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Small family cars - part 2

  • All the star cars coming in 2011-12
  • City cars to family cars in part 1
  • Check back throughout the holiday period
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Lexus CT200h
What is it? A luxury small family hatch with hybrid power
Price from 23,485
On sale Jan 2011

Lexus is hopping on the downsizing bandwagon with the CT200h. However, this rival to premium hatchbacks such as the Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series is far from conventional because its the first hybrid car in the class.

The CT200h uses the same 1.8-litre petrol engine and battery-powered electric motor as the Toyota Prius. Whats more, like the Prius, it can run on petrol or electric power alone or a combination of both. The result is a car with tiny emissions and low running costs. It averages 68.9mpg and attracts much lower company car tax bills than similarly priced A3 and 1 Series diesels. Other strengths include superb build quality and generous standard equipment.

However, weve driven it and the CT200hs limited rear legroom, whiney CVT gearbox and hard ride are less likely to leave a smile on your face.
Kia Proceed
What is it? A new look for Kias three-door Ceed
Estimated pricefrom 12,500
On sale Autumn 2011

Kia face-lifted the five-door hatchback and SW estate versions of its Ceed small family car last year, and the current three-door Proceed (shown here) will get the same tweaks in 2011.

The most significant changes are retuned suspension and a cleaner 1.6-litre diesel engine. Outside, there are restyled front and rear lights, and a more angular front end. Every Proceed will also benefit from plusher cabin materials.
An all-new Ceed is due in 2012, although Kia hasnt said if the Proceed will be replaced then.
Volkswagen Beetle
What is it? An all-new Bug thats more practical and better to drive
Estimated pricefrom 15,000
On sale Winter 2011

Volkswagen's 'new' Beetle has felt distinctly old for some time now, so its good news that its being replaced next year.

Like the current car, the replacement will feature traditional Beetle cues, such
as rounded headlights and tail-lights and separate wings over each wheel. However, Volkswagen is promising a less feminine look overall.

Its not just the styling thats being revised. The new car will be powered by the latest VW Group engines, and theres an all-new chassis that should make it better to drive than the current car.
Nissan Leaf
What is it? The first affordable electric family car
Estimated pricefrom 23,500
On sale February 2011

On the surface, Nissans new Leaf looks anything but radical. However, under the skin its a different story, because its the worlds first mass-production, all-electric family car. The Leaf has 48 lithium-ion batteries beneath its floor that drive a 108bhp electric motor which provides 207lb ft of instantly accessible torque. As a result performance is electric in more ways than one, yet the Leaf produces zero emissions at the tailpipe.

Of course, this zero figure doesnt take into account the fact that most of the electricity the Leaf uses is likely to come from power stations that pump out plenty of CO2. Youll also need to recharge the Leaf every 100 miles or so (more often if you work the motor or the air-conditioning hard), and this typically takes eight hours from a domestic socket, or 30 minutes if you use a quick-charge station.

The Leaf isnt much use if youve got to get from London to Edinburgh, then, but it does prove that electric cars can be both easy and good to drive. There are no gears to worry about and it doesnt suffer from the heavy braking effect that afflicts some battery cars as they maximise battery regeneration when you lift off the accelerator. Whats more, it feels well balanced in bends and extremely stable at speed.

The Leaf is easy to live with in other ways, too. You can use your smart phone to programme it to recharge when its convenient, or even to fire-up the air-conditioning, and theres plenty of space for five six-footers, and a decent-sized boot.
Vauxhall Astra 3dr/GTC
What is it? A three-door Astra with coup-like styling
Estimated pricefrom 14,500
On sale Winter 2011

No you're not looking at the replacement for the Astra Sport Hatch, but there are hints from Vauxhall that the real thing will be very similar to this stylish GTC concept car (seen at the Paris motor show a few months ago) when it goes on sale at the end of next year. Whats more, the production car is likely to keep the GTC name.

The concept was powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine with a start-stop system, and you can expect a similar combination in the flagship VXR model, which will pack around 300bhp.

The rest of the engines will come from the five-door hatch, and thats no bad thing because it means there will be a wide range of petrols and diesels to choose from. If the old Astra Sport Hatch is anything to go by, the GTC will cost the same as an equivalent five-door car.
In brief...
MG 6
What is it? MGs first all-new model in 15 years
Estimated pricefrom 15,000
On sale 2011
MG returns to Europe with its first all-new car since 1995. Indications from our test drive of an early test car were promising.
Renault Fluence
What is it? An all-electric four-seater
Estimated pricefrom 18,000 plus battery lease
On sale 2012
Renaults Fluence is an electric family saloon. Youll buy the car and lease the battery, which should make running it more affordable.
Seat Leon
What is it? Replacement for the Golf-based hatch
Estimated pricefrom 14,500
On sale Late 2011
The range is likely to include a three-door coup and a new version of the five-door. Styling will be influenced by the IB E concept car.
Vauxhall Ampera/Chevrolet Volt
What is it? An electric car with better range
Estimated pricefrom 25,000
On sale Mid 2012
When the Vauxhall Amperas batteries are flat, a small petrol engine kicks in and generates more electricity.

What's your most exciting car of 2011? Take part in our Car of the Year poll.