Honda CR-V

Fancy a 4x4 but feel a little uncomfortable with the growing anti-SUV backlash? Then read on. Next year's new CR-V is Honda's riposte to the burgeoning critics of the so-called Chelsea Tractor. Honda would like you to believe this is a 4x4 with a conscience.

Is this marketing spiel, or is there substance to the claim? The new CR-V is certainly smaller than the car it replaces - as well as cleaner, less thirsty and safer.

It's also built in Britain and, when sales start in January, prices are tipped to rise by £1,200. Expect to pay from £19,000 for the cheapest model and up to £25,000 for the plushest.

This is a compact off-roader. It's four inches shorter and an inch lower than the current model but has a welcome dose of style.

A quality ambience pervades the CR-V's unfussily attractive cabin. The driving position is comfortable, storage spaces abound. Although Honda knows it won't be bought for its off-road ability, and so has concentrated on making the vehicle better to drive on the road, it is equipped with a Real Time 4WD system. But don't be fooled. Only the front wheels are driven most of the time - until computers detect slip, when drive is sent to the rear wheels for improved traction.

Citroën C4 Picasso

Citroën's Xsara Picasso, a family car for supermini money, has been a hit. But what if you need more than four seats or can't live with washing-up plastics? Go for the C4 Picasso, a roomy, stylish hatchback.


Mercedes CL

Sublimely refined and serenely fast, options include digital television, brakes that automatically apply themselves if you're not watching what you're doing and adaptive cruise control for stop-start traffic.


Mazda MX-5 Roadster Coupé

The addition of a hard-top

to the MX-5 will shut out thieves and traffic noise better than a soft-top. The new roof adds only 37kg. While softer suspension makes for a comfier ride it still attacks corners like it should. £18-21k