Mazda 3 2019, Toyota Corolla 2019, Volkswagen Golf 2019, Hyundai i30 2019, Kia Cerato 2019, Honda Civic 2019, Ford Focus 2019, Peugeot 308 2019, Subaru Impreza 2019, Holden Astra 2019

Best small car: Ford Focus v Holden Astra v Honda Civic v Hyundai i30 v Kia Cerato v Mazda 3 v Peugeot 308 v Subaru Impreza v Toyota Corolla v Volkswagen Golf

Compact and competitive

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While buyers continue to gravitate toward SUVs, small cars haven’t entirely lost their appeal. They account for about one-in-seven new vehicles sold this year, with this cluster of models forming the vast majority of the segment’s sales.

We’re testing flagship variants here, with sticker prices between $30,000 and $40,000.

The group tested here comprises four newly launched models: the Ford Focus (in Titanium spec), Kia Cerato (GT), Mazda 3 (G25 Astina), and Toyota Corolla (ZR, tested with its hybrid option).

Also here in direct-rival guise are the Hyundai i30 N Line Premium, Holden Astra RS-V, Honda Civic VTi-LX, Peugeot 308 Allure, Subaru Impreza 2.0i-S, and evergreen Volkswagen Golf, in Highline trim.

Standard features

All cars get leather, partial-leather or Alcantara seat material, climate control, a touchscreen with satellite navigation and rear camera, proximity key, rain-sensing wipers, dusk-sensing headlights and alloy wheels of either 17- or 18-inch diameters.

All cars but the Astra have swish LED headlights, all but the Peugeot have heated seats, and all but the Corolla have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A sunroof is either standard or an optional extra on all but the Kia and Toyota. Both the Mazda and Toyota offer a swish head-up display.

Every car also has urban autonomous emergency braking, some form of lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assistance, and a five-star ANCAP crash rating with date stamps between 2013 and 2019.

The Peugeot is also the only car here that misses out on active cruise control that matches the speed of the car ahead (it's an extra-cost option on the Holden), while only the Hyundai fails to offer blind-spot visibility assistance tech.


Interiors

NOTE: With so many vehicles on test here, only a few angles and views can be shown in the body of this story. Click here to visit our full gallery.

Starting with the Focus, there’s plenty to like inside the fourth-generation Ford: the digital readout flanked by analogue gauges, chunky steering wheel, storage in the doors and along the transmission tunnel, and the novel gear shifter.

The touchscreen is at an ideal height and the Sync 3 infotainment system is extremely simple to figure out, with conversational Aussie-accent-ready voice control, phone mirroring, and live sat-nav. There’s also a split-view camera.

The 675W B&O surround/stereo sound system with subwoofer is a premium bit of kit, plus the fitment of DAB+, an onboard WiFi hotspot, and a Qi wireless charging pad mean it’s well furnished with tech.

The seats proved quite supportive and offer power adjustment with lumbar movement for the driver. You sit low, enhancing the sporty sort of feel Ford is going for.

Meanwhile, our 170cm co-tester Kez found the back seat headroom and outward visibility to be sufficient. At 375L, its boot space falls about mid-range among those tested. We should note you can also buy a longer Focus wagon in ST-Line guise.

The main downside is the presence of obvious cost-cutting efforts, such as the pressed plastic door inlays.

The Holden Astra might be the best-value car here based on real-world pricing, but the interior also feels the most downmarket of this bunch. The quality and tactility of the buttons, switches and other hard points is not perfect.

The seats offer decent support, but the ‘leather’ finish feels like vinyl.

However, the steering wheel is nice in the hand and offers ample adjustment, and on first impression it all presents relatively well. For instance, the touchscreen is nicely integrated into the fascia, and runs the right phone-mirroring tech and sat-nav.

Cabin storage is also plentiful, and the back seats are remarkably spacious considering it’s far from the longest car on test (at 4386mm, it’s shorter than the Civic, Cerato, Mazda 3 and Impreza). The 360L boot is middling.

The Honda Civic’s cabin is so roomy, with storage locations scattered all over. There’s a hidden cubby behind the fascia, a centre console big enough for a handbag, and capacious door bins. Hoarders rejoice!

The seats on our test car were finished in black and beige leather, which actually livened up the ambience. The orientation of the dash towards the driver, plus the digital information readout with neon lighting, are all cool touches.

