Ford Focus

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An updated Ford Focus is set to be one of the creams of the automotive crop in 2014, with the most popular small family car receiving a new exterior, interior, technologies and fuel economy improvements.

The current generation model is priced from £13,995 and is available in the following trim levels: Studio, Edge, Zetec and Titanium. The 2014 model range is expected to be priced around the same as the outgoing models, with trim levels also expected to be carried over.

Ford’s new Focus model will be the first vehicle in Europe to offer SYNC 2, the company’s advanced in-car connectivity system. Ford SYNC 2 features a high-resolution eight-inch colour touch-screen and advanced voice control.

Models will also feature retuned Electric Power Assist Steering, Perpendicular Parking technology, Active Park Assist, Ford MyKey and Adaptive Cruise Control.

Standard equipment on current models includes air conditioning, alloy wheels, radio/CD player, USB connection and remote central locking.

Moving up the trim levels bring additional features such as front fog lamps, Ford SYNC with Emergency Assistance, Bluetooth, sports style front seats, DAB radio, leather-trimmed steering wheel, larger alloys, dual-zone climate control, cruise control and rain-sensing windscreen wipers.

Numerous petrol and diesel engines are available to power the Ford Focus, including the award-winning 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol, the new 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol and the new 1.5-litre TDCi diesel.

The new Ford Focus Electric will also be released in 2014, which offers customers zero-emissions driving.

Our choice of model is the Ford Focus 1.0L EcoBoost 99bhp five-speed manual, which is the first non-hybrid petrol family car in Europe to offer sub-100g/km CO2 emissions (99g/km).

VW Golf

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The Volkswagen Golf is one of the most popular small family cars of all time. Now in its seventh generation, the VW Golf has won the prestigious World Car of the Year Award twice, with the model the current holder of the title.

Priced from £16,775, the VW Golf is available in four trim levels: S, SE, BlueMotion and GT. Models are available in three- and five-door body styles.

Standard equipment is plentiful, with entry-levels models featuring air conditioning, Bluetooth, ESC, ABS, numerous airbags (including curtain airbags), Start/Stop function and a media system which features a 5.8-inch colour touch-screen, DAB radio, SD card reader, eight speakers and MP3 playback.

Depending on the specific model chosen, higher trim levels add features such as alloy wheels, sports suspension, rear roof spoiler, twin exhaust tailpipe, leather-trimmed multifunction steering wheel and gear knob, cruise control, front fog lights, sat-nav and front and rear parking sensors.

A range of petrol and diesel engines are available to power the VW Golf. The petrol line-up consists of the 1.2-litre TSI and the 1.4-litre TSI, with some units able to be specified with a seven-speed DSG transmission.

The diesel engine range comprises the 1.6-litre TDI and the 2.0-litre TDI units, with numerous transmissions, including the seven-speed DSG ‘box, available.

CO2 emissions produced by the Golf range from 85g/km to 123g/km, with average fuel economy ranging from 53.3mpg to 88.3mpg.

Our choice of model is the VW Golf 1.6 TDI BlueMotion, which is a frugal runner, well equipped and falls under the VED tax band ‘A’.

Vauxhall Astra

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Hot on the heels of the Ford Focus in the UK car market is the Vauxhall Astra, which is priced from £12,995.

The Vauxhall Astra is available in a plethora of trim levels, which are: Expression, Design, Tech Line, Tech Line GT, Excite, Limited Edition, SRi and Excite.

Standard equipment across the Vauxhall Astra range includes air conditioning, CD player with MP3 format/stereo radio, aux-in socket, driver’s seat height adjuster, ESP, remote central locking and numerous airbags – including full-size curtain airbags.

Moving up the range brings desirable features such as alloy wheels, cruise control, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, sat-nav system with seven-inch colour monitor, USB connection with iPod control, Bluetooth, leather-covered sports steering wheel, sports front seats and sports suspension.

Engine sizes for the Astra range from 1.3-litres to 2.0-litres, with petrol and diesel options available. The engine line-up now includes Vauxhall’s new 1.6-litre CDTi ‘whisper diesel’ unit – the company’s cleanest ever mid-size diesel.

Depending on the model chosen, the Vauxhall Astra will emit between 97g/km and 159g/km of CO2 emissions, with the most frugal engine being the new 109bhp 1.6 CDTi unit, returning average fuel economy of 76.3mpg.

