 engine is as subtle as a kick to the head, and is angry enough to propel to Z to 60mph in just 5.0sec.
Show the 370Z a twisty road and it displays the same gung-ho attitude. There's plenty of grip, and the kind of fun that only a powerful rear-wheel-drive car can deliver.
Like any bruiser, you'll need to live with a few rough edges: the cabin isn't as well finished as an Audi TT's, and you can expect high fuel bills, too. It's worth it, though.
Mercedes-Benz E220 CDI SE auto Price £28,863 Target Price £27,925
Think Mercs are over-priced and under-equipped? Not the E-Class. The new car is good value, with sensible pricing and a respectable list of kit, even for the basic SE.
True, the E-Class isn't as exciting as a BMW 5 Series on a B-road, but then it doesn't handle badly. No, cruising in comfort is what it does best, making this model – with its powerful but economical diesel engine – ideal.
Volvo XC60 2.4D DRIVe SE Price £26,495 Target Price £24,586
This is our favourite SUV, and with good reason. We're particularly impressed with this new DRIVe model. It's extremely economical for an SUV, returning 47.1mpg on average. Emissions of just 159g/km also make it a good bet for company car drivers.
Okay, the DRIVe is front- rather than four-wheel drive, but we doubt many buyers will care – there's plenty of space for the whole family, and there's lots of luggage room. It's safe, too, thanks to systems such as City Safety, which will apply the brakes to prevent a collision.