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Best cars

Best Medium Cars for 2017

By Martin Pratt

Article 5 of 14

Medium cars are the most popular type in the UK. Thanks to our rigorous tests, we can reveal the best new and used medium cars, and the worst. 

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The medium-car market is dominated by popular hatchbacks, including the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra, along with more premium models, such as the VW Golf and Audi A3. 

But while they may all be around the same size, not all medium cars are worth your money. The best are reliable, practical, safe and reasonably cheap to run. Yet the worst are much more likely to break down, or be uncomfortable or poorly designed. 

Below are the very best medium cars we've tested - models that ran the gauntlet of our lab and road tests, and scored highly enough to be Which? Best Buys. We've also picked out three medium cars you should avoid.

Only logged-in Which? members can view our recommendations in the table below. If you’re not yet a member, you can get instant access by taking a £1 trial to Which?

Best new medium cars

Volkswagen e-Golf (2014-)
Typical price £32,190
Brand score 79%
Reviewed Jun 2014
Best Buy
Driving stability:
4 out of 5
Ride quality:
4 out of 5
On sale date:
Member exclusive
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive

This latest version of the popular hatchback is the most impressive medium car we've ever tested.

Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive (2015-)
Typical price £20,944
Brand score 78%
Reviewed Feb 2015
Best Buy
Driving stability:
4 out of 5
Ride quality:
4 out of 5
On sale date:
Member exclusive
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive

This easy-to-drive, comfortable and spacious medium car is a Best Buy through and through

Ford Focus Electric (2013-)
Typical price £24,714
Brand score 78%
Reviewed Jul 2013
Best Buy
Driving stability:
3 out of 5
Ride quality:
4 out of 5
On sale date:
Member exclusive
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive

This bestselling medium car has a new edge, it's lost some of its practicality but it makes up for it in fuel economy.

Volkswagen Golf GTE (2015-)
Typical price £26,557
Brand score 77%
Reviewed Feb 2015
Best Buy
Driving stability:
5 out of 5
Ride quality:
4 out of 5
On sale date:
Member exclusive
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive

This great family hatchback is a top performer in all areas with plenty of space for passengers and luggage as well as being pleasant for the driver.

Kia Soul EV (2014-)
Typical price £24,545
Brand score 77%
Reviewed Nov 2014
Best Buy
Driving stability:
4 out of 5
Ride quality:
4 out of 5
On sale date:
Member exclusive
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive

This new model is a thoroughly practical and likeable electric compact crossover. If your lifestyle and budget can accommodate it, then it should certainly be considered.

BMW 1 Series (2011-)
Typical price £19,803
Brand score 76%
Reviewed Sep 2011
Best Buy
Driving stability:
5 out of 5
Ride quality:
4 out of 5
Model reliability 0-3 years:
4 out of 5
On sale date:
Member exclusive
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive

This medium car is filled with technology, but it doesn't neglect the driving experience, which is tremendous.

Seat Leon Cupra (2014-)
Typical price £27,394
Brand score 75%
Reviewed Mar 2014
Best Buy
Driving stability:
5 out of 5
Ride quality:
4 out of 5
On sale date:
Member exclusive
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive

It's a true hot hatch in terms of power and handling, and can match its established rivals blow for blow. Yet it's also very practical and comfortable, making it a deserved Best Buy.

Nissan Leaf (2011-)
Typical price £14,617
Brand score 75%
Reviewed Mar 2011
Best Buy
Driving stability:
4 out of 5
Ride quality:
4 out of 5
Model reliability 0-3 years:
5 out of 5
On sale date:
Member exclusive
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive

This model is amongst the most accomplished all-electric cars currently on sale. Aside from its high purchase price and limited range, there is little compromise over a conventional hatchback.

Vauxhall Astra GTC (2011-)
Typical price £18,708
Brand score 73%
Reviewed Nov 2011
Best Buy
Driving stability:
5 out of 5
Ride quality:
4 out of 5
On sale date:
Member exclusive
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive

The sporty exterior hasn't meant a much of a compromise in practicality over the five-door model. It remains a five seater that's fun to drive. It's certainly good enough to be a Best Buy, but watch out for heavier than average depreciation.

Toyota Auris Hybrid (2012-)
Typical price £19,051
Brand score 73%
Reviewed Dec 2012
Best Buy
Driving stability:
4 out of 5
Ride quality:
4 out of 5
Model reliability 0-3 years:
5 out of 5
On sale date:
Member exclusive
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive

This is an excellent example of hybrid technology in action and a decent all-round car. It's a Which? Best Buy.

Toyota Auris (2012-)
Typical price £15,325
Brand score 73%
Reviewed Nov 2015
Best Buy
Driving stability:
4 out of 5
Ride quality:
4 out of 5
Model reliability 0-3 years:
5 out of 5
On sale date:
Member exclusive
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive

It's not the most engaging car in the world to drive, but it's a more appealing car than its predecessor. It covers all the other bases so well - including exemplary reliability - that it’s a clear Best Buy model.

Best used medium cars

Honda Civic (2012-2017)
Typical price £7,962
Brand score 76%
Reviewed Jan 2012
Driving stability:
4 out of 5
Ride quality:
4 out of 5
Model reliability 0-3 years:
4 out of 5
On sale date:
Member exclusive
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive

Big improvements all round compared to the outgoing model, and the quirky shape doesn't hamper practicality unduly. We have some concerns over emissions, though.

Mercedes-Benz B-Class (2005-2011)
Typical price £3,745
Brand score 75%
Reviewed Sep 2005
Best Buy
Driving stability:
5 out of 5
Ride quality:
4 out of 5
On sale date:
Member exclusive
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive

This is a spacious, practical family-sized car somewhere between a five-door hatchback and a small MPV. It feels well built and has plenty of boot space. Overall, it's one of the best all-rounders on the market and a deserved Which? Best Buy.

