Honda Civic hatchback

£15,975 - £32,295

The Honda Civic's excellent record for reliability and build quality makes it an obvious alternative to the Volkswagen Golf. The Golf is better to drive and has a larger range of engines, but the Honda wins back points for having a more practical interior and a bigger boot.

You’ll have to look closely to spot the difference between the latest Honda Civic and the car it replaces, as they have similar futuristic styling, but the new model has become more conservative. Honda has also improved the car's suspension to make it more comfortable.

Buyers can choose from 1.4 and 1.8-litre petrol engines and a 1.6-litre diesel. We’d recommend the latter, as it offers punchy performance and excellent fuel economy. The Civic Type R will join the range next year and is set to be one of the fastest hatchbacks ever built. It’ll have a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine and plenty of technology for high-speed cornering.

Family buyers are more likely to be interested in the Civic's ultra-practical interior. In addition to its big boot, it also offers some very clever features, including rear seat squabs that can fold up like cinema seats to let you carry tall items in the footwells. This review focuses on the Civic hatchback, but the car is also available as a Honda Civic Tourer estate. Until recently, it boasted the biggest boot in the class, but has now been surpassed in this area by the Peugeot 308 SW estate.

The basic Honda Civic isn’t cheap – in fact, it's marginally more expense than the entry-level Volkswagen Golf – but it does come very well equipped. Kit includes alloy wheels, climate control, electric windows all round, a USB port and LED daytime running lights.

Trim levels run from S to SE Plus, SR and EX Plus. The special Black Edition model gets an all-black colour scheme, with alloy wheels and a bodykit that make it look like the sporty Type R while avoiding that car's high running costs.