What we were looking for
The best superminis are easy on the pocket, but don't leave you feeling short-changed in any area. They're nimble and fun, but also comfortable and roomy.
WINNER Vauxhall Corsa 1.4 Club air-con 5dr
List price £11,055
Target Price £10,052
Last year's overall Car of the Year remains our top supermini. The Corsa faced a strong challenge from the Renault Clio and its brilliant new 1.2 TCE engine. However, the Vauxhall's ability to blend small-car costs with big-car ability is enough to seal victory again.
The Corsa is so accomplished that it makes you question whether it's worth spending more money on a car from the class above. For a start, it's impressively roomy - four people can sit comfortably.
The boot is large and practical, too, with a clever removable floor that allows you to choose between outright space and a flatter load area when the rear seats are folded.
The impression that you're in a larger, pricier car is enhanced by the quality of the fixtures and fittings that surround you. The materials are classy and the cabin is solidly assembled. Then there's the smart design and well-weighted controls.
All of these aspects combine to give the Corsa's cabin an air of sophistication that most superminis lack.
Plenty of adjustment for the seat and steering wheel make it easy to get comfortable, and the controls are simple and well placed.
The way the Corsa drives reinforces its sense of maturity, too. Around town, it's as sprightly and effortless as a supermini should be, aided by its light, responsive steering and a crisp gearshift.
The suspension does a better job than most of cushioning you from lumps and bumps, yet it also keeps body movement well controlled, so the Corsa is unfazed by twistier, more demanding roads.
On longer trips, you're just as likely to be bowled over by the Corsa's impressive refinement. Road and wind noise are subdued, so motorway slogs are less draining than they would be in some of its rivals.
The 89bhp 1.4-litre petrol is our pick of the Corsa's wide range of engines. It offers a good balance of lively pace and sensible running costs, and it remains smooth and quiet even when worked hard.
It's frugal and clean, too, with 47.9mpg and CO2 emissions of just 142g/km. With figures like these, who needs a diesel?
At just over £11,000, our chosen model isn't exactly cheap, but discounts of around £1000 are easy to come by and it's well equipped.
Standard equipment includes air-conditioning, electric front windows, electric door mirrors and six airbags, while desirable options such as alloy wheels and automatic headlights and wipers are keenly priced.
Fiat 500 1.2 Pop
List price £7900
Target Price £7807
£7500 - £10,000
Suzuki Swift 1.5 GLX 5dr
List price £9199
Target Price £8522