With sub-100g/km CO2 emissions, high fuel economy and a good standard of kit, our pick of the range is the Vauxhall Astra 1.6 CDTi 109bhp ecoFLEX Tech Line S/S.

SEAT Leon

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The third-generation SEAT Leon has received plaudits UK-wide, with the small family car packed full of advanced technology and offering a good drive.

SEAT’s five-door hatchback version of the Leon is priced from £15,850 and is available in the following trim levels: S, SE and FR.

All models come packed with equipment, with even entry-level S versions featuring a host of advanced media technology.

Standard kit includes air conditioning, daytime running lights, numerous airbags, ESC with EBA, steering wheel-mounted audio & phone controls, electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors and a media system.

The media system comprises a five-inch colour touch-screen, MP3-compatible CD player, aux-in and USB ports, SD card slot, Bluetooth and six speakers.

The upgraded Leon models come with additional features such as alloy wheels, leather steering wheel and gear knob, front fog lights with cornering function, cruise control, Hill hold control, LED taillights, twin exhaust pipe, front sports seats, sports suspension, SEAT Drive Profile and front and rear parking sensors.

A range of petrol and diesel engines are available for the SEAT Leon 5DR, with sizes ranging from 1.2-litres to 2.0-litres.

Depending on the version chosen, the Leon five-door will emit between 87g/km and 137g/km, which places the hatchback in a VED tax band between ‘A’ and ‘E’. In addition, the SEAT Leon returns average fuel economy between 47.1mpg and 85.6mpg.

With the best CO2 emissions and fuel economy figures, not to mention a high standard of equipment, we suggest the SEAT Leon 5DR 1.6 TDI Ecomotive SE version.

Skoda Octavia

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The award-winning Skoda Octavia is one of the models pushing the Czech manufacturer to higher and higher sales and market share figures in the UK.

Priced from £16,310, the Octavia Hatch offers a good level of equipment, along with a frugal and pleasant drive.

Skoda’s popular Octavia Hatch is available in S, SE, SE Business, GreenLine III and Elegance trim levels, with the SE Business specification recently added to appeal to company car drivers.

Standard equipment across the range includes 16-inch alloy wheels, DAB radio, touch-screen infotainment system, keyless entry, Lane Assistant, Intelligent Parking, leather steering wheel, daytime running lights, Bluetooth, air conditioning and much more.

Additional features on upgraded models include height-adjustable driver and passenger seats, front fog lights, rear parking sensors, dual-zone air conditioning, Alcantara/leather upholstery, multi-function steering wheel, larger alloys, sat-nav and cruise control.

Engines sizes available range from 1.2-litres to 2.0-litres, with both petrol and diesel versions offered. CO2 emissions range from 85g/km to 121g/km, placing the model in a VED tax band between ‘A’ and ‘D’.

The most frugal runner is the Skoda Octavia Hatch 1.6 TDI CR 109bhp DPF, which is our choice of the range. This version of the Octavia offers a good standard of equipment, emits just 85g/km of CO2 and returns average fuel economy of 88.3mpg.

Vauxhall Insignia

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The latest-generation Vauxhall Insignia is a sleek and well-built model, now featuring more technology and a simplified trim range.

Priced from £16,279, the new Vauxhall Insignia costs nearly £2,000 less than its predecessor. The model is available in eight trim levels, ranging from Design to Elite, with versions appealing to both retail and fleet buyers.

Standard equipment is extensive, with all models receiving climate control, cruise control, DMB digital radio, Bluetooth connectivity, USB connection and aux-in socket, CD/MP3 player and stereo radio, leather-covered steering wheel, LED daytime running lights, ESC and numerous airbags.

Vauxhall has also introduced an all-new infotainment system to the Insignia, which incorporates an eight-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth-operated internet connectivity, 3D navigation, voice control and full smartphone compatibility.

Numerous petrol and diesel are available to power the Vauxhall Insignia, with sizes ranging from 1.4-litres to 2.0-litres and power outputs varying from 118bhp to 247bhp.

Depending on the model chosen, the Vauxhall Insignia will emit between 99g/km and 187g/km of CO2 emissions, while the car will also return average fuel economy of between 35.3mpg and 76.3mpg.