BMW 1 Series Coupe (2008-2013)
Typical price £7,195
Brand score 73%
Reviewed Nov 2007
Best Buy
Driving stability:
5 out of 5
Ride quality:
4 out of 5
On sale date:
Member exclusive
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive

This excellent medium car is a joy to drive with a premium quality to its finish and style.

Toyota Auris (2007-2012)
Typical price £3,114
Brand score 70%
Reviewed Feb 2007
Best Buy
Driving stability:
4 out of 5
Ride quality:
4 out of 5
On sale date:
Member exclusive
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive

This worthy hatchback gets a lot right, and makes the grade as a Which? Best Buy. Don't expect it to thrill or excite you, though.

Hyundai i30 (2012-2017)
Typical price £6,775
Brand score 70%
Reviewed Jun 2016
Best Buy
Driving stability:
4 out of 5
Ride quality:
4 out of 5
Model reliability 0-3 years:
5 out of 5
On sale date:
Member exclusive
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive

A talented medium car - perhaps not quite as good as the class leader, but still comprehensively good enough to be a Which? Best Buy. It may not be exciting but it is competent in all areas, and is a very spacious family hatchback with decent boot space. Equipment levels are high, too.

Volvo C30 (2007-2012)
Typical price £3,924
Brand score 67%
Reviewed Jan 2007
Best Buy
Driving stability:
4 out of 5
Ride quality:
3 out of 5
On sale date:
Member exclusive
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive

This strikingly-styled premium hatch lacks the outright practicality of most medium-sized models in this sector, but its high quality, enjoyable driving experience and high safety levels see it earn Best Buy status.

Renault Mégane Coupé (2009-2016)
Typical price £4,053
Brand score 67%
Reviewed Jan 2009
Best Buy
Driving stability:
5 out of 5
Ride quality:
3 out of 5
On sale date:
Member exclusive
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive

This three-door, coupe-styled hatchback is getting on a bit now, but both normal and performance versions are still good enough for Best Buy status.

Renault Mégane (2008-2016)
Typical price £3,692
Brand score 67%
Reviewed Nov 2008
Best Buy
Driving stability:
5 out of 5
Ride quality:
4 out of 5
On sale date:
Member exclusive
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive

This popular five-door hatchback has a reasonably soft, forgiving ride, is practical, and should prove quite cheap to run. It's a solid used-car choice and a Which? Best Buy.

Not found the car for you? Click to jump straight to all our medium car reviews.

And here are three medium cars to avoid

Medium cars need to be a jacks of all trades. Great family cars, with space for a pushchair and a fortnight's luggage, but compact enough to park easily in town. They should be easy to drive, comfortable and smooth - all while being cheap to run. Our testing has found medium cars that are master of one or more of these desirable traits, while some don't manage any.

By their very nature, medium cars should be more spacious than small ones. While most models have plenty of room in the front, some are cramped in the rear, while headroom and legroom can leave a lot to be desired. We use human-sized dummies to measure exactly how much room there is on every seat in a car. We've found Don't Buy medium cars with so little rear space they might as well be two-seaters.

People's high expectations of medium cars extend to how cheap they are to run. A manufacturer's claimed mpg is usually high, and almost always too good to be true. We conduct our own fuel-economy tests, so you get an accurate figure, and will know exactly how much the cars on your shortlist will cost you to run. 

Medium cars to avoid

Nissan Pulsar (2014-)
Typical price £15,191
Brand score 54%
Reviewed Jul 2014
Seat comfort:
3 out of 5
Ride quality:
4 out of 5
Seat space:
4 out of 5
Boot space:
3 out of 5
Euro NCAP:
5 out of 5
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive
CO2 emissions (best measured):
Member exclusive

With such a diverse range of exciting medium cars on the market, it’s surprising to find one this bland. It’s not bad, just underwhelming. But as there are far better medium cars out there, you’d be best steering clear of this one.

Alfa Romeo Brera (2006-2010)
Typical price £4,935
Brand score 49%
Reviewed Apr 2006
Seat comfort:
3 out of 5
Ride quality:
4 out of 5
Seat space:
2 out of 5
Boot space:
2 out of 5
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive
CO2 emissions (best measured):
Member exclusive

Look past the eye-catching styling and this premium hatchback fails to deliver on many levels. It’s cramped, hard to see out of and isn’t particularly comfortable. One to avoid.

Alfa Romeo 147 (2001-2010)
Typical price £820
Brand score 45%
Reviewed Feb 2001
Don't buy
Seat comfort:
3 out of 5
Ride quality:
3 out of 5
Seat space:
3 out of 5
Boot space:
2 out of 5
Euro NCAP:
3 out of 5
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive
CO2 emissions (best measured):
Member exclusive

This stylish hatchback is fun to drive - and it's a great-looking car, despite its age. But it has many flaws, not least its poor safety standards - it scored just three stars in the Euro NCAP crash tests. This means we cannot possibly recommend it.

We test cars more thoroughly than anyone else

Our tests go further than those carried out by other organisations. And because Which? is independent and doesn't accept advertising or freebies, you can trust our reviews to give you the full, honest and impartial truth about every car we test.

Each car we review is subjected to more than 100 individual tests in a lab, on a test track, and on real roads – and we really clock up the miles, driving around 900 miles in every car we test.

Testing in controlled lab conditions means the results we collect are directly comparable between different cars, helping us determine exactly which models are better and why, and helping you find the perfect car for your needs

And so you know which cars are likely to prove reliable for years to come, we also gather feedback from thousands of UK car owners through the Which? Car Survey, using it to generate detailed reliability ratings for the cars we test.

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