The touchscreen has the requisite phone mirroring and sat-nav, and various view angles/modes in the rear-view camera. Said screen is only 7.0 inches diagonally, though, and the lack of a volume knob grates. The materials used on the dash are BMW-lite, though the buttons on the shiny black steering wheel spokes… Are not.

Those back seats are absolutely enormous, with acres of legroom and headroom more akin to what you might reasonably expect from an SUV. The boot is a whopping 410L with the back seats in use, while the super-flat-folding back seat design is absolutely fantastic. Note also that the Civic comes in sedan guise.

The Hyundai i30 N Line Premium’s interior offers a light, bright feel and fewer ‘boy racer’ elements than its Kia twin – those lairy red seatbelts, surrounds to the vents, seat piping and stitching excepted. The panoramic sunroof is simply massive compared to any of the others. More importantly, it has a solid sliding interior cover.

The infotainment is displayed on an 8.0-inch touchscreen. Its soft-closing cubby cover under the fascia is helpful, while the presence of an electric park brake switch liberates more cabin storage. The new gear shifter design and subtly labelled seats are new touches.

The issue with that sunroof is reduced back seat headroom, though again my height makes me an outlier. Anyone under 180cm will be more than catered for. You get hard front seat shells that are easy to clean but not so friendly on the knees, plus rear vents and cupholders in the armrest.

The 395L boot space sits in the middle of the road, and like the other pair there’s a temporary spare wheel/tyre under the loading floor. You can’t get the i30 as a wagon here, but the Elantra sedan comes in a very similar specification.

The Kia’s interior feels the most ostensibly ‘sporty’ here, with a dark headlining, red stitching and back-lighting, a preponderance of black plastic and leather, a GT-labelled chunky wheel and circular vents. There’s a fair slab of Stinger about it. It’s also the sole car here with a manual handbrake.

A number of small touches are winners: the steering wheel buttons are tactile; the driver's seat has memory presets and the headrests are embossed with GT lettering; there’s a little shelf for your phone with the integrated Qi pad; and the contrasting silver and gloss-black trims are tastefully minimalist.

It also has a ripping eight-speaker JBL sound system, and the seat ventilation (also on the Hyundai) is an absolute godsend in the Aussie heat.

The back seats offer rear air vents and a flip-down centre armrest with cupholders, and considerable headroom and outward visibility. The boot’s 428L capacity is well above the average, and the loading area among the longest thanks to the elongated body. You can also get the Cerato as a sedan.

The Mazda’s interior layout is more driver-oriented than before, with a cleaner look and more high-grade materials such as leather-like dash padding. The cupholders have been moved ahead of the shifter, allowing a longer centre armrest and bigger console. There’s notably more storage up front than before.

The driving position is low, the vents are tilted in to face you, ditto the new 8.8-inch centre screen that’s been pushed further away, while the head-up display declutters the instruments. It feels rather coupe-like from behind the wheel. Mazda uses a lovely line, ‘Jinba-ittai’, which translates to ‘horse and rider as one’. A horse is only as comfy as its saddle, and the Mazda’s leather seats are absolutely delightful, too.

That new screen is running a much-needed new infotainment system (changed hardware and software) with better loading times, conversational voice control and a cleaner interface. The lack of a touchscreen hinders the phone mirroring, though. Special shout-out to the booming 12-speaker Bose sound system. This highly specified version genuinely feels on a par with Lexus inside, down to the damped and felt-lined glovebox.

However, the exterior design language de-prioritises back seat space and hinders your outward visibility. The blind spots are quite notable. The back seats are lower-percentile – headroom is decent and you get vents, but the small side windows and big rear pillar mean kids will find it hard to see out of.

The 295L boot is 13L smaller than before, though there’s room for a few big cases or something similar. The imminent sedan derivative due in July is said to be much more practical, however.

One thing worth noting is the standard fitment of blind-spot sensors, and a system that beeps if an object (person, bike or car) is nearby when you're reversing blind.

The first thing you notice about the Peugeot’s interior is its unusual layout. You’ve got a signature tiny steering wheel that sits almost in your lap, which you look over to view the instruments. The analogue gauges are so tiny as to be pointless, but there’s a digital speedo. The interior layout is quite sparse, but this means it’s aged relatively well.

There are some quirks, though. For example, you need to dig through screen menus to control ventilation, the brake and accelerator pedals are too close together for big-footed individuals, and there’s a lack of storage areas for anything bigger than a small coffee.

