Friday 22 March 2019

Spoilt for choice in the compact class

It's fair to say that anyone looking for a family-friendly set of wheels has plenty of options, writes Geraldine Herbert

Ford Focus
Ford Focus
Alfa Romeo Giulietta
VW Golf
Seat Leon
Honda Civic
Audi A3
Mercedes Benz A Class
Citroen Cactus
Opel Astra

Alfa Romeo Giulietta: Oozing with Italian flair the Giulietta is one of the most distinctive hatchbacks around. Inside it's just as stylish but it is not as practical as many rivals and you will struggle to find storage places within the cabin.

On the road, the Giulietta is fun to drive. For 2019 three new trim levels have been introduced and new alloy wheels and special upholstery are among the additions.

Engine Range: 1.4 Petrol, 1.6 Diesel

CO2 Emissions: 123 - 164g/km

Price Range: €24,995 - €32,995

Trim Levels: Super, Sport, Veloce

Audi A3

Looking remarkably similar to the car it replaced, the current generation of the A3 was launched in 2016. Inside, it sports one of the best interiors and for the driver, there's ample technology and impeccably constructed comfort.  On the road, it is lively and composed at all speeds but the ride is a little harsh so you'll feel every pothole. The steering is responsive and it will appeal to the keen driver. The Audi A3 is a very classy and sophisticated premium hatchback but it is pricey and comes with an extensive and expensive options list.

Engine Range: 1.0, 1.4 Petrol 1.6 Diesel

CO2 Emissions: 104 - 225g/km

Price Range: €30,350 - €38,575

Trim Levels: SE, S Line

BMW 1 series

A radically re-engineered and front wheel drive 1 Series is due at the end of the year and is expected to debut at the Frankfurt motor show in September. In the meantime, the current model is still a car worth considering and remains the only rear-wheel drive car in its class. Inside is well made and there is good space throughout but tall passengers will feel a little cramped especially in the back. The car is quick and agile and one of the most engaging hatchbacks to drive and with a range of efficient engines offers a good blend of performance and economy.

Engine Range: 1.6 Petrol, 1.6, 2.0 Diesel

CO2 Emissions: 128 - 140g/km

Price Range: €30,060 - €46,994 (OTR)

Trim Levels: SE, SE Business, Sport, M Sport

BMW i3

Outside it's funky but inside it's futuristic and free from many of the design constraints of more conventional cars. It is also minimalist with Teutonic attention to detail. Space in the front is good but there is only room for two in the back, with quite restrictive legroom so friends won't be queuing up to ride in the back. There is however, plenty of headroom plus the rear-hinged doors and no B-pillar means it's simple to get in and out of. Practicality is not one of the car's strong points with just 260 litres of boot space. The i3 is a clever and modern car but it falls down on practically and rivals offer a longer range for a cheaper price.

Range: 260 kms

CO2 Emissions: 0 g/km

Price Range: €35,760 - €39, 060 (After VRT & SEAI Grant)

Trim Levels: i3, i3S

Citroen C4 Cactus

Gone is the eye-catching styling and in place a more muted hatchback. The distinctive air bumps are now concealed at the bottom of the door but they remain a mark of distinction and a talking point.  Inside Citröen's C4 Cactus is deceptively big and there is adequate room throughout and a surprisingly big boot that can swallow a family's luggage. Citröen's Advanced Comfort Programme means the car rides comfortably over all surfaces and while the driving experience is not notable there is little to complain about. Not as quirky as it once was, the C4 Cactus will still make you smile.

Engine Range: 1.2 Petrol 1.5,1.6 Diesel

CO2 Emissions: 104 - 149 g/km

Price Range: €19,995 - €27,445

Trim Levels: Touch, Feel, Flair

Fiat Tipo

A family hatchback at a bargain price, the Tipo offers value for money with  enough room for the average family and a large boot that is capable of swallowing some serious amount of shopping. On the downside the styling is dull and the interior is awash with harsh plastics.  To drive, the Tipo is perfectly fine and is more than able on the motorway so there is little to complain about. If the measure of a good family car is hardwearing, roomy and economical the Tipo certainly ticks boxes but is let down by a low EuroNCAP score for safety.

