Honda Civic hatchback

£15,975 - £25,335

The Honda Civic is a family hatchback whose rivals include that great all-rounder the Ford Focus, the dependable Toyota Auris and the brilliant Volkswagen Golf. It drives well enough, but the Focus and the Golf are better in his respect.

The Honda's trump card is its record for reliability and its distinctive shape, which makes it look unlike anything else on the road. That said, this latest model, although not hugely different from its predecessor, does look a little less radical and so is perhaps more widely appealing.

There's a choice of 1.4 and 1.8-litre petrol engines (the 1.8-litre is available with manual or automatic transmission) and one super-frugal 1.6-litre diesel. This last engine is our pick for its 78.5mpg economy and zero road tax.  It also offers strong performance through the gears for brisk overtaking.

Not that the Civic is tuned for sporty handling. Instead, it's a competent car with a comfortable ride. The Ford Focus, in particular, is much more fun to drive.

However, that's set to change in summer 2015 with the rival of the range-topping Civic Type R. The 290bhp hot hatch, which bristles with technology, will cost just under £30,000 and compete with cars such as the Volkswagen Golf R and Ford Focus ST.

It looks fairly radical, but underneath, the Civic is a practical car with some interesting storage solutions. These include rear seat bases that can fold up like those in a cinema to allow you to carry tall loads and a large hidden storage cavity beneath the boot floor. The boot is also usefully larger than those in rivals, including the Focus and Golf. For those people with larger loads to carry there's the Honda Civic Tourer estate – although its once class-leading boot has been overtaken by the Peugeot 308 SW's.

The Civic isn't the cheapest car in its class, but it does come with a generous list of standard equipment. This includes climate control, alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights and electric windows front and rear. There are five trim levels, ranging from S to Sport, plus the special Black Edition. S and SE Plus are the only trims available with the 1.4-litre petrol engine.