Additionally, the claimed touchscreen size (9.7 inches) is a bit disingenuous since you’re not actually using all that screen real estate.

As the smallest car here, it’s no surprise that back seat space is quite pokey, and like most others here there are no vents. However, the bigger glasshouse means you feel less hemmed-in than the Corolla or Mazda. Surprisingly, you get a really good-sized boot, leaving most others behind with its 435L claim.

My co-judge Kez defined the Subaru Impreza’s cabin pretty well, stating that “the presentation tries for upmarket, but it looks busy and piecemeal”. It’s information overload, with three screen readouts and 15 steering wheel buttons falling over each other for your attention.

However, it’s impossible to argue with the sheer plethora of standard equipment you get for the price, the ergonomic layout, and the friendly 8.0-inch infotainment screen that has great resolution and minimal menus. Moreover, the build quality lives up to every stereotype of Japanese cars, meaning it’ll hold together forever.

The back seats are excellent, with vents missing but space in surplus. There’s sufficient headroom and legroom for taller-than-average adults, on a par with the Civic. The 345L boot is a bit pokey and shallow, though it’s far from the worst here, and it’s worth remembering the bulky AWD system underneath.

The Corolla ZR’s cabin is modern and quite striking, particularly with the sporty red and black ZR seats. Fit and finish are typically Toyota precise, and controls are sensibly grouped. However, it also feels pretty narrow, with a bulging fascia and small windows. It’s not the most practical in terms of storage either.

The touchscreen atop the dash is clear, and the configurable home screen that groups your media, sat-nav and hybrid diagrams into one display is great. However, Toyota’s stubbornly slow embrace of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto makes it an outlier, though Toyota plans to retrofit the tech from year's end. At least the proprietary voice-control system is pretty slick.

There are also some nice tech features, such as a Qi wireless charging pad and a large head-up display (the only other car here with a HUD is the Mazda) projecting speed, navigation and road sign information onto the windscreen. This is a Corolla, but not as we know it.

Packaging doesn’t appear to be a strong suit, with a rear seat that's quite compact compared to the outgoing Corolla hatch. Rear seat passengers do get ventilation outlets in the rear of the console at least. Boot space isn’t class-leading either, although the ZR hybrid has the largest boot of the Corolla hatch range at 333L compared to a pathetic 217L for other models, owing to a lower boot floor beneath which is a tyre sealant kit in lieu of a full-size or space-saver spare.

The Volkswagen Golf’s interior is not going to win any prizes for edginess or adventurous design, but there’s a timelessness that's hard to dislike, superb build quality, the classic ‘thunking’ doors with felt-lined storage bins, and a breadth of steering column/seat adjustment that caters for 99.99 per cent of the public.

Moreover, VW has continually updated the interior over the car’s life cycle. However, two of the best features fitted – the swish 9.2-inch centre screen with gesture control interface, and the Active Info Display digital gauges filched from Audi – are part of a $2300 Sound & Vision options package.

Even without these features, it has excellent infotainment and peerless material quality. That centre console area covering the transmission tunnel is seemingly bolted to the floor to the point where 10 draught horses couldn’t budge it. Then again, a base Golf offers all of this, too.

The back seats are also excellent, offer vents and ample space, plus a large glasshouse enabling good outward vision. The simple decision to make the headlining and fabric pillar linings a lighter shade than the rest of the interior also heightens the ambience greatly.


Mechanical stuff

All cars on test use petrol power, because sales of diesels in this market segment are negligible. Seven use turbochargers, two are naturally aspirated, and one is an electrified hybrid. All tested use automatic transmissions.

If we order things by power, the Korean twins from Hyundai and Kia are top of the pops. They share a 1.6-litre turbo making 150kW of peak power and 265Nm of torque (pulling power), matched to a standard seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT) with paddle shifters on the wheel.

Next is the Holden Astra with 147kW of power and a leading 280Nm of torque, matched with a six-speed auto transmission. Following closely is the naturally aspirated Mazda 3 with its large-displacement 2.5-litre engine producing 139kW and 252Nm, again matched with a six-speed auto.

The Ford Focus only has three cylinders, but its 1.5 turbo produces a solid 134kW and 240Nm, and is bolstered by a new eight-speed automatic gearbox. The Honda Civic has a 1.5-litre turbo engine, too, with four cylinders and 127kW/220Nm outputs. It uses a CVT as standard.

