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Small Cars Under $40k

Volkswagen Golf
1
  • Turbo engine’s grunt, refinement and flexibility; Fun, adjustable handling; Tyre grip in wet; Excellent brakes; Superb digital instrument display and infotainment system; Good space in rear seat and boot;

  • GTI now a circa-$50K proposition with on-road costs; Engine could sound more entertaining; Stiffer ride than before; Low-quality heating-ventilation dials;

Hyundai i30
  • Good looks - inside and out; plenty of kit; stylish cabin; excellent ride; decent handling; boot space with full-size spare; above average audio system; easy-to-use infotainment system

  • Entry-level engine a little lacklustre compared to higher-spec options; No AEB, and Traction control can be quite intrusive during spirited driving or harder acceleration; No rear air-vents or USB port

Toyota Corolla
  • Characterful engine and surprisingly decent CVT; Full-monty ZR looks; Impressive ride and handling balance; Improved ownership credentials

  • Like it or lump it infotainment; Inconsistent safety and convenience systems; Yep... That tiny boot space again

Honda Civic
  • Still a frenetic revver, yet this time with greater driveability; Highly satisfying gearshift and clutch operation; Great steering, handling, brakes; Relative ride comfort; Spot-on driving position and seat support; Looks like a five-door Touring Car

  • Relatively expensive for a front-drive hot hatch; More low-down torque would still be welcome; Styling won’t be to everyone’s tastes; Some buzzes and rattles in our test car; Tyre roar on coarsest surfaces

Mazda 3
  • Bold design stands out, like it or not; Classy cabin with great driving position; Long list of tech and safety features; Improved NVH suppression, steering; Mazda's excellent customer care assured

  • Outward visibility prey to design; Smaller boot than most rivals; Far higher price of entry than before; Carryover engines until SkyActiv-X arrives

Small Cars Over $40k

Mercedes-Benz A200
1
  • Enjoyable handling with adaptive dampers (in Sport); Smooth steering; Outstanding cabin presentation; Superb high-tech, hi-res displays; Tight turning circle

  • Ineffective damping, especially base suspension; Dual-clutch auto prone to low-speed hesitancy; Tyre noise can be intrusive; Average rear leg room; “Hey Mercedes” not quite Google Home for the car yet; A250 looks better value

Audi A3
  • Audi build quality; Interior fit and finish; Engine and transmission combination; Sophisticated exterior and interior design; Usable backseats for short drives

  • Noticeable scuttle shake; Super firm ride; Drivetrain can be laggy; Infotainment buggy with Apple's iOS 10

BMW 1 Series
  • The iDrive 6 infotainment is excellent, likewise the dials; Engine and gearbox make a great combo; Cabin ambience feels more premium than the price

  • Slight hesitation in the driveline at low speed; Cabin isn't as clever as it could be in terms of storage

Volvo V40
  • Polestar Performance pack boosts grunt usability and adds those stunning 19-inch wheels; interior quality and fit-out is excellent; love those Thor's Hammer LED headlights

  • Not up to the task in terms of dynamics; engine can be gruff at idle; expensive when equipped with all the stuff you'd want

5

BMW i3

BMW i3
  • It's got more grunt, so it's quicker, and handling is much improved; Range is decent for a pure EV; More kit; Interior uses eco materials and looks cool; Price has barely increased; Good space

  • Drive it hard and its range drops fast; Quirky looks won't impress everyone; Boot space isn't great