Engine Range: 1.4 Petrol 1.3, 1.6. Diesel

CO2 Emissions 98 - 139 g/km 

Price Range €19,245 - €21,745

Trim Levels: Easy, Lounge

Ford Focus

20 years since the Ford Focus first appeared on Irish roads the new 4th generation was launched late last year.  Available in a hatchback, estate and a saloon, it also comes in several  colours  but if you want to stand out from the crowd Orange Glow or Desert Island Blue are the ones to opt for. Inside it feels more spacious, airy and particularly impressive is the room in the back for tall passengers. Despite the competition, the Focus is now more sophisticated, comfortable and refined and still lots of fun to have around.

Engine Range: 1.0 Petrol 1.5 Diesel

CO2 Emissions: 119 - 146 g/km (wltp)

Price Range:  €22,513 - €33,766

Trim Levels: Zetec, ST-Line, Titanium, Vignale

Honda Civic

This futuristic-looking hatch is now lower, longer and wider than any previous version. The styling is also angular and more cutting edge but it won't be to everyone's taste. Inside it doesn't quite march to the same avant-garde beat and it's all a little more sombre but it is nicely appointed, let down only by an infuriating  infotainment system. The Civic is pleasing to drive, agile around town and reliable but for some the styling might just be a crease too far.

Engine Range: 1.0, 1.5 Petrol, 1.6 Diesel

CO2 Emissions: 110 - 137 g/km

Price Range:  €24,250 - €34,650

Trim Levels: Smart, Smart Plus, Premium, Premium Plus, GT, Prestige, S-Design

Hyundai i30

Updated last year Hyundai's i30 is a smart looking hatchback that is a  comfortable and well-priced family car. Inside there is plenty of space front and back with a boot space of 395 litres.  Rear seats fold easily to create space that is ideal for a trip to Ikea. Well equipped and priced, the i30 will keep many buyers happy. It's well-built, too, so should withstand the rigours of family life plus Hyundai's reliability reputation bodes well for its longevity.

Engine Range: 1.0, 1.4 Petrol 1.6 Diesel

CO2 Emissions: 99 - 130 g/km

Price Range:  €20,245 -  €27,995

Trim Levels: Classic, Deluxe, Deluxe Plus, Deluxe Turbo

Hyundai Ioniq

Hyundai  Ioniq  comes as a hybrid, a plug-in hybrid, and a full EV. While it is not the most engaging car to drive with quite a bit of body roll through corners it is comfortable and refined. Inside it is a spacious hatchback with plenty of room for five. It's also practical with 455 litres of luggage space and 1,410 litres if you fold down the rear seats. The Ioniq  is a good option for those looking for a practical hatchback with low running costs but the EV version is eclipsed by the game changing Kona EV.

Engine Range: Petrol/Electric, Electric

CO2 Emissions: 26 - 92 g/km

Price Range: €29, 245 - €32,745

Trim Levels: Hybrid, Electric,  Plug in  Hybrid

Kia Ceed

Launched last year, the new Ceed now comes with smarter styling than its predecessor. Inside is well made and practical with good room front and back and boot space of 395 litres. It is also very well equipped for the price with a host of safety features as standard.  The smart looks are complemented by a polished drive and the Ceed is smooth with good acceleration and much-improved handling. Overall it's a very appealing package in a highly competitive market.

Engine Range: 1.0, 1.4 Petrol 1.6 Diesel

CO2 Emissions: 99 - 132 g/km

Price Range:  €22,695 - €28,595

Trim Levels: K2, K3, K4, K5

Lexus CT

Billed as the world's first luxury hybrid hatchback when it launched initially in 2011, the CT is Lexus' entry-level offering. Outside it's a stylish sporty hatchback while inside there is a heady mix of impressive build quality and  Japanese functionality  but it is showing its age at this stage. On the road, the CT is smooth, and very little noise reaches the cabin but it is likely to disappoint the keen driver. With bold styling and efficiency CT should be a serious premium player but driving dynamics fall short of rivals.


Engine Range: 1.8 Petrol/Electric Hybrid

CO2 Emissions: 93 g/km

Price Range: €33,980 - €37,100

Trim Levels: Sport, Executive, F Sport

Mazda3

First shown at the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show as the Mazda 3 Kai concept, the seventh-generation Mazda3 was finally revealed at Los Angeles Motor Show at the end of 2018. Arriving here next month, it combines Mazda's unique blend of automotive technology and unique design aesthetic and sports a very slick new look both inside and out. Mazda claims their new engines can offer the same performance as what you would expect from petrol but with the economy and reduced CO2 emissions of a diesel.

