It’d be impossible to leave Britain’s best-selling car off of this list, so let’s begin with this. A household name for 40 years, the Fiesta is as popular as ever.
Like all cars, it’s grown over the years and is now an all-rounder that can happily be used as your only car. The latest version is claimed by Ford to be the most technologically advanced small car in the world.
The range now gets the Vignale treatment, bringing Ford’s posh moniker to its small car for the first time. There will also be an ST-Line sporty model, a Titanium and an Active crossover.
It gets pedestrian detection – the first Ford to do so – and active park assist.
You can have a Bang and Olufsen sound system and Ford’s latest infotainment system.
Engines include the 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol, with 150ps, as well as the Fiesta’s first high-powered diesel. Prices start from £12,715.
While Kia has gone upmarket over the years – and done very well for it – its little car remains true to the original ethos of affordable motoring that brought the South Korean firm to the UK in 1991.
The Picanto is still functional and cheap, but with a decidedly 2017 spin. Base spec gets electric front windows, USB socket, auto headlights, hill-start assist, split folding rear seats and six airbags, which, arguably, is all you really need.
Further up the range you can add automatic air con, electric rear windows, cruise control, sat nav, a rear parking camera, Bluetooth, heated mirrors, leather trim, alloys, body-coloured bumpers and door handles. The GT-Line has a nice sporty look to it as well. It’s roomier than ever, says Kia, with more luggage space.
Kia hasn’t bothered with diesel engines, sensibly, so there is a base 1.0, a bigger 1.25 and the gem of the range, the turbo 1.0 T-GDi. The Picanto is quiet and refined at speed and the driving position is very comfortable, even for the tall. The interior is decent, if still a little basic until you get towards the top of the range. You can have one for as little as £9,450 and the most you can spend, at the moment, is £13,950.
Citroen C4 Cactus
This quirky one from Citroen is everything that we love about French cars.
The C4 Cactus stands out, is actually rather good, and is packed with useful stuff. All cars have good kit, with standard spec including hill start assist, cruise control, electric windows in the front, a touch screen system and digital radio. On the inside this crossover is minimalist and functional, but not lacking in smartness, and storage is everywhere.
It’s low on running costs – CO2 on the BlueHDI diesel, for example, is a mere 92g/km, while claimed combined mpg is 80. Economy on all engines is in the 60s, with CO2 getting no higher than 107g/km.
The Cactus is great value package, particularly for families. List price is a touch over, but there’s no reason you can’t bag one for just under £15,000 in reality.
Dacia is a brand for those wanting no nonsense and the Duster SUV is a prime example. In fact, you’re unlikely to find a more capable new car at a lower price.
You get plenty of space, plenty of practicality and decent all-round build quality thanks to Renault underpinnings. That also means that you get reliable, efficient and clean Renault petrol and diesel engines. And the value is plain to see – while the base model comes in well below our threshold here – at a bargain £9,495 – even the top-end version, with all the bells and buttons, only busts our top end by £195.
And there’s a new one coming, too.
The next generation Duster is coming in mid-2018 – the question is whether it will stick to the same ethos. Dacia is promising new styling, equipment and an updated interior. There will also be new kit including a multi-view camera, blind spot warning and automatic air con.
It is perhaps a testament to the Corsa’s popularity that Vauxhall only tends to see the need to give it a major overhaul every eight years or so. The current Corsa is a couple of years into its life now and still looks nice and fresh.
Like most Vauxhalls, it’s come a long way since the previous generation and is now modern and slick inside and out. There are decent petrol and diesel options, all clean and efficient and, for the most part, peppy.
There’s decent connectivity on offer and the Corsa comes with very handy wifi as well. There are some nice sporty versions to be had as well. Prices start from less than £10,000 and Vauxhall is always up there when it comes to tempting finance deals.