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Used test: Hyundai i30 vs Mazda 3 vs Skoda Octavia interiors

Fancy a family car for just £8000? Buying used can put one of these three on your driveway for a fraction of the price of a new one. But which is the best of the lot?...

Hyundai i30 - interior

Interiors

Driving position, visibility, build quality, practicality

If you want maximum space for your money, get the Octavia. It’s the longest of our trio by a country mile, so even tall adults sitting in the back will have plenty of room to kick back. You will fit in the back of the other two if you’re 6ft tall, but you won’t relish a long journey. The 3’s sombre interior and small side windows make it feel the most claustrophobic, although it actually has fractionally more leg room than the Hyundai.

It’s a clear win for the Octavia when it comes to boot space, too. Its load area is more than 25cm longer than the 3's and 33cm longer than the i30's; this makes a huge difference when you’re trying to slot in a bulky pushchair or take all your garden rubbish to the tip in one go. There isn’t much in it for boot width, but the Skoda’s is tallest and the Mazda’s shallowest.

New Hyundai i30 & Skoda Octavia vs Mazda 3

All of these cars have 60/40 split-folding rear seats as standard, but dropping their backrests is easiest in the i30 if you have a car with the optional release handles conveniently mounted just inside the boot entrance. Otherwise, you have to push buttons next to the rear head restraints and haul the seatbacks down the old way – like you have to in the i30 and 3.

Getting comfy behind the wheel isn’t tricky in any of our contenders. All have plenty of adjustment in their driver’s seats to cater for different shapes and sizes, along with adjustable lumbar support to stop you slouching. You might wish the steering wheel dropped a little lower in the Octavia, but it certainly has the classiest interior of our trio; its wheel rim is covered in soft, fine-grain leather and nearly all of the dash feels reassuringly squidgy.

New Hyundai i30 & Skoda Octavia vs Mazda 3

There aren’t as many soft-touch materials in the i30, although everything is pleasantly textured and feels suitably solid. Sadly, that isn’t the case inside the 3; it’s disappointingly low-rent, with cheaper-feeling and flimsier plastics the order of the day throughout.

When it comes to the infotainment systems, the i30's 8.0in touchscreen is logical and quick to respond when you prod it. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto came as standard, letting you mirror your phone’s display on the car’s screen, and you can even charge your phone wirelessly if it supports inductive charging. It’s just a shame the screen isn’t slightly angled towards the driver, and the stereo’s sound quality isn’t great.

Mazda 3 Fastback

The 3's screen is smaller than those of its rivals, at 7.0in, and the graphics could be sharper. However, although the Mazda’s screen can be controlled by pressing it, there’s also a separate rotary dial controller between the front seats that’s easier to use when you’re driving. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto weren’t available, though, and sound quality isn’t as good as you might expect from the standard Bose stereo.

As for the Octavia, SE L trim gets you an 8.0in Amundsen touchscreen. The pictured 9.2in Columbus version on our test car cost an extra £1050 from new, so it's unlikely to be an option many took up. Either way, you’ll have no issues getting to grips with the interface, and the system responds snappily when you press the screen. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto were standard, and there’s even a wi-fi hotspot.