Small family cars - 1

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What Car? Staff
28 December 2009

Ford Focus (artist's impression)
Price from 17,500 (est)
On sale Mid 2010
What is it? Third-generation Focus plans to be a 'global' winner

Ford is gearing up to replace Britain's biggest-selling car. Our computer-generated image shows what the all-new Focus may look like. Similarities with the current Fiesta are clear, but the Iosis Max concept car shown at the Geneva motor show earlier in the year will also be a big influence.

The third-generation Focus will be built on a new platform shared with the next C-Max. Rumour has it a battery-powered version called the RV will also be offered.

Unlike previous models, the next Focus will be a global car meaning only minor changes will be made to models sold in different world markets. The idea is part of chief executive officer Alan Mulally's 'One Ford' strategy, which is designed to cut costs.

What car? says
'The new Focus will undoubtedly be the most important launch of 2010. If Ford can get the price right, it should give VW's Golf a real run for its money.'
Will Nightingale
Consumer reporter
While that might help Ford to save money, the company's recent policy of hiking prices every few months means that a Focus will now cost you more than a Volkswagen Golf, and that simply isn't going to wash with Britain's car buyers for long.

We'd be surprised if the Focus isn't one of the best-driving cars in the class Ford has proved it can develop cars for UK roads better than just about anyone else, but it will need to offer more than this to justify the increasingly high list price.

Top priorities to topple the VW Golf would be a bit of added refinement, some more equipment for the cash and better plastics in the cabin.

Nissan Leaf
Price from 25,000 (est)
On sale Mid 2011
What is it? The world's first affordable family electric car? Nissan hopes so

Nissan reckons this ordinary-looking hatchback will be the world's first affordable family electric vehicle (EV). The first Leaf goes on sale in Japan in less than a year, and we Brits will be getting it around 12 months later.

We tried out the Leaf's electric drivetrain in a pre-production car last October and were impressed with the smooth power delivery. The production car is expected to have a top speed of 90mph and a range of 100 miles.

A full recharge from a domestic socket takes up to 16 hours, but special fast-charging stations can top up the battery to 80% in just 30 minutes. Nissan is talking to various countries about a global charging network, and it's expected the British Government will shortly announce plans to build charging hubs in six major cities from early next year.

Volvo C30/V30
Price from 14,495
On sale January
What is it? The C30 has a sporty new look but it comes at a price

Volvo's C30 has always struggled with a mixed-up identity. It's never been sporty enough to call itself a proper coup, but with only three doors and four seats, it's hardly a practical family hatchback, either.

A few mid-life updates could help. The restyled front end is sleeker and sportier, while R-Design models (which account for 80% of C30s bought in the UK) will be fitted with a new sport chassis as standard it features lowered suspension and revisions to the steering.

The changes come at a price, however, with most editions costing between 250 and 750 more than the pre-face-lift model.

Rumour has it a sporty five-door estate version probably called the V30 will also be launched later in the year.

Vauxhall Ampera/Chevrolet Volt
Price from 25,000 (est)
On sale Mid 2012
What is it? An electric car with better range

The biggest drawback to electric cars is their limited range. Even the best can manage only around a hundred miles on a charge, then they need to be plugged in for several hours before you can get going again.

GM has a solution. The Chevrolet Volt (set to first go on sale in the USA towards the end of 2011) runs on battery power like any other electric car. It can do 37 miles on a charge and hit 100mph. The difference is that when the batteries are flat, a small petrol engine kicks in, generating electricity to continue to power the electric motor. That increases the car's range to at least 300 miles.

The Vauxhall Ampera is the UK version. It's essentially the same vehicle, but with styling aimed at European tastes.

Seat Leon Ecomotive
Price from 17,000 (est)
On sale 2010
What is it? An eco version of the current car

Looking just like the current model, this economical diesel variant promises 74mpg and CO2 emissions of just 99g/km, making it exempt from road tax under current rules. It makes use of regenerative braking and stop-start engine technology to eke out every drop of fuel.

Toyota Auris Hybrid
Price from 17,500 (est)
On sale Late 2010
What is it? Petrol-electric variant of the Auris

The Prius's little brother uses the same petrol-electric drivetrain to slash emissions and boost fuel economy. Expect CO2 output to be less than 100g/km. It'll also come with the revised front-end styling of the new Auris range, with different headlights, bonnet and grille.

Also on the way...
What and cars coming your way in 2010
Audi A3 1.2 petrol - (pictured)
VW Golf Estate
VW Jetta
Fiat Bravo face-lift
Hyundai i30 range review