Volvo C30

The smallest Volvo (available from January from £15,000) blends rakish looks and sporty handling with traditional Swedish safety. It is a new step for the company as it's been fashioned as much by customer demand as by Volvo product planners. What's come out of this is a four-seater with a glass tailgate that's more coupé than hatchback.

"It's the first time we've said a car is not for people with kids," says chief designer, Simon Lamarre. "The C30 is targeted at people who rarely travel with more than two people, and lots of gadgets and a good sound system are essential to them."

The C30 has the same wheelbase as the S40, but it's shorter, lower and wider. There's a 1.6-litre petrol and turbodiesel engine at the bottom of the range, plus a 220bhp 2.5-litre petrol turbo (the T5 above) and a 180bhp 2.4-litre turbodiesel. The stereo and air-con are housed in a "floating centre stack" - a slim panel that leans against the main dash rather than forming an integral part of it.

This might not be a car for families, but it does a good job as a four-seater. What suffers is the boot - the difference in length between the S40 and C30 is due to a shorter rear end. What Car? describes it as "a Volvo, but not as we know it. Style-

driven and substantial."

Vauxhall Corsa

Striking looks, sporty handling and space for four, the new Corsa hits showroom floors in October (£7,495-£13,195). It has three and five-door styles - coupé-like and sporty on the one hand; more upright and practical on the other.

BMW Z4 3.0 Si Coupé

A hardcore car (£31,000-£32,925, available now) that has all the entertainment you could wish for. The engine is a gem, but the gear stick isn't always as slick as you'd like. You get good ergonomics though rear vision is severely limited.

Mercedes ML420 CDI/ GL420 CDI

In September Mercedes will equip its five-seat ML (above) and seven-seat GL off-roaders with a 306bhp 4.0-litre V8 turbodiesel (£50,435-£63,075) - the first time Mercedes has offered an eight-cylinder diesel in a right-hand drive.