| 31st January 2012
Small family cars can be hatchbacks, saloons, estates or coupes but all will offer slightly more space than city cars and lower running costs than the larger executive segment - the perfect blend of cost and practicality.
The gadget-packed Ford Focus is a class-leader because it offers a superb drive and attractive styling at an affordable price. Engine choices are extensive for both hatchback and estate versions.
Ford Focus news
Ford Focus deals
Hatchback famed for a superb drive, strong engine range, high level of equipment and reliable build quality. Desirability leads to high prices.
Volkswagen Golf news
Volkswagen Golf deals
Stylish, sporty and versatile family car. Available in hatch, coupe, convertible, estate and hot hatch versions. Poor residual values.
Renault Megane news
Renault Megane deals
Looks great inside and out and comes with some excellent engines - in particular the frugal diesels. Excellent warranty and high sell-on value make it a safe choice.
Vauxhall Astra news
Vauxhall Astra deals
Does most things well but its understated design makes it a bit anonymous on the road. Handles well and is quite spacious inside.
Citroen C4 news
Citroen C4 deals
Attractive hatchback with a 2012 upgrade to its interior. Solid choice of engines and a surprising amount of equipment as standard. Can get pricey in higher trim levels.
Peugeot 308 news
Peugeot 308 deals
Saloon or hatchback with aggressive styling and a low starting price. Basic level of equipment but big improvements to interior quality over previous versions.
Chevrolet Cruze news
Chevrolet Cruze deals
Sporty hatchback with new, ultra-efficient engines for 2012. Cheap to run and residuals are good, but can't match the Focus for handling.
Large range covers everything from green 'Ecomotive' to hot hatch Cupra R. Desirable design and reliable VW engines are a good match.
Seat Leon news
Seat Leon deals
Reliable, spacious, superb build quality. The Octavia is also cheap to run and comfortable to drive. Basically a Golf but with a lower starting price - excellent value for money.
Skoda Octavia news
Skoda Octavia deals
Coupe-like looks which will split opinion. The agile handling and responsive steering will not. Rear space can be limited by that roofline however.
Honda Civic news
Honda Civic deals
Reliable, practical and spacious, the Auris is a low-cost, low-risk option. It won't set your heart racing but it will give you peace of mind.
Toyota Auris deals
Toyota Auris deals
New 2012 facelift is closer to the class leaders than ever. It's affordable and has plenty of space. A good warranty is important but there are better around for the price.
Hyundai i30 news
Hyundai i30 deals
Affordable, reliable hatchback. Top Gear's 'Reasonably priced car' and for good reason. A great example of quality at low prices.
Kia Cee'd news
Kia Cee'd deals
Ageing hatchback but still offers good looks matched with low prices. Will be hit hard in terms of residual values however.
Fiat Bravo news
Fiat Bravo deals