The Yaris has regressed from peppy millennium Car of the Year to an efficiently-packaged Honda Jazz-clone; it’s not remotely class-leading.
There’s much to love about the DS5: the sensational exterior design and high-quality cabin, a family car emitting 99g/km of CO2. But until the engineers develop cars with steering and ride as proficient as the design, Citroëns will always disappoint.
The Panda builds on its predecessor’s spacious packaging with better quality, and the sonorous and zesty TwinAir engine coupled to a slick manual. It’s joyful to drive, offering emotional strengths compared with the Volkswagen Up’s rational ownership argument.
Two things stand out about the Focus: its blissful ride and refinement, and the way Ford is using global purchasing power to bring cutting-edge technology within the reach of regular consumers. For £1000, the driver assistance package offers useful speed limit relay, blind spot protection and active city stop (plus dubious systems like lane guidance).
Range Rover Evoque
The Evoque feels as desirable as the DS5, but backs style with substance: it handles like a properly sorted hatchback. It reinterprets Range Rover luxury and capability for today’s environment. It may be dubbed a ‘coupe’, but the Evoque could satisfy a one-car family. A smart buy in many ways.
This £7995 city car has the ride quality and mechanical refinement of a Mercedes. Trade experts CAP predict the Up will retain nearly 50% of its value over 3 years/30,000 miles, and it outpoints the Panda on value and fuel efficiency. But the perfect city car would have the Panda’s TwinAir and steering, and the Up’s design, chassis and ownership proposition.
The Ampera is dynamically impressive, with sweet steering, a composed ride and a decent turn of pace, though its cabin somehow manages to be both dowdy and gimmicky. Bigger picture, the Ampera matches the Nissan Leaf’s zero tailpipe emissions, but its generator engine eliminates the Leaf’s compromised range. GM claims an outlandish 235mpg and 27g/km, which rightly unlock fiscal benefits, though CAP’s residual value is just 37%. Europe’s high fuel prices and our passion for compact cars may make the Ampera more successful here than Stateside. This electric vehicle feels like progress compared with familiar hybrids, and the Leaf, which could only be a family’s second car. On a strong shortlist, the Ampera is my car of the year.