The Subaru Impreza’s aspirated horizontally mounted (Boxer) four makes 115kW of power but a pretty weedy 196Nm of torque, with a CVT auto directing outputs to both axles, since it’s alone in being all-wheel drive (AWD).

Showing the benefits of turbocharging, the Golf’s much smaller-displacement 1.4 makes 110kW and 250Nm, and uses a seven-speed DSG/DCT. The Peugeot 308 uses a 1.2-litre turbocharged three-cylinder making a modest 96kW of power but a solid 230Nm of torque, and runs through a six-speed auto.

Finally, the Corolla Hybrid pairs a 72kW/142Nm 1.8 engine and a 53kW/163Nm electric motor, but since they don’t operate concurrently, the drive unit’s power peak is a claimed 90kW. The transmission is an e-CVT.

Of course, power and torque are just one indicator. There’s also weight.

The Peugeot may not have much punch but it’s also the lightest here, at a lithe 1122kg. Next lightest is the Golf at 1261kg, followed by the Focus (1310kg), Astra (1325kg), i30 (1344kg), Corolla (1360kg), Civic (1365kg), Cerato (1370kg), Mazda (1380kg) and Impreza (1398kg).

It’s impressive that the Toyota Corolla isn't an outlier, since batteries are heavy. The Impreza’s weight impost is down to that AWD driveline.

But beyond all this, fuel consumption is arguably more important than performance for most buyers, and the order is quite different in this metric. The Corolla Hybrid is unsurprisingly ahead of its competitors, using a meagre 4.2 litres per 100km on ADR testing cycles mimicking a combined drive loop.

Next in order are the Golf (5.4L/100km), Civic (6.1L/100km), Astra (6.3L/100km), Focus and 308 (both 6.4L/100km), Mazda 3 (6.6L/100km), Cerato (6.8L/100km), i30 (7.1L/100km) and Impreza (7.2L/100km). These are lab test claims, our real-world results are coming in a sec.

Dynamically, the big differentiator is the rear suspension type. The Ford, Holden, Mazda and Peugeot use a torsion or twist beam, while the rest use more sophisticated independent set-ups in either multi-link or double-wishbone configurations.


Driving experiences

NOTE: With so many vehicles on test here, only a few angles and views can be shown in the body of this story. Click here to visit our full gallery.

There’s no catch-all way to describe the ideal driving characteristics, but we demand good noise suppression, a comfortable ride that doesn’t sacrifice handling, punchy engine performance, and frugal fuel economy, too.

The Focus Titanium may only have a 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo, but it makes 240Nm low down in the rev range and blends a typical thrumming note with atypical smoothness through the driveline, slightly tempered by low-speed hesitation from the transmission.

It’s also a light engine, meaning the Focus feels nimble, enhanced by the direct steering. While the rear suspension is a basic torsion beam, the Ford’s roadholding is at the pointy end of this group. The ride quality on the slim-sidewall rubber, however, can get busy over rougher roads.

One thing that really impressed was the active safety. The steering-assist system keeps you between the white lines on highways predictably, and if you don’t respond to prompts to grab the wheel, the car will slow down gradually.

The 147kW Astra has the most torque on test (280Nm), and is impressively responsive under heavy throttle, aside from the odd moment when the transmission slurs its upshifts. However, it was also the only car that torque-steered/axle tramped, telling us it wasn’t great at putting this power down.

The chassis and steering response in corners is sharp, and the Watt’s linkage-type stabilisers on the torsion beam do a good job. However, the ride quality isn’t perfect, with typical patchwork-road corrugations not particularly well isolated from the interior.

Despite being among the older cars on test, the Astra is well furnished with driver-assistance features, though the higher-speed AEB and active cruise control are part of a $1990 options pack that also adds a sunroof.

The Civic’s 127kW/220Nm engine is a smooth and punchy unit with outstanding fuel consumption, though it’s matched to a CVT that sucks much of the verve from it. Those paddle shifters seem somewhat extraneous.

The steering tune is great, with really fast response from centre giving you a nippy feel around town. However, the spring rates give the body a floaty character through corners, which would be fine if the ride smoothness were better.

