best 1 4 litre cars 2020

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1. Volkswagen Golf 1.5 TSI Life – £24,475

2020 Volkswagen Golf Mk 8 reveal

Fuel economy  52.3mpg
CO2  122g/km
Road tax  £155

The eighth-generation of Volkswagen Golf is as classless and pleasant as ever. When writing about the sixth-gen Golf back in 2014, Jeremy Clarkson said: “The Golf is a byword for everything you really need from a car. It’s the answer to every motoring question that’s been asked.” The Golf may have changed; the appeal hasn’t.

Quality is excellent, ride and handling are good, the petrol engines are frugal and powerful and, even in entry-level trim, spec is high. In the 1.5 TSI Life version, buyers get automatic lights and wipers, adaptive cruise control, LED headlights, wireless phone charging, front and rear parking sensors, traffic sign recognition, front and rear centre armrests, front-seat adjustable lumbar support and a 10in infotainment touchscreen with navigation, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and DAB radio.

The 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine in the TSI 150 delivers 130bhp and 52.3mpg fuel economy meaning it’s perfectly at home on the motorway or around town.

2. Seat Leon 1.5 TSI 130 Evo FR – £24,515


Fuel economy  50.4mpg
CO2  127g/km
Road tax  £155

The Leon is more spacious than a Golf, has loads of standard equipment, is of good quality, uses the same frugal, punchy 1.5-litre engines and, best of all, with a little negotiation on price, the Seat arguably provides better value.

The FR model comes with sports suspension as standard, firming it up, making it a sportier prospect than a standard Golf. Although the operating system is more intuitive than the Golf’s the use of a touchscreen for some of the heat and fan control functions can be annoying and distracting. Buyers get a 10in touchscreen, a voice-control system that works reasonably well and plenty of other kit as standard such as smartphone mirroring, DAB radio and a seven-speaker sound system.

There’s more boot and passenger space than in the Golf and around the same as in the Ford Focus. Rivals from Skoda still have the Leon bested in that department though.

All in all, the 1.5-litre turbocharged engine does the job well in terms of power and fuel economy and the Leon feels like a well-made, premium product.

Browse for Seat Leons on Auto Trader

3. Ford Focus 1.0 EcoBoost Hybrid ST-Line – £24,665

Here are the UK's top 10 best selling cars

Fuel economy  55.4mpg
CO2  116g/km
Road tax  £155

Another one of those cars like the Fiesta and Golf that feels like a default choice in its segment. The Focus has excellent driving dynamics, a good ride and decent manners on the motorway. It’s more spacious too than some of its rivals like the Golf.

The newly refreshed Focus gets Ford’s Sync 4 infotainment system and a raft of driver assistance features such as active emergency braking, adaptive cruise control with stop-go capability and active parking assist to automate parking manoeuvres. The ST-Line adds more aggressive styling inside and out and firmer, sportier suspension than the standard model.

The 48V hybrid system makes the 1-litre EcoBoost engine more efficient, which is why the hybrid is the one to go for rather than the single remaining petrol-only model.

Browse for Ford Focuses on Auto Trader

4. Mazda3 2.0 e-Skyactiv G MHEV SE-L Lux – £23,055

2019 Mazda 3 Mazda3 hatchback car review road test by James Mills for Sunday Times

Fuel economy  51.4mpg
CO2  124g/km
Road tax  £155

It’s a couple of years old now but the Mazda3 still looks stunning. Rather than opting for a small, turbocharged engine, Mazda stuck with a 2-litre naturally aspirated unit, though it uses cylinder deactivation and hybrid assistance to return good power and fuel economy.

The Mazda3 provides a reasonably firm ride, though it’s far from sporty. It’s perfectly civilised on a motorway cruise and standard equipment including the easy-to-use infotainment system is generous. One particularly nice thing about the infotainment and climate control set-ups is the use of a rotary controller and buttons rather than the driver having to access all the functions through a touchscreen. The systems can be operated by feel and memory rather than distracting the driver and forcing them to take their eyes of the road. Interior quality is another one of the Mazda’s good points and, overall, it’s a very well-made car.

Perhaps it’s a slightly more left field pick than competitors such as the Focus and Golf, but the Mazda shouldn’t be discounted as an option on the basis of style and quality alone.

Browse for Mazda3s on Auto Trader

The best eco-friendly petrol-powered SUVs

1. Ford Kuga 2.5 FHEV ST-Line – £33,945

2019 Ford Kuga: prices, specs, practicality and release date

Fuel economy  51.4mpg
CO2  125g/km
Road tax  £155

The Kuga was our family car of the year as chosen by readers at the 2021 Motor Awards and with good reason. The looks aren’t bad, driving dynamics are good, the interior is roomy and flexible, prices are keen and there’s a wide range of powertrain options.

The best of the non-plug-in-hybrid models is the 2.5-litre petrol-electric version.

The interior is a bit disappointing in terms of the quality of materials and the fiddly infotainment system, but there’s loads of room in the back, and there’s lots of flexibility and opportunities for space maximisation in folding the seats down. Boot size is about average.

Rivals for the Kuga include the Peugeot 5008, Honda CR-V and the Volkswagen Tiguan.

Browse for Ford Kugas on Auto Trader

2. Volvo XC40 1.5 T3 R-Design – £32,880

Volvo XC40

Fuel economy  40.4mpg
CO2  159g/km
Road tax  £155

Volvo’s stylish compact SUV may have been around a while having won European Car of the Year back in 2018, but it’s still a competitive offering in the segment as it looks good, and the interior is plush, premium and comfortable. In addition to that, pricing for the XC40 is attractive and it holds its value rather well.

Interior space is on a par with competitors like the BMW X1 and Volkswagen Tiguan, though the rear seats neither slide nor recline as in those models. Though the dashboard is aesthetically uncluttered, it means that things such as temperature controls are accessed through the infotainment touchscreen, which is distracting for the driver.

The 1.5-litre turbocharged T3 engine is the pick of the bunch in the XC40 delivering a decent blend of performance and economy with 161bhp on tap.

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