Best buy less than £9000 Fiat 500 1.2 Pop List price £8889 Target Price £8889
Two thousand pounds, courtesy of the Government’s scrappage scheme, is a healthy incentive to prise open the coffers for any new car, but when it makes up almost a quarter of the full sticker price, it’s a belter of a deal.
No surprise, then, that sales of cars such as the cute Toyota Aygo, Citroën C1 and Peugeot 107 are booming. Alternatively, if you’re looking for something with a lot more kit, a couple of extra doors and the reassurance of a five-year warranty, for the same sort of money you could do a lot worse than Hyundai’ five-door i10.
Of course, that’s all well and good until you clap eyes on the Fiat 500. At £8889 for an entry-model 1.2 Pop, you don’t get a lot of metal or equipment for your money, but what you do get is matchless style and desirability, which means used examples hold their value firmer than a banker grips his bonus.
Nippy and agile, and short enough to park in spaces normally the preserve of motorcycle despatch riders, the 500 is a brilliant city car, and it’s not overawed on the motorway.
It has a funky cabin that could only have been styled in Italy, and because you sit quite upright, there’s a surprising amount of space for four.
Put quite simply, style with substance doesn’t come any more affordable than this.
Fiat 500 Performance 0-62mph 12.9 seconds Top speed 99mph Running costs Economy 55.4mpg CO2 119g/km Insurance group 5
What the testers thought... What separates the 500 from just about all of its rivals is its ability to put a smile on your face. Where most cars are drab and grey inside, the 500 is colourful and cheerful. Steve.Fowler@whatcar.com
Best buy £9000–£11,000 Hyundai i20 1.2 Classic 5dr List price £9808 Target Price £9530
For this sort of money, you could be tempted by any number of superminis from mainstream manufacturers, including an entry-level version of the new Volkswagen Polo.
However, we think the Hyundai i20 makes far more sense. Its light controls and comfortable ride mean it’s ideal for scooting around town.
Hit the open road, and the punchy, sweet-revving 1.2-litre petrol engine develops more than enough pep to tug you, your better half and two little ’uns to the other end of the country, without you having to drive everywhere with the accelerator pinned against the floor.
Once you’re cruising, there’s little in the way of wind- and road noise, and because the i20 can do 54.3mpg, there’ll be plenty of miles between fuel stops.
Air-conditioning comes as standard, while other nice touches include remote central locking and electric front windows. Much of the i20’s appeal, however, is hidden from view.
If things go wrong, there’s the reassurance of a five-year warranty to help you sleep soundly at night. Should things go seriously wrong, six airbags, active head restraints and a maximum five-star Euro NCAP rating ensure that you and your loved ones will be well protected. Now that’s what we call peace of mind.
Hyundai i20 Performance 0-62mph 12.9 seconds Top speed 103mph Running costs Economy 54.3mpg CO2 124g/km Insurance group 8
What the testers thought... The i20 is a family runabout that’ll cost you peanuts. The roomy cabin and slick ride keep the kids comfy, while the extensive safety kit keeps them from harm. Will.Nightingale@whatcar.com
Best buy more than £11,000 Volkswagen Polo 1.4 SE 5dr List price £12,720 Target Price £12,259
There are plenty of talented cars available in this category, and we could construct a compelling case for any one of them.
The 1.2-litre turbocharged Renault Clio is an absolute peach, while Peugeot’s 207 gives you a highly polished drive and loads of style for your money. Then there’s the Honda Jazz, which never fails to blow us away with its brilliant mix of immense space and imaginative versatility.
In the end, however, it was between two giants of this class. Undoubtedly, the Ford Fiesta remains the standard bearer for driving pleasure. The supreme weighting of its controls, the comfort and balance of its suspension, the funkiness of its cabin, and competitive pricing and low running costs combined to make it last year’s overall Car of the Year award winner.
That said, an awful lot can change in a year. Ford effectively sealed its own fate by imposing several stiff price rises and, as if that wasn’t enough, along came Volkswagen with its classy new version of the Polo.
The Polo undercuts the Fiesta’s price by several hundred pounds, and has stability control and alloy wheels where the Ford has none. Then there’s the Polo’s fine drive and a cabin that is effectively a Golf’s in miniature. Need any more convincing? Neither did we.
VW Polo Performance 0-62mph 11.9 seconds Top speed 110mph Running costs Economy 47.9mpg CO2 139g/km Insurance group 9
What the testers thought... We first got behind the wheel of the Polo at this year’s Geneva motor show, and we were immediately blown away by its airiness and the quality of its interior. Peter.Tullin@whatcar.com
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