It's no wonder more and more buyers are opting to buy a car on a PCP (Personal Contract Plan) - even with a small budget you can drive away in some very stylish, versatile and practical cars.
With this in mind, we've hunted down a range of cars in six price bands, so whether you have €400 a month to spend or less than €150, you are not restricted in any way when it comes to choice.
The funky styling of the new C3 may be grabbing headlines at the moment but if you are in the market for an affordable supermini then Citroën's C1 should definitely be on your radar. With a cheeky personality, smart styling and frugal running costs, the C1 is Citroën's answer to modern city living. The 1.2-litre, three-cylinder engine is the one to go for. On the road the C1 is a plucky and spirited performer but take it on a motorway and it is relaxing and comfortable to drive. It is available in both three- and five-door, as a hatchback, or as a new open-top sardine-can-style roof, named Airscape.
CHANGING GEAR: The new Ka+. Ford says it is dedicated to developing an autonomous vehicle to improve safetyafford
T all-new Ka+ is the smartest yet and has just arrived in Ireland. Ford's stylish new five-door provides an alternative for car buyers who want a spacious, well-equipped and high-quality small car. Low running costs and a PCP monthly price of just €127.17 make this an attractive newcomer. It is slightly shorter than the Fiesta but 29 millimetres taller and comes with class-leading interior space along with 270 litres of luggage room. One engine is offered, a new 1.2-litre Duratec petrol engine that is available with a choice of 70hp and 85hp power outputs. The 1.2-litre engine is derived from the same family as the 1.25-litre engine in the Fiesta.
Starting price: €13,825
PCP per month: €127.17
For 2017, the i10 gets fresher styling and more equipment than before. Outside it has been fine-tuned with a more appealing look, while inside it feels much roomier than a city car and the stylish interior with high-quality touches make this a great place to spend time. Ride quality is surprisingly good for what is such a small and inexpensive car and the i10 is fun to drive around town. The 1.0 litre petrol is nippy and smooth. Aimed squarely at those who are buying on a budget but still want the best, Hyundai's new i10 is a grown-up and sophisticated interpretation of a classic city car that blends reliability, practicality and economy with smart styling and a focus on refinement.
Bigger and better for 2016, the Clio gained new LED headlights with C-shaped daytime running lights, front grille and rear bumper. Two new engines have been added to the line-up: a more powerful 1.5 dCi with 110bhp that promises a frugal 3.5 litres per 100km with CO2 emissions of 90g/km, along with a 1.2-litre TCe 120 petrol. Pick of the bunch is the juiced-up 1.5-litre diesel engine with a six-speed gearbox. The sheer refinement makes it very impressive. The appeal of the Clio is strong and it's still got some of the old magic, and while it competes in one of the most fiercely fought sections of the market, the model has matured nicely. In addition, it comes with the reassurance of a five-year warranty.
Starting price: €15,790
PCP per month: €125
Dacia is all about providing simple and functional cars at an affordable price and the Sandero is a compact hatchback starting at just €10,490. A new design freshened it up for 2017 and a new interior raises the quality.
While it still feels a little on the cheap side, there is a durable and understated quality nonetheless and it manages to feel fairly light and airy. On the road there is nothing particularly memorable about the drive but there is little to complain about also. It is reasonably quiet, comfortable and self-assured. It's hard not to be impressed with the Sandero. You get a huge amount for your money. Amazingly, less than €100 is enough to get you a Sandero on your driveway.
Starting price: €10,490
PCP per month: €99
€200 per month or less
For 2016 the Jazz was completely revised from bumper to bumper, inside and out. It now sports a new and lighter chassis, upgraded interior quality with more space and more responsive steering. Inside, cabin quality is much improved and it is also far more spacious, while Honda's ingenious Magic Seat system means you get extra floor space if you need to carry large, bulky items.
Only one engine option is available, the 1.3-litre i-VTEC petrol with either a six-speed manual gearbox or a newly developed automatic CVT. The new Jazz offers space and practicality with extra equipment, reassuring levels of safety and a more efficient engine. Plus, if you factor in Honda's excellent reliability record, the Jazz really should be music to your ears.
