So, the big question: is the new Ford Focus the best family hatchback you can buy? Well, not if you want space, which is the Octavia’s forte, nor plushness, which is the Golf’s. But if you want the best handling and, maybe once we’ve sampled all the various options, the best riding car in the class, it almost certainly is.
And because it’s now very good in almost every other area, too, it can no longer be seen as a one-trick pony. Instead, it's a real contender for class honours.
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Best used family hatchbacks for less than £5000
If you're looking to buy used rather than new, and have a budget of £5000, it isn’t easy to work out which is the best family hatchback for you. Not because there aren’t many available, but because there are so many to choose from, it’s a wonder anyone knows where to start.
To give you a helping hand, we’ve scoured the classifieds and separated the wheat from the chaff to name the best cheap family cars out there.
10. Toyota Auris
It may be as bland as sandpaper, but the Auris is a worthy used car choice. For starters, it's one of the most reliable buys in this price bracket; what's more, it's well built and comfortable, even if it doesn't quite ride as well as its best rivals. It's also great value and there are plenty of petrol-powered examples around with low mileages and good histories that have been looked after by diligent owners. So if you can live without driving excitement, the Auris makes a lot of sense.
We found 2010 1.6 TR, 54,000 miles, £5000
9. Mazda 3
The Mazda 3 suffers from a firm ride and slightly claustrophobic back seats, but it is one of the most enjoyable family cars out there to drive. The body doesn’t lean over in corners and it grips very well, making it rewarding on a twisty road. A good-sized boot, a fairly economical range of engines and a solid reputation for reliability only add to the 3's appeal. Avoid the 1.6-litre diesel, though; it has a higher-than-usual incidence of injector issues.
We found 2010 1.6 Takuya, 83,000 miles, £4950
8. Audi A3
The previous Audi A3 isn’t such a class act as the latest model – it’s rather dull to drive, has a slightly fussy interior and costs quite a bit as a used purchase. If you want a practical hatchback with a premium badge, though, it still hits the spot. Diesels are the most popular and offer a great blend of efficiency and power, but petrol models are still reasonably widely available, although for this budget you can't stretch to the best petrol turbos and will have to make do with the 1.6 – although this unit is at least reliable.
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