Skoda Octavia hatchback

£16,525 - £28,150

The Skoda Octavia is a great-value five-door family hatchback that features a spacious interior, low running costs and plenty of standard kit. It's based on the same platform as the Volkswagen Golf, SEAT Leon and Audi A3, and benefits from a similar line-up of smooth petrol and efficient diesel engines.

At the heart of the Octavia's appeal are its roomy interior and huge boot, which will accommodate a very useful 590 litres of luggage with the rear seats in place. There's also an estate version, with a vast maximum carrying capacity of 1,740 litres. Rivals can’t come close to those figures, with the standard Ford Focus hatchback offering a measly 316-litre boot.

There are five trim levels to choose from: S, SE, Elegance, the top-of-the-range Laurin & Klement and the fast Volkswagen Golf GTI-rivalling vRS. We’d go for the mid-spec SE version due to its good balance of equipment versus list price, but all models get alloy wheels, air-conditioning, Bluetooth and a DAB digital radio.

Buyers can choose from the excellent 1.2 and 1.4-litre TSI petrol engines, or the efficient 1.6 and 2.0-litre TDI diesels. Drivers wanting a little more excitement can choose the vRS performance model, which is available with either a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol or a more powerful 2.0-litre TDI diesel. The latter makes the most sense if you cover lots of miles, but realistically the standard 2.0-litre TDI diesel is our favourite, as it offers almost as much performance as the vRS, but costs much less to buy.

A slick six-speed manual gearbox is standard in every Octavia, but we’d recommend test-driving the smooth and fast-shifting seven-speed DSG automatic, too. It's available as an option on 1.2, 1.4 and 1.6-litre models, while a six-speed version is optional on 2.0-litre cars.

The 1.6 and 2.0-litre TDI diesels are also available with a sophisticated, electronically controlled four-wheel-drive system, which is great at dealing with slippery conditions and giving you extra confidence in our occasionally unpredictable winters.