Supermini megatest - And the winner is...
VOLKSWAGEN Polo 1.4 SE
It was the pricing that clinched it. That's not the only reason the Polo comes out on top, for there has to be a lot more to the purchase of a car than how much it costs, but when we saw that £12,450 price and what you get for it, all argument was stifled.
Superb quality, all the space you're likely to need, a refined and comfortable driving experience, and the prospect of excellent resale values three years down the line are other big temptations, and while the Polo can't match the Fiesta for sheer pizzazz, it is nevertheless a satisfying car to drive.
You may feel that VW has copped out on the styling, but if that's all you've got to criticise…
FORD Fiesta 1.4i Zetec
The Fiesta could easily have won this test, such is the esteem in which we hold its brilliance over any road in the hands of any driver in any conditions. On the other hand, it nearly came fifth because of Ford's absurd recent pricing policy. Modest rises to account for currency changes are nothing new. Hoiking up prices before the ink has dried on the previous brochure reprint is. In the end, the Fiesta was saved because big discounts mean a great car is still within the grasp of many.
RENAULT Clio 1.2 TCe Dynamique
It delights us that Renault is on such fine form with the Clio, because it offers something different from its northern European rivals. With a small but torquey engine, a supple ride and superb roadholding, it provides contrasting but still highly enjoyable road manners compared with, say, a Fiesta. The criticism we aimed at Ford over pricing is equally relevant here, though, and you can't ignore the Clio's lousy resale values. Once again, discounts rescue a terrific car.
HONDA Jazz 1.4 ES
If your aim is to downsize without sacrificing space, versatility and engineering integrity, then buy the Jazz. Its packaging – the use of space – is outstanding, perhaps no surprise from a nation that invented the ancient art of origami, or paper-folding. If only it drove as well and had a less frumpy image, it would rank even higher.
HYUNDAI i20 1.4 Style
The Koreans nab fifth, and not just because the i20 is cheap and packed to the rafters with equipment. The i20 is roomy, practical and reasonable to drive or travel in. If the Koreans could take apart a Fiesta and a Polo, find out what makes one so great to drive and the other so high on quality, they needn't have to settle for fifth in future.
SEAT Ibiza 1.4 85 Sport
In some ways, the Seat should be better than it is, since it is based on the same underpinnings as the winning Polo, On the other hand, knowing as we do how it has had to play second fiddle in several key areas, we can understand why it has turned out the way it has. The Ibiza's problem is that it is targeted at the Fiesta, and that's a battle it can't win.
VAUXHALL Corsa 1.4 Club AC
Our Car of the Year less than three years ago; now back in the lower mid-table order. How the mighty have fallen. That's not to say that the Corsa is a bad car; merely that others have reeled it in. High prices, poor spec, feeble second-hand values, a weak engine and short gearing that hurts refinement and economy are the issues Vauxhall has to sort out.
SKODA Fabia 1.4 2
It should come as no surprise that the Skoda, the third former Car of the Year winner in this test, should rank so low. It's almost 10 years old, and you need only look at the Corsa to see how fast things change. Many of the things that made it Car of the Year still apply (ride, space, value) but in too many other areas it hasn't aged well. Time to move on.
TOYOTA Yaris 1.33 VVT-i TR
Potentially, the Yaris could have been a great car, but the chance has been wasted. With a compact shape, some novel packaging ideas, a new engine, a six-speed gearbox and a stop-start system, it could be not only energy-efficient (which it is), but also really clever inside (which it isn't). The biggest sin, though, is the way it drives.
MAZDA 2 1.5 Sport
We don't know if Mazda does R&D work in the UK, but if not, it's time to start. The 2 delivers spirited, even enjoyable, driving ability in European countries with better road surfaces than ours, but over here it all falls to pieces. The ride is unforgivable, the shortage of refinement only marginally less so. All the weight-saving in the world can't compensate.