Starting price: €17,640
PCP per month: €189
With classic good looks and clever engineering, the Fiat 500 has become one of the most successful small cars around, with almost 1.5 million sold worldwide. The 500 is available with three trim levels - Pop, Pop Star and Lounge - and in hatchback and convertible versions, but it's the open-topped version that is most tempting. The roof is simple to get up and down and inside there is a surprising amount of space and door pockets for all your belongings. With retro and funky styling, the Fiat 500 Convertible is not only good to look at but fun to drive. Engine options include the 94bhp 1.3-litre Multijet diesel, the 0.9-litre 84bhp Twinair petrol and the 69bhp naturally-aspirated 1.2-litre petrol engine. The Fiat 500 is as much a fashion accessory as a serious mode of transportation but the refreshed model blends vintage chic with technical sophistication.
Moving nicely up-market: The Peugeot 2008, a more rugged and upright version of the well-loved 208
If you are after practical family transport with a go-anywhere appearance outside, decent space inside but with the running costs of a small car, then the 2008 may be the one for you. The Peugeot 2008 is based on the award-winning 208 but is higher, longer and wider than its hatchback sibling. Engine options include a 1.2-litre petrol or 1.4 diesel and two 1.6 diesel units. Three versions of the 2008 are offered - Access, Active and Allure - and while the 2008 does not have four-wheel drive, it does come with an optional grip control system that can be fitted on Allure models, giving you extra traction and confidence in mud, snow or on sand. With a very chic interior and good handling, the 2008 is one to consider in the compact SUV market.
Another large-capacity crossover, the Kadjar is the bigger brother of the Captur and its main selling points are practicality and versatility. It blends a family hatchback and a compact 4x4, like the Qashqai, but with a unique Renault look. So while practicality is important in a car like this, if it is style that really counts, the Kadjar does not disappoint. Inside, the cabin is spacious, the boot can hold 527 litres and with the passenger seats down it can take loads up to 2.6m in length. There are three engines available: a 1.2-litre petrol 130bhp, 1.5 diesel 110bhp and 1.6 diesel 130bhp. The Kadjar is available as both FWD and 4WD and in four trim levels: Expression+, Dynamique Nav, Dynamique S Nav and Signature Nav. While we're now spoilt for choice with SUVs and crossovers, the Kadjar is ideal for someone who loves the practicality of a family-sized car but wants something a little different.
The fifth-generation Astra is lighter and smaller than its predecessor, yet inside its cabin is actually bigger. The keyword for this new Astra range may be economy, but there is nothing sparse about the interior and the improvements are instantly noticeable. On the road it is a far sharper drive. The all-new platform is a lot stiffer than before and the lighter weight gives the hatchback a better ride that is markedly smoother and controlled. A good choice of petrol and diesel engines is available, including Opel's excellent 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol currently available in both the Corsa and Adam. The Astra's stylish good looks and cutting-edge technology make it stand out from the crowd, plus it's good to drive, spacious and practical.
Starting price: €22,250
PCP per month: €197.78
€250 per month or less
Citroen C4 Cactus
The name may evoke images of a sandy desert but the natural habitat of Citroën's new C4 Cactus is the supermarket car park. The distinctive plastic panels fixed to the doors, known as Airbumps, are to protect from bangs and dents caused by wayward shopping trolleys, so it makes an ideal small family car. Slip behind the wheel and it is comfortable with beautifully cosseting seats. Look closely at the dash and the lack of a rev counter suggests this is not a car for setting scorching lap times at the Nürburgring but rather a comfortable cruiser that is all about practical family motoring. There is a range of petrol and diesel engines to choose from and our pick is the 1.6-litre Blue HDi diesel, which promises an incredibly healthy average of up to 3.4 l/100km (83mpg) with CO2 emissions of just 89g/km. A special edition Rip Curl model has just been added to the range and comes with an intelligent traction system that allows drivers to select different modes to deal with various types of surfaces such as snow, mud and sand.
From its inception, MINI has been about the driving experience. Flip the toggle-switch starter and it pulses red on ignition.
Built on a platform that also underpins the new generation BMW models, the MINI is now even more comfortable. The Cooper S, the current flagship of the line-up, is remarkably smooth in its acceleration. Low and flat, this four-seater really stays planted on curvy roads. The gearbox shifts quickly and responds smoothly and while the 0-100 time of 6.8 seconds is not a ripping speed, it is thrilling enough when accompanied by a distinctive engine note.
The Cooper D ticks the emissions and economy boxes but the Cooper S is the one for sheer fun. But be warned, opt for the Volcanic Orange paint work and you won't go unnoticed, by anyone.