The active safety suite worked pretty well, though Honda still doesn’t offer conventional blind-spot alert lighting in the side mirrors, instead offering its LaneWatch camera that only shows you what’s happening back-and-to-the-left.

Because Hyundai has the i30 N Performance, it’s been able to dial back the N-Line and target refinement, so its tune feels smoother over the bumps. On the other side of the coin, the steering is too resistant in sports mode. Commendations to the body stiffness, since the massive sunroof elicited no creaking over B-roads.

That refined engine note from the rather potent 150kW/265Nm turbo fits the same smooth agenda, while Hyundai has greatly improved the predictability of that DCT around town. It’s among the most hot-hatch-like on test. Those Michelin Pilot Sport tyres are also grippy (running on the Kia, too).

The mechanically identical Kia clearly targets an edgier buyer than the Hyundai does, most exemplified by the raspier engine and exhaust note that’s sent into the cabin, especially in sport mode that's activated by shifting the transmission into manual mode.

Like the Hyundai, Kia’s local engineers were given suspension parameters and parts to choose from, and were able to tweak to suit local roads. I prefer Kia’s steering weight to the Hyundai, but the ride is a smidgen firmer. Still, the way it held on and stayed flat through corners impressed.

Mazda’s platform and body are said to be stiffer than before, while the suspension has been overhauled. The MacPherson strut arrangement remains at the front, but the rear is now a cheaper and easier-to-package torsion beam. It's rather odd to increase your pricing while simplifying the rear suspension set-up.

Overall ride quality is good, with more damping from the tyres and the stiffer body/suspension mount points keeping things calmer. The steering is direct, and the old model's annoying kickback has been ironed out.

A major focus was on reducing noise, vibration and harshness (NVH). We have seen a list of 49 different techniques used to cut out noise and vibrations, and it was equal-quietest on test alongside the Golf, 60dB at 100km/h.

The engine’s uprated outputs of 139kW and 252Nm are upper-percentile, although the lack of a turbo means it needs revs. The 6AT’s calibration is spot-on, and benefits from a sport button that tells it to hold a lower gear, or kick down aggressively under braking. The low-stress cylinder-deactivation system is smooth.

The Peugeot is the lightest car here and feels it, with nimble characteristics enhanced by the tiny wheel. However, while the steering calibration makes it easy to twirl, it also fails to load up and add resistance at higher speeds. The ride quality proved to be quite good, loping over suburban roads nicely. Despite being so light, it feels stable.

While the 1.2-litre engine’s 96kW looks paltry, it has 230Nm from low RPM and a generally decent and smooth 6AT. It shares a distinctive warbling note with the Ford, and while not as potent, it offers a decent dose of pep.

The Subaru Impreza offers full-time all-wheel drive. Note, though, that modern stability-control systems help FWD cars grip, and also note that the 2.0-litre engine with only 115kW/196Nm hardly overcomes the front wheels, and the weight penalty from the AWD system taxes performance and economy somewhat.

Dynamically, the ride quality saw it fail to recover from undulations as quickly as we’d like, complemented by jittery and underdamped wheels over corrugations, and the worst NVH suppression at highways speeds (64dB). The CVT drone under heavy throttle is also marked. To its credit, the camera-based EyeSight driver-assist tech works well.

We were unanimous in finding the new ‘TNGA’ modular platform kit in the Corolla to be a marvel, dishing up a great drive with fluid steering and a well-struck ride/handling balance. Alas, the ride comfort is a little fidgety at times.

The 1.8 engine and electric power unit are great, too. You take off in electric mode silently, and can run around car parks as an EV. You can flick a button to sharpen the throttle response and add a level to the brake-energy-regeneration system that sends charge to the nickel-metal hydride battery.

Better again, under heavy throttle the engine is no longer laboured and coarse, and the changeover between power sources is smooth.

Finally, the Golf. It’s so smooth tackling potholes, cobbles and speed bumps that they may as well not exist. It was also equal-quietest at highway speeds, felt the most planted, and has steering that’s light around town but loads up nicely.

The 110kW/250Nm 1.4 engine offers about the same torque as the Mazda’s larger unit, and it’s quite a light car, giving you decent rolling response and a real-world 0–100km/h acceleration in 8.2 seconds – about the same as the more powerful Focus. It’s also one of the smoother DSG iterations out there, with typical rapid shifts on the fly.

