Ford Focus hatchback

£13,995 - £25,885

The Ford Focus is the default family hatchback for many private and company buyers for very good reasons. It's the best car to drive in its class – a class that includes some other great cars, such as the Volkswagen Golf, Vauxhall Astra and Kia Cee'd. The Focus is also well equipped and powered by a range of modern, fuel-efficient engines. Plus, there's a Ford dealer in almost every large UK town, so buying a Focus and having it serviced is very easy.

Previous generations of the model haven’t been quite so reliable or well made, but the current one looks to be a big improvement. Meanwhile, Euro NCAP awarded the car its maximum five-star rating for crash protection. Safety equipment includes front, side and curtain airbags, lane-departure warning and a driver tiredness monitor.

There's an estate version, but here we're concerned only with the five-door hatchback, which is powered by a choice of petrol and diesel engines. The three-cylinder 1.0-litre turbocharged 'EcoBoost' petrol (with two power outputs) returns excellent fuel economy – as much as 65.7mpg – but you’re unlikely to get near this figure most of the time.

Road tax is low, though: zero for the 98bhp version and just £20 for the 123bhp engine. Both are smooth and punchy and so are great to drive around town and ideal for low to average-mileage drivers. The more powerful petrol has the edge when it comes to relaxed motorway driving, however.

If you do a lot of motorway miles, the diesel engines are worth a closer look. The most interesting is the 1.5-litre, which is available in three power outputs. If you can afford it, go for the most powerful 118bhp version. It returns 74.3mpg and costs nothing to tax, but manages to crack 0-62mph in a reasonable 10.5 seconds.

If performance is more your priority, then the top-of the range ST is likely to appeal. Thanks to its 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, it can crack the same sprint in 6.5 seconds and give the legendary VW Golf GTI a run for its money.

Ignoring the ST, there are six trim levels. The basic Studio and Style are mainly aimed more at business fleets, so private buyers should train their sights on the Zetec, Zetec S, Titanium and Titanium X.

Zetec used to be our recommended trim level, but against rivals such as the VW Golf Match, Titanium is now the more tempting, thanks to its wider choice of engines and transmissions and fuller specification, including rear parking sensors, an eight-inch touchscreen, active city stop, dual-zone air-con and cruise control.

Regardless of trim, all versions come with alloy wheels, air-conditioning, electronic stability control and tyre pressure monitoring. DAB digital radio makes an appearance from Style upwards, but you have to shell out for Titanium for Ford's latest SYNC2 touchscreen infotainment system.