Starting price: €29,545.37
PCP per month: €246.75
Nissan may not have reinvented the wheel when they launched the Qashqai but they certainly came close and spawned a whole raft of imitators with this clever crossover. The real strength of this car lies in its practicality and versatility; it blends a hatchback and a compact 4x4 with all the flexibility and adaptability of an MPV, so it makes an ideal family car. It is now a lot classier behind the wheel and there is a much more premium feel throughout. It is also a good size, with more than enough room for five adults and plenty of room for heads and shoulders. There is a choice of FWD and 4WD, 1.2-litre turbo petrol and 1.5 or 1.6 litre diesel engines. The second generation Qashqai not only has more kerb appeal but under that smart styling lurks a very tempting family car that is hard to beat.
Hyundai, whose popular Tucson is pictured here, was the top selling marque in County Wexford last year
Since its launch last year, the Tucson has become the Ireland's best-selling car. Inside, it is well laid out but it is the space that sets it apart. Passengers can travel in comfort with no compromise to the boot space, which is one of the largest in its segment.
Power is from a 1.6-litre petrol 2WD, a 1.7 diesel 2WD or a 2.0 litre diesel that is available with a 2WD or 4WD option and can be chosen with either the manual or automatic gearbox. Designed, built and tested in Europe, the Tucson is relaxing to drive and the steering feels satisfyingly responsive and the suspension absorbs even the worst bumps. Compact on the outside and spacious on the inside, it is easy to see why so many Irish buyers have opted for the Tucson.
Skoda's flagship model lives up to its name supremely. With signature strong Germanic design lines, the exterior is considerably smarter in the all-new Superb launched late last year. Inside, high-quality interior materials are used throughout but it is the rear legroom where the Superb really shines - there's plenty of space for two tall adults to stretch out.
The boot is also huge - in fact, it's nearly easier to climb in rather than reaching to retrieve items from the cavernous space. There is a huge engine range and all are efficient, from 1.6TDI to a 2.0TDI while petrol options include a new 2.0 TSI petrol with 280bhp and an optional seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox. Skoda's Superb is pretty unbeatable as a blend of comfort, space and economy. It is not as cheap as it once was but it still offers excellent value for money.
Starting price: €27,500
PCP per month: €249
€300 per month or less
Honda may have pioneered the concept of the small sports utility vehicle (SUV) when the original HR-V model was launched in 1998, but it was Nissan that changed the way we think about family motoring with its Qashqai. Designed to appeal to young families unimpressed by the typical mini-MPV, the latest HR-V was launched in 2015 and is designed to plug the gap in the Honda range between the Jazz and CR-V.
Inside, it is understated and stylish. Overall the visibility is good and it is brimming with much of the technology drivers have come to expect. The HR-V also offer a boot capacity of 453 litres and the versatile 'magic seats' offer the ability to carry long, tall, or wide items in numerous configurations. On the road, it is not the most dynamic compact SUV but it's got great visibility and is easy to drive, plus the use of space inside is very clever.
HIGH AND MIGHTY: Toyota’s new game-changing C-HR has plenty of appeal
We love the bold styling of Toyota's all-new C-HR. With its bulging bumpers and falling roofline, it is angular and edgy in a way we have not seen before from the Japanese car maker.
Slightly smaller than the RAV4 at just under 5 metres long, 1.8m wide and 1.5m high, rivals to the C-HR include the Mazda CX-3, Honda's HR-V, the Mitsubishi ASX and Nissan's Qashqai. Powering the new SUV is a 1.2-litre turbo petrol engine with 85kW/185Nm along with a full hybrid version. The C-HR is not only compact and stylish but its also fuel-efficient and in hybrid form it returns a combined fuel consumption of only 3.7l/100 km.
Inside, the daring look of the exterior is toned down a little but it is contemporary and uncluttered. Buyers can choose between a six-speed manual gearbox or an automatic Continuously Variable Transmission. If you like the looks, the C-HR certainly stands out from the crowd.
Starting price: €26,895
PCP per month: €269
The Outlander received some significant styling tweaks for 2016 and the range now includes seven-seat, five-seat and plug-in Hybrid versions. There is an updated 2.2-litre Euro 6 diesel engine producing 5.3l/100km (53.29mpg), while the 4WD seven-seat Outlander returns 5.8l/100km (48.70mpg). The Outlander PHEV is well worth considering, with a 50km electric range and also emitting just 44g/km CO2 and can potentially return 1.9l/100km - a staggering 148mpg - depending on how it is actually used. The batteries can be recharged using a normal household plug and can take up to five hours to fully charge. All Outlanders feature an extensive range of safety features including speed limiter, brake assist and hill start assist and seven airbags as standard, plus Mitsubishi's large SUV received the full 5 stars when tested by the Euro NCAP. Practical, economical and affordable, the five-seat Outlander starts from €31,500 but the plug-in hybrid is considerably more expensive and, priced from €49,900, costs more than €500 per month on a PCP. The hybrid is a good choice for short to medium commuting distance, but for anything longer the diesel would be a better option.