Engine Range: 2.0 Petrol 1.8 Diesel

Price Range: €26,295 - €35,715

Trim Levels: GS, GS - L, GT/Platinum, GT Spoty/ Platinum Sport

Mercedes Benz A-Class

The first version of the A-Class as a tall multipurpose vehicle is now long forgotten and the latest genetation is a low-slung sporty hatchback with smart styling. Inside it is crammed with technology and safety features, all wrapped in a luxury interior. Behind the wheel, it is sharp and lively yet comfortable and is remarkably good fun to drive. The new A-Class is one of the best premium hatchbacks on the market with agile  handling, sumptuous interior, and sophisticated technology.

Engine Range: 1.3, 2.0 Petrol, 1.5 Diesel

CO2 Emissions: 121 - 140 g/km

Price Range: €27,860 - €36,883

Trim Levels: Style, Progressive, AMG Line

MINI Hatch

On the road the MINI go-kart feel is so refreshing; it's cheeky, addictive and light-hearted with real oomph behind it but that stiff suspension means you'll feel every bump on the road. The handling is solid and nimble and the manual gearbox is a joy to use. There is good space in the front throughout but only petite rear passengers will really feel comfortable. MINI's are everywhere and for good reason; they combine fun driving with  reassuring  build quality and a stylish design.

Engine Range: 1.2, 1.4. 2.0

CO2 Emissions: 102 - 192 g/km

Price Range: €22,595

Trim Levels: Classic, Sport, Exclusive

Nissan Leaf

Nissan's Leaf is the car that has turned more of us into EV-drivers  than any other car in the world. For the second generation  model  it has been given a smart, modern profile and  it's certainly a big improvement on the previous version.  Inside it is spacious enough for four adults to sit inside comfortably while the boot is a decent 435 litres. The Leaf is brimming with technology including the "e-Pedal" a single pedal that can accelerate, brake and stop the car, making it a smooth and very easy car to drive.

Range: 270 Kms

CO2 Emissions: 0 g/km

Price Range: €28,690 - €32,600

Trim Levels: SV, SV Premium, SVE

Opel Astra

Visually, the Astra is particularly impressive and has been carefully crafted to give it a dynamic presence on the road. Inside the sophisticated layout is intuitive to use and the driver and front passenger seats are beautifully bolstered with an array of separate adjustments and memory functions. There is more than enough room for five adults.   The Astra drives just as good as it looks and adapts well to any road surface, always a big plus on Irish back roads. Good looks make it stand out from the crowd but it is the cutting-edge technology and the driving dynamics that will seal the deal.

Engine Range: 1.0, 1.4 Petrol 1.6 Diesel

CO2 Emissions: 124 - 153 g/km

Price Range: €23,195 - €30,945

Trim Levels: SC, Sri, Elite, Ultimate

Peugeot 308

The 308 brings French flair inside and out to the competitive hatchback market. The interior partially impresses and features Peugeot's i-Cockpit layout but the small steering wheel won't appeal to all. Space is good throughout and the boot is a generous 420 litres. On the road, it is set up more for comfort and refinement in mind than performance. Sophisticated and stylish the 308 has proved a popular car for all sorts of good reasons.

Engine Range: 1.2 Petrol 1.5 Diesel

CO2 Emissions: 93 - 123 g/km

Price Range: €20,295 - €28,280

Trim Levels: Access, Active, Allure, GT Line

Renault Megane

The latest incarnation of the Megane stands out with its dynamic styling and the distinctive rear lights with a horizontal 3D-effect in deep red are particularly eye-catching.  Inside the cabin is classy and airy and filled as you'd expect from Renault with a host of passive and active safety features. On the road the Megane feels assured, gripping and holding the road well. Overall the Renault hatchback is a tempting blend of style, comfort and economy.

Engine Range: 1.3 Petrol 1.5 Diesel

CO2 Emissions: 101 - 134 g/km

Price Range: €22,140 - €31,070

Trim Levels: Play, Iconic, GT Line

SEAT Leon

Spy shots of the all-new Leon may be appearing online but the current version is still a contender in this competitive market. Generously equipped inside and with sporty good looks outside, the Leon is a much under-rated hatchback.  It's agile and fun to drive and takes corners so effortlessly.  If you're in the market for something with similar build quality and driving dynamics of the Golf but a with a little more style and panache the Leon might be just right.

