Supermini contenders

* 17 categories of awards * All the winning models featured here * What Car? Car of the Year 2011 revealed...

Supermini contenders

What Car? Awards 2012 website

Best buy less than 9000
Hyundai i10 1.2 Comfort
List price 8520
Target Price 8145

The scrappage scheme is a distant memory, but there are still plenty of reasons for car buyers with limited funds to be cheerful.

Chief among them is our favourite budget-price supermini, the Hyundai i10.

The 1.2 Comfort model costs less than 9000, but leaves you anything but short-changed.

The perky 1.2-litre petrol engine is a gem its smooth, eager to rev and has reasonable pace.

It also returns more than 56mpg and, because it emits just 119g/km of CO2, you dont pay road tax for the first year of ownership.

The i10 is good to drive, too, with decent ride and handling. The gearshift is so slick it could grace a hot hatch. The cabin is solid and simple, and theres just enough space for four.

What sets the i10 apart, though, is its value for money. Our model has air-conditioning, alloy wheels, an auxiliary input socket, four electric windows and four airbags. A five-year, unlimited-mileage warranty is standard.

As good as competitors such as the Toyota Aygo, Citron C1 and Peugeot 107 are, they cant match the i10 for all-round appeal.

Hyundai i10 review

0-62mph 12.8 seconds Top speed 102mph
Running costs
Economy 56.5mpg CO2 119mph/km
Insurance group 11
Best buy 9000-13,000
Ford Fiesta 1.25 82 Zetec 5dr
List price 12,795
Target Price 11,588

The Ford Fiesta proves that you dont need to spend a lot of money to have a big feel-good factor. Thats partly due to the way it drives.

For a small car it has excellent refinement, sharp handling and impeccable composure at speed. Responsive, well-weighted steering and a slick gearshift add to its mature character.

The 1.25 petrol engine helps, too. It produces only 80bhp, but its so smooth and willing that working it hard is a pleasure.

Subtle tweaks to the range have elevated the Fiesta back to the top of its class. It costs around 1300 less across the range compared to this time last year.

Thanks to those price cuts, we can recommend this Zetec model, which now comes with stability control as standard, along with air-conditioning, alloy wheels and smart interior and exterior trim.

Last years winner, the Volkswagen Polo, ran the Fiesta very close. Its a brilliant little car, with a classy cabin, refined road manners and a very desirable image.

Our favourite model falls into a higher price bracket, though, and it still cant make you smile like the Fiesta.

Ford Fiesta review

0-62mph 13.3 seconds Top speed 104mph
Running costs
Economy 49.6 CO2 129g/km
Insurance group 6
Best buy more than 13,000
Audi A1 1.4 TFSI Sport
List price 15,670
Target Price 15,670

This time last year, users voted the Audi A1 the most exciting new car due in 2010. It has more than lived up to expectations.

It makes owning a new Audi possible for those who previously couldnt afford it, but with no sacrifice in quality or engineering.

Go for the 1.4 TFSI model and you get a blend of strong performance but miserly fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. The A1 is fun, too.

Sport models live up to their name, with steering and handling that are a match for much pricier, performance-oriented cars.

Inside, the A1 comes close to matching Audis larger saloons for quality, with first-rate materials and an attractive, TT-inspired design. Its also practical enough for four, even if the boot is on the small side.

Undoubtedly, there are some people who will prefer the image of the A1s key rival, the Mini, and if you need extra practicality, a five-door Volkswagen Polo is by far your best bet in this price range. Until the introduction of the five-door A1 Sportback later this year, of course.

Audi A1 review

0-62mph 8.9 seconds Top speed 126mph
Running costs
Economy 53.3mpg CO2 124g/km
Insurance group 15
Tester's view
For me this is the toughest class of the whole awards. Not only because there are more cars in it 47 than in any other, but because a great supermini needs to be good at pretty much everything. It needs to be practical, cheap to run, good to drive, comfortable, well equipped and well built. Oh, and it needs to be decent value for money.

Im always amazed when I think what you can get for less than 8000 if you sacrifice a bit of sophistication.

Step up in price and theres some serious quality on show in the shape of last years winner, the Volkswagen Polo, and the new Audi A1.

When I first drove the A1, I was amazed by how grown-up it felt. Its pricey, but value for money is about more than cash. Just as important, the A1 holds on to its worth better than any other supermini.
Will Nightingale Consumer reporter