Today’s car buyers are very lucky indeed. Cars you can buy now are the best they’ve ever been, with better fuel economy, improved safety and tremendous user-friendliness. Amazingly, in many cases, they’re also more affordable than ever before.
New technology quickly becomes less expensive as it becomes more popular, so even the least expensive cars are now full of clever features, while carmakers have never been more eager to entice customers with attractive finance packages and substantial discounts.
Running a car is also cheaper today than it used to be. Reduced CO2 emissions mean motorists need pay less annual road tax. Cars also need far less maintenance than they once did – many motorists find that a yearly service is all that’s required, as cars can drive further between workshop visits and reliability is ever-improving.
Our annual Driver Power satisfaction survey tells us that car owners are generally happier than ever, too, which is fantastic news. Right now, there really isn’t a bad car on the market. Every car on sale today has at least something to recommend it and it doesn’t necessarily follow that a more expensive car is a better car. However, some stand out as genuinely exceptional.
Some cars are just so all-round competent that it’s hard to find anything to truly criticise. They’ve been developed with a keen attention to detail that makes living with them every day a real pleasure.
Our list of Britain’s Best Cars shows our choice picks from many different areas of the market. You’ll find hatchbacks, saloons, MPVs and more, at many different price points.
Of course, the perfect car hasn’t yet been built, and not all of our choices necessarily excel in any specific area, but all offer so much all-round ability, they’re impossible to overlook.
Citroën C4 Cactus SUV
The Citroen C4 Cactus is all things to all people. Its great looks stand out from the crowd, while its funky, modern interior is also practical and comfortable. It’s also incredibly cheap to run, with the diesel engines boasting fuel economy figures that put some hybrids to shame. The car’s distinctive side panels can be ordered in a variety of colours and they aren’t just for show: Citroen calls them ‘Airbumps’ and they’re filled with pockets of air, meaning car-park dings should be a thing of the past. Inside, the wide, clear dashboard design and sensible storage solutions give the C4 Cactus a sense of airiness and real practicality rarely seen in cars of this size. Citroen’s designers have come up with clever ideas – like mounting an airbag in the roof – to free up room for even more cubbyholes and greater interior space. The C4 Cactus is also a great car to drive: it’s supremely smooth, calling to mind Citroens from long ago, which were famed for their ‘magic carpet’ comfort. There are two diesel engines to choose from, one capable of over 80mpg. The petrols can’t match the diesels’ economy, but they can still manage at least 60mpg and almost all the Cactus’ engines are road tax exempt, thanks to their low CO2 emissions.
Hyundai i10 hatchback
The Hyundai i10 was our Car of the Year in 2014, and it’s still our second-favourite car on sale today. The i10 is emblematic of Hyundai’s transition from budget brand to serious mainstream manufacturer. It’s a great looking car, with a light, airy and spacious interior that offers five-door practicality and a large boot, for relatively little money. The i10 is also well equipped, with a good range of standard equipment and economical 1.0 and 1.2-litre petrol engines, both of which are perfect for urban driving. We recommend the 1.2-litre, though, as it’s almost as economical as the smaller engine, but more at home on the motorway. The i10 is also cheap to insure and Hyundai’s five-year warranty is one of the best.
Skoda Octavia Estate
This generation of the Skoda Octavia is four years old now, but it’s still an incredibly competent car and a great all-rounder. The Octavia is good value too, benefitting from a long list of standard kit and Skoda’s excellent customer service record, which means Octavia owners should be well taken care of. We recommend the Octavia estate over the standard hatchback thanks to its enormous boot, which is larger than many more expensive cars from the class above and arguably better looking than the hatchback, too. The Octavia is comfortable and good to drive, while a wide range of engines means that whether you’re seeking outright performance, excellent fuel economy or a blend of the two, it’s easy to find the right Octavia for you.
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