Engine Range: 1.2 Petrol 1.5 Diesel

CO2 Emissions: 108 - 123 g/km

Price Range: €29,590 - €26,270

Trim Levels: SE, Xcellence, FR

Skoda Octavia

For those looking for space, good driving dynamics and practicality, Skoda's Octavia is one to consider. Outside it is a smart modern looking car while inside it is reassuringly contemporary, clean and simply styled. But it is space that really sets the Octavia apart from rivals and as expected  driver and passenger space is vast.   On the road the Octavia impresses with good suspension and little body roll on corners. Elegant outside and cavernous inside, the Skoda Octavia makes a super family car in a pleasantly understated way.

Engine Range: 1.0. 1.5 Petrol 1.6, 2.0 Diesel

CO2 Emissions: 118 - 162 g/km

Price Range: €22,025 - €33,065

Trim Levels: Active, Ambition, Style

Skoda Scala

Arriving here in Summer Skoda's new Scala is a compact five-door hatchback that  signals a whole new design era for Skoda. Replacing the Rapid, it will slot in between the smaller supermini Fabia and the larger popular Octavia hatchback. The new car is longer, wider, higher and roomier than the Rapid and sports a large boot capable of swallowing 467 litres and an impressive 1,410 with the rear seats folded.

Price details will be announed later this month but we would expect it to start at around the €19,000 mark.

Engine Range: 1.0, 1.5 Petrol 1.6 Diesel

Trim Levels: Active, Ambition, Style

Subaru Impreza

Now in its fifth generation, Subaru's Impreza has never been a car to tempt you on looks but then it's their AWD systems, flat-four engines and excellent reliability that has long been Subaru's selling points. Inside the Subaru is functional but dull while the space throughout is impressive and safety features are abundant. On the road, it is comfortable and rides well but it is not as much fun as you might hope for. For those looking for a reliable hatchback  with all-wheel traction at a reasonable price  the Impreza may be one to consider.

Engine Range: 1.6 Petrol

CO2 Emissions: 140 - 145 g/km

Price Range: €25,995 - €29,995

Trim Levels: S, SE

Toyota Corolla

Traditionally the Corolla has appealed to those who care more about reliability than performance, price over style and fuel economy more than driving dynamics. With the new Corolla, Toyota is hoping to woo a new and younger audience. Lower, wider and longer than the Auris it replaces,  the new Corolla comes with sharper styling and more space inside while  Toyota's pre-collision assistance programme is a feature that families will find reassuring. On the road, Toyota promises sporty handling and fuel-sipping economy.

Engine Range: 1.2 Petrol, 1.8 Hybrid, 2.0 Hybrid.

CO2 Emissions: 77 - 116 g/km

Price Range: €26,370 - €30,720

Trim Levels: Aura, Luna, Luna Sport, Sol

Volvo V40

With a  chiselled profile, sleek and elegant look and creased waistline, the V40 oozes Scandinavian chic. The simple and stylish interior sports a minimalist design that is both practical and functional. On the road, the V40 is fun to drive, thanks to its sharp steering and sporty ride. The R-Design versions add a sporty offering to the range.  Around since 2012, the V40 is showing its age compared to rivals but it's still a likeable car.

Engine Range: 2.0 Petrol 2.0 Diesel

CO2 Emissions: 134 - 173 g/km

Price Range: €29,415 - €34,615

Trim Levels: Momentum Edition, Inscription, R-Design

VW Golf

The appeal of Volkswagen's Golf has always been broad. Whether a small family or single driver, the Golf offers everything most motorists will ever need and we have been happily buying them in droves since the seventies. Despite a new version due here this year the current Golf is still a compelling choice. Whether you opt for the all electric version, the hybrid or the regular one, the Golf is  brilliantly solid, beautifully finished and fabulously reliable.

Engine Range: 1.0, 1.5 Petrol, Hybrid, Electric, 1.6, 2.0 Diesel

CO2 Emissions: 0 - 148 g/km

Price Range: €23,270 - €40,270

Trim Levels: Highline, Trendline, Comfortline

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