SEAT Leon hatchback

£17,700 - £24,695

As SEAT is part of the Volkswagen Group, the SEAT Leon uses many of the same mechanical parts as the Volkswagen Golf, Skoda Octavia and Audi A3. That's some pretty exalted company, so you’d expect the Leon to pretty good. 

And you’d be right – it's excellent. Not only is it cheaper than both the Golf and A3, but it still feels very high-quality, as well as looking pretty sharp. 

Of course, as a family hatchback, the Leon has to be practical and it manages this with aplomb. The only car in the class that it really lags behind in terms of interior and boot space is the Skoda Octavia – which trounces everything else in those respects.

Our only real gripe is that the Leon's angular styling makes for very wide rear roof pillars and a small rear screen, which compromises visibility out the back. 

Under the bonnet, there's a fantastic choice of petrol and diesel engines, all of which offer a great balance between performance and fuel economy. If you’re after a petrol, we’d recommend the 108bhp 1.2-litre four-cylinder. 

It's smooth and feels much more powerful than its output suggests, while it should be pretty cheap to run, too. It’ll return nearly 58mpg and emits just 114g/km of CO2 for an annual road-tax bill of just £30. Go for one of these in mid-level SE trim with a manual gearbox and you should be very happy. 

Company-car buyers, or those expecting to do plenty of miles are likely to go for a diesel and the best option here is the 108bhp 1.6-litre. Smooth and powerful, it’ll also return 74.3mpg and emits less than 100g/km of CO2. This means no road tax for private buyers and a Benefit-in-Kind company-car tax rate of just 17%. Again, SE trim with slick-shifting manual transmission is our pick. 

All versions of the Leon come pretty well equipped, with things like a colour touchscreen infotainment system, Bluetooth phone connectivity, voice control, air-conditioning and electric front seats all standard. 

If you upgrade to our favourite SE trim, however, then you get alloy wheels, front foglights and cruise control. Our only grumble is that you have to go all the way up to the Cupra hot hatch before you get sat nav and DAB digital radio as standard. 

In terms of safety, there are no concerns, either, with plenty of standard safety equipment. This is reflected by Euro NCAP's maximum five-star rating for the Leon.