Honda Civic hatchback

£15,975 - £25,935

The Honda Civic has its work cut out for it in a hatchback class that includes the Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf, SEAT Leon, Skoda Octavia, Audi A3 and Toyota Auris. The Civic is by no means bad to drive, but the Golf, Leon and A3 are all better in this regard.

What has become one of the Civic's strongest selling points, however, is its unrivalled reputation for reliability. This combined with a very individual design means the car does have a solid customer base despite the competition.

Buyers have a choice of three engines; two petrols and one diesel. The 1.6-litre diesel engine is our pick of the range as it offers excellent economy of 78.5mpg and costs nothing in tax. Factor in the fact that it's also a strong performer, offering plenty of pulling power for overtaking, and we think it's the clear winner over the 1.4-litre and 1.8-litre petrol engines.

The diesel engine may be punchy but the Civic doesn’t feel particularly sporty to drive – it's comfortable and competent rather than thrilling out on the road, and there are cars like the Leon, Golf and Focus that are much more fun to drive. If you like Honda as a brand, the Civic design and high-performance cars, you’ll want to consider the new 306bhp Honda Civic Type R. It starts at just under £30,000 and is much more capable of giving Volkswagen and Ford a hard time when up against the Golf R and Focus ST.

Hondas aren’t just popular because of their reliability reputation; owners also love the cars’ practicality. The Civic is no different in this respect, offering some ingenious storage solutions. These include the ‘magic’ seats that fold up like cinema seats to accommodate tall objects, and a large hidden storage space underneath the floor of the boot. The boot is also bigger than those in the Focus and the Golf, and only the Peugeot 308 SW has a larger boot than the estate version of the Civic, called the Honda Civic Tourer.

The Civic is by no means the cheapest car in its class but it does come with plenty of standard equipment. LED daytime running lights, alloy wheels, climate control and electric windows all round are standard on the entry-level S model. If you want more kit, there are four higher trim levels, culminating in the range-topping Sport model. There's also a special Black Edition model that benefits from a slick styling pack.