The Vauxhall Astra is a good all-rounder that's sharply styled and easy to live with. It's safe and composed with good road manners while there's a wide range of strong diesel and petrol engines. The interior is well finished too with good quality materials.
The Kia Rio still has plenty of appealing features, including a high-quality cabin, seven-year warranty and a comfortable ride. Kia is planning to release a new 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol soon, which will bring it more in line with the Fiesta 1.0 Ecoboost.
Nissan Qashqai 1.6  N-Tec 5dr The Nissan Qashqai is considered to be the original SUV/hatchback crossover. Combining the higher driving position, rugged looks and flexibility of an SUV with the smaller dimensions and lower running costs of a family hatchback, the Qashqai launched in 2007 – which is why you can expect to see an all-new model in 2014. It was given some nips and tucks in 2010 to keep pace with the avalanche of rivals that have followed it into the market, but the original bold styling is still pride of place. Likewise, it has remained extremely popular with buyers, even in the face of that greatly increased competition – and it’s easy to see why. The Qashqai’s USP is superior build quality and high levels of comfort and equipment at an affordable price. So, it’s cheaper to buy than the more “upmarket” Volkswagen Tiguan, but is just as fun to drive.
With bold looks, the Renault Clio Dynamique MediaNav is one of the class leaders. It’s fun to drive, but the cheaply trimmed interior already looks dated in some areas, despite having lots of kit. The engines are efficient.
The Fiat Tipo comes as a compact hatch or SW estate, and it's easy to drive, offers decent space and is good value for money The Fiat Tipo is a well-rounded budget hatch. Although it's not as big as a Skoda Rapid for ultimate boot space, it offers more than enough practicality for most situations, while the strong engine and comfortable chassis make it an acceptable family five-door to live with. However, it’s the Fiat’s thrifty running costs that seal the deal.