When looking for a car you want to be sure you’re getting the best, whatever your needs.
To help pick the best from the rest, we’ve asked our partners at What Car? for their favourites in the most popular segments.
The only criteria are that each car has received a five-star rating from What Car? and is priced between £9,000 and £30,000.
Model: Hyundai i10 1.2 Premium
Cost from: £8995
This is the perfect balance of space inside in an environment where exterior space is at a premium. The tight turning circle, small size and easy steering combine with cheap running costs and loads of kit to offer an unbeatable package.
Model: Skoda Fabia 1.2 TSI 90 SE
Cost from: £10,750
It’s small but it’s also good enough to have won the overall What Car? Car of the Year award. It’s compact yet spacious inside and everything about it is so balanced that it’s easy to see why it beat every car on the market.
Model: Audi A3 1.4 TFSI SE Sportback
Cost from: £19,365
The A3 is such a fully rounded car, and so remarkable in so many areas, that it has also won a previous What Car? Car of the Year award, like the Fabia. The great residual values reflect a superb build quality, particularly in the cabin, combined with a powerful yet frugal range of engines and a very practical design, in either three- or five-door format.
Model: Seat Ateca 2.0 TDI 150 SE Nav
Cost from: £17,990
Not a bad entry from Seat. Its first ever SUV and it takes top spot, replacing the Nissan Qashqai in the process. It’s an attractive vehicle with many of the attributes you’d want in an SUV – like lots of room – but it combines those with really excellent on-road handling and ride.
Model: Mazda CX-5 2.2 Skyactiv-D SE-L Nav
Cost from: £23,195
It’s big but it’s economical, thanks in part to the Skyactiv engine technology which gives low emission and low fuel consumption. The cabin isn’t exactly luxurious to a fault but otherwise this is a large, practical, well-equipped SUV that’s also quite good to drive.
Model: Skoda Superb 2.0 TDI SE Technology
Cost from: £22,555
The Superb is a worthy adversary for another five-star winner in this category, the Audi A4. The Skoda has a great deal of style and comfort, with a huge amount of space in the cabin, yet with only sensible exterior dimensions.
Model: Audi TT Coupe 2.0 TFSI Sport
Cost from: £27,585
As you’d expect, you gain a first-rate Audi cabin, with the practicality of rear seats that fold flat and an easy to get at boot space. It’s also a fabulous looking car that has always gone well but now, with the latest version, it really does handle as well too.
Model: Ford Mondeo Estate 1.5 TDCi Econetic Zetec
Cost from: £23,295
You won’t find an estate car at this size that can outhandle the Mondeo. As well as handling prowess, there is all the practicality of a punchy but frugal diesel engine, along with a mass of interior space that includes a cavernous boot.
Model: VW Touran 1.6 TDI 105 Bluemotion Tech SE
Cost from: £22,270
MPVs may be a bit out of favour but the Touran shows their strengths. With three rows of seats that can take full-size adults, the cabin is flexible and practical and is also built to a very high standard. The diesel engine chosen can manage 51.5mpg in the real world, and, really, this MPV has no real weaknesses at all.
Model: Mazda MX-5 2.0 SE-L
Cost from: £18,495
You won’t find a two-seater sports car for less money, which is ridiculous as the Mazda is well made, comes with a frugal range of engines and is a lot of fun. The limits aren’t so high that you can’t reach them in some safety without scaring yourself witless. You won’t find more fun for the money.
Model: Ford Fiesta ST-2
Cost from: £16,295
It certainly isn’t brand new any more, but the Fiesta ST shows the advantages of making a hot hatch based on a solid hatchback, the standard Fiesta. You gain space and practicality as well as decent running costs, but you also get hot handling and an engine that brings a smile to your face.