25,000 - 30, 000 - part 1
* The best 71 new cars revealed * From 7000 to 264,000 * Eight price brackets included...
BMW Z4 sDrive 23i
Target Price 27,795
The old Z4 was a good car; the new one is much, much better.
Even this, the entry-level sDrive 23i, is seriously quick. It hits 60mph in just 6.6 seconds, its vivid acceleration accompanied by a snarling six-cylinder soundtrack. In fact, it sounds so good that you'll be slowing down just to gun the engine all over again.
As in most modern BMWs, the performance doesn't come with punishing fuel bills. Average fuel economy of 33.2mpg is more than respectable for such a quick car.
However good the engine is, though, it has to play second fiddle to the brilliant chassis. The tyres hold the road and refuse to let go, and there's a fluency to the way the Z4 tackles corners that few rivals can match. A little more feedback from the steering wouldn't go amiss, but we're nit-picking, really.
For such a sporting car, ride comfort is impressive. Even if you're not in the mood to press on, the Z4 is easy to live with.
The folding metal hard-top helps, too. Unlike with the old Z4, buyers don't have to choose between a cabriolet and a coup the new model is effectively both at once.
If you're shopping for a sports car that's ready to bruise or cruise, this is it.
Audi TT 2.0 TFSI
Target Price 23,533
The Audi TT rules the coup roost, and with good reason. Just look at it you could pay two or three times as much for a coup and it still wouldn't match the TT's style or presence.
There's no need to buy a range-topping model, either you get all that's great about the Audi if you go for the front-wheel-drive 2.0 TFSI. The handling is sensational, too: the car is agile, precise and rewarding. The turbocharged 197bhp engine means the Audi isn't short of performance, either.
The cabin's as attractive as the exterior, too, so it's no wonder the TT is our favourite coup.
Audi A5 2.0 TFSI Cabriolet
Target Price 27,798
Audi has really got the hang of making convertibles that are as practical as they are good looking. The A5 Cabriolet is a prime example. The styling is sharp and modern, yet inside there's a practical cabin with space for four people. Even the boot is a healthy size.
The 2.0-litre TFSI model is our pick for strong performance with good economy.
BMW 320d ES
Target Price 23,004
The BMW 320d is so good that looking for faults in this car is simply being petty.
If pushed, we'd say that the 3 Series would benefit from more rear-seat space and a more supple low-speed ride. Otherwise, it's very good or excellent in just about every way.
The BMW corners better than many sports cars, while the 2.0-litre diesel version mixes hot-hatch performance with the fuel economy of a supermini. The cabin is well built, resale values are strong, and low emissions mean modest tax bills for company car drivers.
If there's a better all-rounder for 25k, we haven't driven it.
BMW 520d SE
Target Price 24,715
Don't buy an executive car until you've test driven one of these. It ticks more boxes than just about anything else.
The star of the show is the 2.0-litre diesel engine. It's so efficient that this big saloon emits just 136g/km of CO2. Plenty of small hatches will struggle to match that figure.
Don't think this is some underpowered economy special 0-60mph takes just 8.3 seconds, which is hardly hanging about.
The 5 Series is as happy on twisty roads as it is on the motorway, there's plenty of room inside and it has a practical boot. If it wasn't for the might of the Jaguar XF, this would be our favourite exec.