Outward vision is also excellent, and the driver-assistance suite worked fine, with the sole exception of the annoyingly touchy parking sensors that never lose a single opportunity to bleep their heads off.

We also said we’d give real-world consumption. There’s no way to give you definitive fuel use, since every drive has different variables (traffic level, throttle pressure, load weight, fuel quality, ambient temperature, road gradient, tyre inflation). But we did the same exact 30-ish-kilometre mixed loop with a slight downward gradient to show you comparative performances.

The Corolla used a staggeringly low 3.5L/100km (over a few hundred clicks I averaged low fives, though), ahead of the Honda Civic (an impressive 5.6L/100km), Mazda (6.1), Volkswagen and Peugeot (6.2), Holden (6.7), Ford and Hyundai (6.8), Subaru (7.3) and Kia (7.4).


Ownership

Most non-premium OEMs give at least five years of warranty, matching what you can rightly expect to be covered under Australian Consumer Law’s fair-use provisions. Kia trumps the rest with seven years.

Each car here has theoretically annual servicing intervals, albeit with different maximum-distance requirements between visits.

Honda, Hyundai, Kia and Mazda require servicing every 10,000km (meaning for many owners they’ll be servicing them twice or more yearly), Holden every 12,000km, Subaru every 12,500km, and Ford, Peugeot, Toyota and Volkswagen every 15,000km.

Each comes with factory-backed capped servicing prices, some for a few visits and some for the life of the car. The quoted cost of the first three annual services (potentially some incidentals in the fine print) as sourced from each manufacturer’s website comes up with the following total cost, ordered cheapest first:

Not only does the Corolla return the lowest fuel bills, but its first three services are each $175, meaning just $525 for the first three years/45,000km. Next in order are the Hyundai ($807), Honda ($843), Holden ($887), Focus ($897), Mazda ($940), Kia ($1107), Volkswagen ($1211), Subaru ($1288.81) and Peugeot ($1479).

Using an independent repairer does not void your warranty, though we take the view that servicing your car at a dealer while it’s within its first few years of life is a good bet.


VERDICT

That was hard. It’s not uncommon to find today that all contenders have merit, but some are just more engaging or rounded than the rest. So rather than spoon-feeding your running order 10–1, we’ve suggested three winners.

Some of the contenders were simple to filter out from class-leadership, namely the Subaru Impreza 2.0i-S, Holden Astra RS-V and Peugeot 308 Allure. Though there are reasons to buy each of these cars.

The Impreza has above-average cabin space, a unique AWD layout that’ll appeal to regional buyers, and a sharp price tag. The Astra is certainly terrific value in the real world and its engine has some real gusto. The Peugeot 308 has aged well, though it’s not as polished as the Golf in some key areas.

If you want benchmark cabin space, then the Honda Civic is hard to go past, while its fuel consumption also impressed. Research shows that most buyers after practicality look at SUVs, but if you’re an outlier, the Honda awaits you.

The Ford Focus has responsive steering and a super-engaging little three-pot engine, but its interior materials and layout don’t match the Golf that it hopes to best, nor do its ride comfort and refinement.

The Hyundai and Kia twins-under-the-skin also present sound arguments. The Cerato has an edgy character, roomy cabin, and great value, while the Hyundai offers an extra ‘premium’ veneer.

But the cars that impressed us most on this particular test were the Mazda 3 G25 Astina, Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid, and Volkswagen Golf 110TSI Highline.

The Golf is ageless, like all graceful things, blending divergent requirements such as a light kerb weight with rock-solid build and stability, punchy drivetrain with good fuel economy, spacious interior with compact dimensions, a luxury cabin feel with a mainstream price, and agile dynamics with a cushy ride. It’s just magic, even after all these years.

The Corolla does all the things that Corollas do. It’s cheap to service, looked after by the country’s biggest dealer network, and bulletproof inside. But it is also fun to drive while comfortable, and supremely fuel efficient thanks to its low-cost hybrid system. It even looks edgy and characterful, though this taxes boot and back-seat space somewhat.

The Mazda has the highest price, smallest boot and worst outward visibility, but also the most well-considered interior by some margin, outstanding ride comfort and noise suppression, nimble handling, a lauded dealer network, standout design and lashings of cabin features. It makes you feel special every time you jump behind the wheel, so if we had to pick only one…

NOTE: With so many vehicles on test here, only a few angles and views can be shown in the body of this story. Click here to visit our full gallery.

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