Small family cars, part two

* The best upcoming models * Small family cars * Family cars...

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What Car? Staff
30 December 2008

Vauxhall Astra
Price from 13,000 (est)
On sale Winter
Whats great? Likely agile drive; classy cabin; refinement

The latest version of the Astra has an awful lot to live up to: not only must it continue Vauxhalls Insignia-inspired transformation, but it must also match and eclipse the recent launches of arch-rivals, including the Ford Focus, Renault Megane and Volkswagen Golf.

Although there are no official pictures yet, our computer-generated image shows that styling will follow the Insignias. Early photos show the front end takes after the larger family cars.

Likewise, the Astras cabin quality is likely to take a huge step forward, with innovations such as digital dash readouts and an electronic parking brake.

Other optional extras are likely to include an adaptive lighting system and a special camera that recognises speed limit and no-overtaking road signs.

The engine line-up will probably feature a broad line-up of petrols and diesels, starting with a 1.4 turbocharged petrol. Direct-injection technology, in conjunction with fuel-saving systems, will increase power outputs but lower emissions.

An estate will go on sale shortly after the launch of the five-door, with a three-door Sport Hatch likely after that. A Twintop coupe-cabriolet and a 250bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol VXR model may follow later.

Renault Megane
Price from 14,495 (Sports Coupe), 14,200 (Sport Tourer), 20,000 (Renaultsport)
On sale January (Sports Coupe), summer (Sport Tourer and Renaultsport)
Whats great? Quality cabin; engaging drive, reasonable price

The hatchback is already on sale, but the three-door Sports Coupe, Sport Tourer estate and Renaultsport models arrive in 2009.

The coupe sits on a chassis 12mm lower than the hatch and has sportier handling.

Power is supplied by 1.6-litre (110bhp) or 2.0 turbo (180bhp) petrol engines, or two 1.5 (86bhp and 106bhp) diesels and a 1.9 (130bhp) diesel.

There are three trims. Standard kit includes climate, stability and traction controls, six airbags, alloy wheels, heated mirrors and four electric windows.

The estate will cost about 1200 more than the five-door hatch, while the Renaultsport is expected to have a 20,000 price tag.

Toyota Prius
Price 18,000 (est)
On sale Autumn
Whats great? Green credentials; decent performance
That icon of environmental motoring, the Toyota Prius, is going to be greener and meaner than ever before.

Although full details have yet to be confirmed, early indications suggest the new car has a smoother, more aggressive look.

A larger-capacity 1.8-litre petrol engine should make the Prius faster. Combining this with its electric motor, the new car should be capable of more than 70mpg on average, while emissions should be below 90g/km.

Thats 10-20% better than the old Prius, which will make the new model the cleanest small family car on sale.

The old nickel hydride battery will still be used, but there could be a switch to more powerful lithium-ion batteries in 2010 if they prove reliable. They would boost electric power and be lighter and easier to position.

Mazda 3
Price from 12,000 (est)
On sale April
Whats great? Volkswagen Golf rival receives a thorough overhaul

Considering one in three Mazdas sold around the world is a 3, you can bet the company has put a lot of hard work into its updated car.

Mazda promises the new 3 will be more refined and sportier, but with top-drawer economy. Much of that will be down to improvements in conventional engine technology, but a stop-start system will also be introduced.

The interior will be more distinctive, with a striking centre console and funkier switches.

Mazda engineers have also developed an all-new 2.0-litre direct-injection petrol engine with around 150bhp, as well as a new 2.2 turbodiesel with either 123, 161, or 182bhp.

A hot MPS version of the car is thought to be arriving a few months after the other models in the range. Expect about 260bhp from its 2.5-litre engine.

Peugeot 3008
Price (est) 14,000
On sale Late 2009
Whats great? Decent price; versatile
MPV practicality with
a hint of 4x4 styling
much like its larger cousin, the 4007.

Hyundai i30 Blue
Price from 13,155
On sale Early 2009
Whats great? More efficient all round
Sub-120g/km CO2 emissions mean low road tax bills and
strong fuel economy.

Kia Ceed Idle Stop and Go
Price (est) 13,000
On sale Early 2009
Whats great? Fuel-efficiency is the goal
Stop and Go produces less than 120g/km of CO2 and almost 60mpg.

Seat Leon
Price (est) 15,000
On sale Summer
Whats great? New efficient 1.4 engine
Turbocharged and supercharged 1.4 petrol engine expected to be added to the range.

Skoda Octavia
Price (est) 12,000
On sale January
Whats great? New engines DSG option
Like the 1.8T, the new 1.4 TSI engine can be linked to a seven-speed DSG gearbox.

Subaru Impreza
Price (est) 16,000
On sale January
Whats great? New diesel boxer engine
This engine is a peach it gives out 148bhp, while emitting only 152g/km of CO2.

Toyota Auris
Price (est) 14,000
On sale Mid-2009
Whats great? Stop-start technology
Stop-start mated to a 98bhp 1.33-litre petrol results in emissions below 120g/km of CO2.