Starting price: €31,500
PCP per month: €268
Revamped last year, the ever evolving A3 is certainly holding its own within the Audi family, taking design inspiration from its considerably more expensive siblings. Changes to the exterior and interior are subtle but there now is a comprehensive range of engines including the 1.0-litre TFSI three-cylinder model with an output of 115bhp. There is also two other petrol engines, a 1.4 TFSI (150bhp) and the high-performance S3 with a 2.0 TFSI engine (310bhp). The diesel models include the 1.6TDI (110bhp) and 2.0TDI (150bhp) in which the Quattro all-wheel drive version is available. On the road, the Audi A3 is not quite as forgiving as some rivals but it soaks up potholes and bumps well. One of the most sophisticated hatchbacks around, the A3 exudes an air of quality and class but you will pay a premium for the badge so resist the temptation to add too many extras.
Unrecognisable from the model it replaced, the current A-Class is longer, wider and slicker. It is not only one of the best-looking hatchbacks around but it is the most affordable car with a three-pointed star. Inside, the interior is a delicate mix of carbon-fibre trim and minimalist sophistication and is far more reminiscent of the SLS supercar than a traditional Mercedes. There's a good choice of petrol and diesel engines. The A-class is light and nimble with decent feedback from the steering and even at high speed it is quiet, while the ride quality is easily a match for rivals.
A new Kuga has just arrived in showrooms around the country and benefits from a revised front end with tweaked grille design and LED headlights. Overall it is more stylish with real road presence, whether at the school gates or in the supermarket car park. Changes inside are subtle but include a larger central interface screen that allows drivers to control audio and navigation functions, plus connected smartphones using simple, more conversational voice commands, with Ford's new SYNC 3 connectivity system. While the cabin feels roomier, it is by no means huge when compared to rivals. For 2017, a 1.5-litre diesel and 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol has been added to the range and the Kuga is available in two- or four-wheel-drive options. The Kuga is now offered with two new trim lines, ST and Vignale, Ford's highest trim-level. With a smart interior, stylish looks and a new range of efficient engines, the Kuga is a good choice for a family car.
Starting price: €33,345
PCP per month: €284
€350 per month or less
BMW 1 series
The baby Beemer is still one of most impressive hatchbacks on the road and is available in three- or five-door versions and three trim levels. There are a host of diesel and petrol engines to choose from and, regardless of which you opt for, its still one of the most engaging cars to drive, from the frugal to the blisteringly fast. This BMW is one for the single person or a couple without kids, so if you have yearned for the BMW badge and renowned driving dynamics but with a reasonable price tag, then this may just be the choice for you.
Starting price: €29,910
PCP per month: €306
The CX-5 is due for replacement soon but still the SUV of choice if you want something that has the practicality and space of an MPV but with really good performance and economy. With rugged styling outside inside, the CX-5 can seat five people in comfort, while the 505-litre capacity boot is a decent size. The CX-5 is offered in front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive versions. Engine options include 2.0-litre petrol (165ps) and a 2.2 diesel (150ps and 175ps) in both manual and automatic. There are three trim levels available - Executive, Executive SE and Platinum - but each is well-equipped no matter which version you go for.
Kia's latest model is the Korean car maker's first hybrid and sits between the Sportage and the Cee'd hatchback in its line-up. Using a similar system to the Toyota Prius, the Niro combines a 1.6-litre petrol engine with a 32kW electric motor. With CO2 emissions as low as 88g/km and fuel consumption of 3.8 litres/100km, it rivals many frugal diesels as a credible alternative. Outside, the Niro has chunky styling and a high ride height, while inside the layout will be familiar to any Kia owner. Aimed at family buyers, there is plenty of space both front and back and the location of the battery means the boot is a good size. On the road the Niro rides well and there is little body roll when you corner. If you are looking for a spacious, refined and easy-to-drive SUV that happens to be cheap to run, Kia's newest addition is worth checking out.
