With all the attention lavished on the Golf and its siblings, it could be easy to forget the Focus’ talents. An excellent 1.0-litre three-pot engine has helped it grab headlines, but in spite of steering that lacks the involvement of previous models, big-car tech and superb fit and finish means it is still the big-seller in the UK C-segment.
Earlier this year, we described the latest F30 generation of the BMW 3-series as the best car in the real world. It retains the huge appeal of its predecessors, but adds more poise, precision and adjustability than ever. Not that that means a stern ride – it feels more grown up, and the 320d offers genuine 50mpg-plus capability.
Stylish, practical, economical, refined, and beneath it all the V40 still bleeds the blue and yellow of Volvo’s idiosyncratic personality. Handsome looks and an elegant interior give the V40 real driveway appeal that means Volvo can realistically compete with the premium German establishment for the first time.
Range Rover Evoque
The Evoque was core to Land Rover’s brand extension and growth strategy. Doubters thought it an exercise in style over substance, but in the opinion of our road testers, it has the ability to satisfy in most areas. The Evoque is a landmark moment in Land Rover’s history – it’s the car that has finally, deliberately, taken the brand out of the field and into the consciousness of the style elite.
Rarely has a car departed so much from the model it replaces. The tall, boxy, almost MPV-like profile has given way to a more conventional hatchback shape. Its elegant lines offer much visual impact, but it is edged out of excellence in this class by a overly firm ride that means it can’t quite soothe away long distance on cross-country British roads, or compete with the likes of the Audi A3 and VW Golf.
An underwhelming predecessor, coupled with a long gestation period, means we had expected much from the 208. Sadly, in carrying the 207’s underpinnings over to the 208, Peugeot has brought many of that model’s failings. It lacks the verve and completeness of the best superminis, but a stylish new look means it still attracts attention.
Rarely is an “all-new” car actually all-new, but you’ll struggle to find any old Mazda gear fitted in, on or under the CX-5. It’s the first Mazda to employ the firm’s SkyActiv fuel-saving tech meaning it offers an unheard of blend of performance and economy in this class. Some may ride better and entertain more, but in a world of rising fuel prices, the CX-5 is a critical model.
Rarely has the winner of Autocar’s Britain’s Best Driver’s Car been more relevant. Economic gloom means buyers have less to spend, and demand more from their purchase. The GT86, and its Subaru BRZ sister car, offer more thrills than virtually any other sub-£30k car, served up in accessible fashion. And 40mpg is possible if you tickle the throttle.