With sub-100g/km CO2 emissions, high fuel economy and packed with equipment, our choice of model is the Vauxhall Insignia 2.0 CDTi 138bhp ecoFLEX Design Start/Stop manual.

Honda Civic

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The Honda Civic is a small and well-equipped car that offers sleek looks and efficient engines.

Honda’s small family car offering is priced from £16,995 and is available in four trim levels, which are S, SE Plus, SR and EX Plus.

Even the entry-level models come packed with equipment, with the base trim including alloy wheels, climate control, idle stop feature, driver’s seat height adjustment, LED daytime running lights, aux-in/USB connection and DAB radio.

Higher-spec models come with extra desirable features such as dual-zone climate control, cruise control, rear view parking camera, front fog lights, leather multi-function steering wheel and gear knob, front and rear parking sensors, leather upholstery, heated front seats, HDD sat-nav system and a panoramic glass roof.

Numerous petrol and diesel engines are available to power the Honda Civic. These include the 1.4 i-VTEC petrol, 1.6 i-DTEC diesel and the 1.8 i-VTEC petrol – available with either a manual gearbox or automatic transmission.

Depending on the model chosen, average fuel consumption will range from 44.1mpg to 78.5mpg, while CO2 emissions produced will vary from 94g/km to 150g/km. The model will fall under a VED tax band between ‘A’ and ‘F’.

With entry-level models coming so well-equipped, we recommend opting for the Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC model, which also offers sub-100g/km CO2 emissions and high fuel economy.

Ford Mondeo

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The award-winning Ford Mondeo is consistently one of the highest regarded large family cars in the UK, thanks to its blend of style and substance.

With Ford the best-selling car manufacturer in the UK, it comes as no surprise that the Mondeo, which is priced from £20,000, is one of the top large family cars.

The Ford Mondeo is available in four trim levels: Business Edition, Edge, Titanium X Business Edition and Titanium X Sport.

Standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels, touchscreen navigation system, LED daytime running lights, front and rear parking sensors, privacy glass, USB connectivity port and power folding door mirrors.

Higher-spec models add features such as Bluetooth with Voice Control System, ESP, air conditioning, cruise control, CD/radio, leather-wrapped steering wheel, LED rear lights, ambient lighting, sports suspension, Bi-Xenon headlights and Alcantara/leather seats.

Numerous engines are available for use in the Mondeo, with sizes ranging from 1.6-litres to 2.2-litres. Depending on the version chosen, the Ford Mondeo will emit between 109g/km and 179g/km of CO2.

The power output of the car also varies depending on the unit powering it, ranging from 114bhp to 237bhp.

Our choice of the range is the Ford Mondeo 1.6 TDCi 115 ECO Edge Stop/Start, which offers the lowest CO2 emissions in the range and comes packed with desirable features.

Mazda 3

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The award-winning Mazda 3 is certainly one of the best-looking small family cars available today, having scooped the prestigious Red Dot Design Award earlier this year.

Mazda released the all-new third-generation Mazda3 at the start of 2014, with the model priced from £16,695 and available in five trim levels. The trim levels are SE, SE Nav, SE-L, SE-L Nav and Sport Nav.

All models come well equipped, with standard kit including 16-inch alloy wheels, roof spoiler, daytime running lights, height-adjustable driver’s seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear knob, seven-inch colour touch-screen, USB/iPod connectivity, Bluetooth and air conditioning.

Models also come jam-packed with safety equipment, such as Hill Hold Assist, Dynamic Stability Control, Traction Control System, Smart City Brake Support, Tyre Pressure Monitoring System, Secondary Collision Reduction and front, front side and curtain airbags.

Moving up the range brings features such as dual-zone climate control, privacy glass, rain-sensing front wipers, Bi-Xenon headlights, front and rear parking sensors, cruise control, heated front seats, Mazda navigation system, keyless entry system and a Heads-up Display (HUD) to the mix.

The Mazda 3 is available with numerous SKYACTIV-G petrol and SKYACTIV-D diesel units. The engine range is as follows: 99bhp 1.5-litre SKYACTIV-G, 118bhp 2.0-litre SKYACTIV-G, 163bhp 2.0-litre SKYACTIV-G and the 148bhp 2.2-litre SKYACTIV-D.

