17,500 - 22,000 part 1

* What Car?'s 'fun 50' * From a Fiat 500 to a Ferrari 458... * ...we've got all budgets covered...

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What Car? Staff
28 July 2011

17,500 - 22,000 part 1

10 Mazda 5
1.8 TS
Price 18,150
Target Price 16,564
Used from 12,395

Think an MPV cant be fun? Then youve obviously never spent time in a Mazda 5.
The 5 has always put driving dynamics high on its list of priorities, and the latest version is more engaging than ever, with nimble handling and responsive steering.

The pay-off for this is a slightly firm ride, but thats better than the kids being tossed about due to sloppy body control.

The 5s gaping front grille and unusual sculpted sides mean it doesnt look boring, and its just as appealing on the inside, thanks to sporty-looking circular air vents and cowled instruments.

True, the 5 isnt as practical as some rivals the centre middle-row seat is narrow and uncomfortable but all five rear seats fold flat, and sliding rear doors make it easy to get the kids in and out in tight spaces.

If youre after a car that combines functionality with fun, put the 5 on your list.

Mazda 5 review
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9 Alfa Romeo Giulietta
1.4 TB Multiair 170 Lusso
Price 20,005
Target Price 19,203
Used from 17,990

It's a long time since weve been able to recommend an Alfa Romeo for anything other than its looks. With the Giulietta, we can. Yes, its another gorgeously styled car, but it offers plenty more.

Alfas Multiair petrol engines are smooth, willing and sound as rorty as they should. This version provides strong performance, as long as you select dynamic mode. That setting also makes the steering as responsive as possible, so the Giulietta has a nimble, alert feel, yet it rides comfortably as well.

The cabin mirrors the exterior, with a design that balances retro and modern elements deliciously well. Rear space is below par, but that wont matter to you when youre driving.

Alfa Romeo Giulietta review
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8 Honda CR-Z
1.5 i-VTEC Sport
Price 18,735
Target Price 18,073
Used from 14,745

There are plenty of faster hybrid cars, but the only one in this list is Hondas CR-Z. Thats because none of the others are nearly as much fun. The CR-Z is all a small coup should be: great to look at, a hoot to drive and affordable to own.

It proves you dont need huge amounts of power or speed to have a giggle. The combined efforts of its 1.5-litre petrol engine and electric motor add up to only 124bhp, but they work so well together that it feels like more. The electric motor responds strongly at low revs and the petrol engine in classic Honda fashion is a sweet-revving unit that loves to be worked hard. Add a direct gearshift and sharp turn-in to corners and despite its green credentials the CR-Z feels like a proper little sports car.

Honda CR-Z review
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7 Skoda Yeti
1.8 TSI 160 4x4 SE
Price 20,485
Target Price 19,102
Used from 15,999

Part MPV, part estate, part 4x4 its no wonder the Yeti is as popular as tickets to next years Olympics. We usually recommend the 1.2 TSI model for its low list price and small running bills, but if fun rather than frugality is high on your list of priorities, this is the version for you.

The turbocharged 158bhp petrol engine gives straightline performance more akin to a hot hatch than a family runabout, and the Yeti doesnt disappoint in the bends. The chunky tyres have plenty of bite, the steering is quick and accurate, and theres surprisingly little body lean which all make driving quickly on a windy road really quite entertaining. Skodas crossover is surprisingly capable off-road, too.

Skoda Yeti review
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6 Skoda Octavia Estate
2.0 TFSI vRS
Price 21,370
Target Price 18,806
Used from 5900

Don't think of the Octavia vRS as a dull estate with a pokey engine and a few spoilers attached. Instead, view it as a super-sized Golf GTI and youll be on the money.

A 197bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged engine sits under the bonnet, linked to a snickety six-speed gearbox. The suspension is firm (but not too firm), and the interior has the odd adornment or two to let you know youre not in a taxi-spec Octavia.

Youll become even more aware that youre in the hot model as soon as you set off: the engine revs smoothly and cleanly, the car takes corners with genuine vigour and youll keep up with some much more overtly sporting machinery. Oh, and you can throw a gardens worth of rubbish into the huge boot for a seriously quick trip to the dump.

Skoda Octavia Estate review
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