Our cars of the year
As new-car buyers prepare to make their final choices before the 141-registered fleet arrives, next month, the Motors team pick their favourites in each category, from city runaround to aspirational supercar
OUR FAVOURITE: HYUNDAI I10
All superminis have relatively boxy styling but this one at least tries to soften the lines. It’s a big car in the metal and the interior is surprisingly good; behind the wheel it feels like a larger – and more expensive – family hatchback. There’s a good specification package on the mid-level model. It also drives surprisingly well. Hyundai’s five-year unlimited mileage warranty offer is a further lure, and the overall package will allow supermini owners to downsize their budgets without having to sacrifice in terms of space or refinement.
Best buy: 1.1-litre Deluxe (€13,495)
TWO TO TEST
VW Up! 5-dr Move Up! 1-litre 75bhp petrol (€13,960) Another Tardis-like city car offering room for four adults and a strong resale value, given the VW badge.
Skoda Citigo 5-dr 1.0 Ambition (€11,675) Best-value city car – and the Skoda badge is really the only difference between it and the Volkswagen.
OUR FAVOURITE: FORD FIESTA
The usual strong Ford traits of sharp steering and a balanced chassis are joined in the Fiesta by handsome looks (which owe more than a small debt to Aston Martin) and a terrific new family of engines in the shape of the 1.0-litre, three-cylinder EcoBoost lineup. Turbo’d 100hp version is the best, but the standard 65hp version is just fine too. The scorching 180hp ST version is the most fun hot hatch around at the moment. Price tag looks a little high compared to some rivals, but high-quality cabin compensates.
Best buy: 1.0 65ps Zetec (€16,650)
TWO TO TEST:
Peugeot 208 1.2 VTI 82hp Access (€15,775) Chic looks and an agile chassis married to a surprisingly powerful engine and high-quality cabin.
Dacia Sandero 1.2 16v 75hp Alternative (€9,990) It’s as basic as motoring gets, but for what you pay it’s not half bad. Surprisingly comfortable and refined.
OUR FAVOURITE: VOLKSWAGEN GOLF
What more can be said about the Golf? It has come so far from the light, simple, angular Giugiaro Mk1, yet it has stayed as close as possible to the core values of that original. The VW badge is vastly more aspirational than once it was, and the Golf’s levels of sophistication have kept pace. The Golf is all about democratising brilliance; honestly, to get a car with a comfier, more refined and higher quality cabin than this, you’re going to have to trade up to a Mercedes. 1.6 TDI diesel is the core engine and is exceptionally economical and tax-friendly, but don’t discount the smooth, revvy and very frugal 1.2 TSI petrol, which saves you €2,000 over an equivalent diesel.
Best buy: 1.6 TDI 105hp Trendline 5-door (€24,395)
TWO TO TEST:
Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC ES (€25,095) A little pricey, and the looks won’t please all, but a terrific diesel engine, good to drive and off-the-clock levels of quality and reliability.
Ford Focus 1.0 Ecoboost 100hp Zetec (€23,385) The Focus is still one of the best-selling cars around and it’s not hard to see why. 1.0 EcoBoost is sweet but needs effort to get diesel-like economy. Great driving experience.
OUR FAVOURITE: MAZDA 6
Although it is a touch pricey – unlike most rivals, it lacks a lower-priced entry-level 1.6-litre version so far – the big Mazda has an awful lot going for it. Chief amongst those attributes is a sense of style; with its sweeping, voluptuous lines, the 6 could almost pass for a Maserati. That’s not reflected in the slightly dour, black cabin but the quality levels are unimpeachable and there’s excellent space, especially in the back. Aside from some slightly odd steering weighting, there’s lots of good stuff on the dynamic front, too, and the 6 sits stable and secure at high cruising speeds. The 2.2-litre diesel is refined and has lots of grunt but has to be driven carefully if you’re to get anywhere near Mazda’s fuel economy claims.
Best buy: 2.2D 150ps Executive four-door (€29,495)
TWO TO TEST
Ford Mondeo 1.6 TDCI 115ps Graphite (€26,020) It may be on the cusp of being replaced, but the Mondeo is still a class act. The 1.6 is a little short on power but it’s very economical.
Hyundai i40 1.7 CRDI Executive Tourer (€28,995) Best experienced as an estate, Hyundai’s family car is smooth, spacious and tremendously frugal. Five-year unlimited mileage warranty doesn’t hurt, either.
OUR FAVOURITE: FORD B-MAX
While it can’t quite match the style of the Fiesta it’s based on, that’s the price for increased practicality. The B-Max’s massive sliding rear doors, which do away with a central pillar, mean you get terrific access to the rear of the car (and MPVs are ultimately all about the rear seats, aren’t they?) and it’s especially brilliant in tight car parks. Sadly, the brilliant little 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol version has dropped from the price list, so you’ll have to go for the somewhat underwhelming 1.5 TDCI diesel. The new five-year warranty should compensate for that, though.
Best buy: 1.5 TDCI 75ps Titanium (€21,995)
TWO TO TEST:
Opel Meriva 1.3 CDTI 95ps SC (€20,995) It’s the cheapest Meriva and those rear-hinged doors are great for loading and unloading kids. The diesel engine disappoints but there’s a new 1.6 on the way.
Citroen C3 Picasso 1.6HDi 16v 90hp VTR+ (€21,295) At last, a junior MPV with a bit of style. The cabin is a bit messy in its layout but it’s comfy and surprisingly good to drive.
OUR FAVOURITE: CITROËN C4 PICASSO
An MPV is really all about its interior. How spacious, how comfy, how good to travel in. And that’s what makes the new C4 Picasso so good – honestly, the only car with a better interior that we can think of is the Range Rover, which costs five times as much. Quite apart from the whizz-bang digital displays which take care of the instrumentation, there’s lots of space and it’s very comfy and refined. It’s not very dynamic to drive, but it’s better and more sure-footed than you might think. Seven-seat version arrives just in time for the 141 plate.
Best buy: 1.6 e-HDI 115hp VTR+ (€26,995)
TWO TO TEST:
Toyota Verso 2.0 D4D 125hp Aura (€28,450) Built tough to survive the rigours of family life, and that 2.0-litre engine is very economical. Recent updates have really lifted the cabin quality and ambience, too.
Kia Carens 1.7 CRDI EX (€27,790) Feels big, which makes the lack of space in the third row rather puzzling, but it’s good to drive and solidly made, and you can’t argue with the seven-year warranty.