Depending on the model chosen, the Mazda3 will emit between 107g/km and 135g/km of CO2, which places the hatchback in a VED tax band between ‘B’ and ‘E’. In addition, the average fuel economy offered will range from 48.7mpg to 68.9mpg.

Unfortunately, no Mazda 3 model dips beneath the 100g/km CO2 emissions threshold. Therefore, we would opt for the Mazda3 Hatchback 2.2 SKYACTIV-D 148bhp SE model.

Mazda 6

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Sleek and stylish, with high fuel economy, low CO2 emissions and jam-packed with equipment; it can only be the Mazda 6.

The Mazda6 is priced from £19,595 and is available in three trim levels: SE, SE-L and Sport, with even entry-level models coming well equipped.

As standard, all Mazda6 models feature air conditioning, cruise control, front fog lights, daytime running lights, 5.8-inch colour touchscreen, Bluetooth, leather steering wheel, steering wheel audio controls, USB connectivity, aux-in jack, Hill Hold Assist and numerous airbags.

Moving up the trim levels brings additional kit such as dual-zone climate control, engine push button start, dusk-sensing lights, front and rear parking sensors, privacy glass, rain-sensing front wipers, smart keyless entry, Bi-Xenon headlights, reversing camera and heated front seats.

The engine range for the Mazda 6 consists of a 143bhp 2.0-litre petrol, 148bhp 2.2-litre diesel and a 173bhp 2.2-litre diesel. Depending on the version chosen, the engine will be paired with either a six-speed manual gearbox or a six-speed automatic transmission.

CO2 emissions produced range from 108g/km to 135g/km, while the model will return between 47.9mpg and 72.4mpg.

Our pick of the model range is the Mazda6 2.2 148bhp SE manual, for its low CO2 emissions, high fuel economy and enough kit for most drivers.

VW Passat

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Excellent build quality is usually attributed to models produced by German manufacturers and the Volkswagen Passat is no exception.

Priced from £20,235, the VW Passat is now available in S, BlueMotion, Executive and Executive Style trim levels. Volkswagen added the latter two trim levels at the start of 2014 in order to boost the range, replacing the Highline, Sport and R-Line specifications.

Standard equipment for the Passat includes 16-inch alloy wheels, DAB radio, Bluetooth telephone connection, MDI with USB and aux-in, multifunction steering wheel and a CD player with eight speakers.

Higher-spec models bring additional features such as touchscreen sat-nav, leather upholstery, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, sports suspension, larger alloys, Bi-Xenon headlights and front fog lights.

Engine sizes for the VW Passat range from 1.4-litres to 2.0-litres, with petrol and diesel versions available. Units come mated to either a six-speed manual gearbox, six-speed DSG transmission or a seven-speed DSG ‘box.

Depending on the version chosen, the model will emit between 109g/km and 144g/km of CO2, while returning average fuel economy of between 45.6mpg and 68.9mpg.

Although the BlueMotion has the lowest CO2 emissions and highest fuel economy, it does not come very well equipped. For this reason, we recommend the VW Passat 1.6 TDI 104bhp S six-speed manual instead.

Toyota Avensis

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Refined looks are at the forefront of the Toyota Avensis, which offers a pleasant drive and plenty of standard kit.

Four trim levels are available for the Toyota Avensis, with prices starting at £17,700. The trim levels are Active, Icon, Icon Business Edition and Excel.

Even base Avensis models come equipped with air conditioning, Bluetooth connectivity, leather steering wheel, seven airbags, six-speaker radio/CD with USB and aux-in, daytime running lights and follow-me-home headlights.

Move up the trim levels to receive extra kit such as alloy wheels, rain-sensing wipers, dusk-sensing headlights, front fog lamps, Toyota Touch 2 with Go Navigation, DAV radio, automatic air conditioning, cruise control, rear parking sensors and heated, leather seats.

Numerous petrol and diesel engines are available to power the Avensis, including a 1.8-litre petrol, 2.0-litre diesel and 2.2-litre diesel. Depending on the engine opted for, the unit will be mated to a manual or automatic transmission.

The Toyota Avensis will emit between 119g/km and 167g/km of CO2, while returning between 42.8 mpg and 62.8mpg.

With a host of desirable equipment and the lowest CO2 emissions of the range, we suggest going for the Toyota Avensis 2.0 D-4D Icon manual model.