Starting price: €29,095
PCP per month: €303
If you've swapped city living for a life in the countryside, you'll love the CR-V. For 2015 it was redesigned with a new diesel engine, nine-speed auto gearbox and a more engaging and refined driving experience. There is one engine available in the CR-V - a 1.6-litre i-DTEC - but this is available as 120bhp in the 2wd version and 160bhp in the 4wd and auto versions. Gearbox options include a six-speed manual and the nine-speed auto box. This 1.6 engine replaced the previous 2.2 i-DTEC, with more power, the same torque levels and lower emissions. The compact SUV market is certainly a crowded one as motorists eagerly embrace these smaller, wallet-friendly crossovers. The 1.6-litre option is very frugal, plus the CR-V is extremely spacious and ideal for anyone who covers long distances or needs to move the family around with ease and in style.
BMW offers two people carriers: the five-seat Active Tourer designed to appeal to young families who want a little more space, while the Gran Tourer is all about those crucial seven seats. At 214mm longer than the Active Tourer, there is decent space for three kids in the Gran Tourer, each with individual Isofix mountings and the optional third row can also accommodate two child seats. Inside both there is also a huge amount of cubby holes and storage areas, where children's toys and books can be stowed easily, along with a host of other family-friendly features. On the road, both are certainly a more rewarding drive than many rivals so if driving dynamics is high on your list, the Active or Gran Tourer may be a pricey option but will definitely be a tempting alternative. New to the range is the hybrid BMW 225xe Active Tourer. If you're moving to an MPV from something more sporty, then this could be the car that makes the switch just a little bit easier. The Tourer is stylish inside and out and good to drive but is pricey compared to rivals.
Starting price: €33,440
PCP per month: €321
€400 per month or less
The Touran has always been a sensible choice among growing families. A recent facelift gave a much-needed boost to the styling, eliminating the previous very boxy, utilitarian look and now offers sharper lines and better quality. Inside, the extra space is put to very good use. The front two rows of seats are particularly spacious and all three seats in the middle row have an Isofix anchor point, while there are also two more Isofix anchor points on the back row, so in total you can fit five child seats. While the third row is only really suitable for small children, the seating arrangement is particularly good and all the rear seats can be folded completely flat with ease. On the road it feels just like a large Golf, with good driving dynamics and excellent refinement. There is a good choice of engines and three trim levels to choose from: Trendline, Comfortline and Highline. The new Touran is very practical, and good to drive and in many cases ticks a lot more boxes for a family car than more expensive SUVs.
The Jaguar XE is one of the most striking-looking cars on the market. You certainly won't mistake it for anything other than a Jaguar. The signature honeycomb grille, distinctive air vents and clean, smooth lines add to the aggressive and sporty stance, while the rear light cluster pays homage to the iconic Jaguar E-Type. Inside, it is smart and uncluttered, blending old-world with new technology but some switches and dials feel a little cheap compared to rivals. Space in the front is good, but headroom is a little tight, while both headroom and kneeroom are not overly generous for back seat passengers. On the road Jaguar's XE is a serious sports car with sharp steering and great driving dynamics that offers decent fuel economy and low emissions.
THE STYLISH HYUNDAI IONIQ: Superbly well-equipped and best family electric car out there.
Just recently arrived in Ireland is Hyundai's latest addition to their range - the first car in the world to offer three electrified powertrains in one model. Currently available as a hybrid model with a petrol engine combined with an electric motor or a pure electric (EV) version, a plug-in hybrid will join the range later this year. The Ioniq range is part of Hyundai Motor Group's overall plan of launching 28 eco-friendly cars by 2020.
The Ioniq is particularly impressive. From the outside it looks like a typical hatchback but with sleek coupe-like lines, while inside it is uncluttered and very modern. On the road it feels refined with a comfortable ride and will certainly pose a serious challenge to Toyota's Prius and Nissan's Leaf.
Starting price: €28,495
PCP per month: €374
Ford's seven-seat S-Max offers sharper styling, a classy interior and a host of safety technologies and features. Three separate seats help reduce squabbles, while access to the two rear seats is simple due to Easy-Fold second and third-row seats, which means each rear seat can be folded flat from a push-button control panel.
The S-Max has always been one of the best-handling large MPVs and, despite some tough competition, it still remains ahead of many rivals.
It handles really well, with little body roll, which is great news for passengers, and the steering is light and the suspension cosseting. Buyers have a choice of three 2.0-litre diesel units to choose from - 120bhp, 150bhp and 180bhp - but there is also one petrol, a 1.5-litre Ecoboost. The S-Max is also available with Ford's Intelligent All-Wheel Drive (iAWD).