Even if you’re an avid viewer of Top Gear and have more car magazines’ websites bookmarked than you’d care to admit, there are some cars that fly below the radar of most drivers.
Often, that’s a good thing. Because they’re rubbish. However, a handful of obscure cars really are rather good, including these six new models which are worth a second look and even - whisper it - a test drive.
What is it? Brings a dash of style to the conservative hatchback market.
How much does it cost? From £20,550 to £33,335
This handsome machine is a breath of fresh air in the family hatchback territory, a part of the car market that’s notoriously conservative. Even Jeremy Clarkson admitted: “The Q30 is needlessly curvy and fitted with all sorts of styling touches that are in no way necessary. It looks — and there’s no other word — fantastic.”
So there you have it. Before defaulting to the Audi A3, BMW 1 Series, Mercedes A-Class or Volkswagen Golf, take a look at Infiniti’s Q30. The chances are, you’ll like what you see. And it’s even built in Britain.
What is it? A Ford Fiesta rival from the British car maker you thought was finished.
How much does it cost? From £8,399 to £10,499
If you thought MG had gone to the ground after BMW offloaded it along with Rover, think again. Now owned by SAIC, a Chinese car company, it is quietly purring along and the bread and butter model of its range is the 3.
The critics have praised the 3 for its competitive price, attractive styling and fashionable customisation options. It’s easy to see why the price has raised eyebrows: the most affordable Ford Fiesta costs £10,345, so there’s nearly £2,000 to be saved.
It is worth it? If you don’t crave the latest tech and aren’t fussed that the refinement isn’t as hushed as some other superminis, then yes, 3 may well be your magic number.
What is it? An electric car that makes financial sense.
How much does it cost? From £13,945 to £16,045
All too often, electric cars turn out to be a disappointment. They can be expensive, ugly, poor to drive, have a limited operating range or tumble in value faster than a burning house. Happily, the little known Renault Zoe turns out to be the exception to the rule.
This is just the right size for an electric car: any smaller and friends or family would beg to be let out, any larger and its weight would be a drain on the battery. Its range is 130 miles, and with a 7KW home wall-box charger, it takes between three and four hours to restore the battery to full power.
The price is the Zoe’s winning card. When you consider that a full charge is estimated to cost £1.50, and you can travel over 100 miles for that, it’s a value package whichever way you look at it.
What is it? A great looking SUV at a great price.
How much does it cost? From £12,950 to £19,500
Forget that you’ve never heard of Korea’s SsangYong car company and instead take a good look at the Tivoli. It’s a handsome machine, better-looking than a whole host of household-name SUVs, and is actually pretty darn good to drive.
There’s a choice of front-wheel or four-wheel drive models, and both handle surprisingly well. The diesel engine comes in for particular praise, as it provides effortless performance in all driving conditions. Inside, the spacious cabin makes it ideal as a family car, and again, the design is remarkably attractive.
Perhaps its winning feature, however, is the five-year warranty. There’s no mileage restriction, and even the brakes and clutch are covered in the first year, unlike certain competitors.
What is it? A little-known coupe that’s a hoot to drive.
How much does it cost? From £22,495 to £25,595
Before you arrange a test drive of this overlooked coupe, a word of warning: you’ll be grinning so much afterwards that it will leave you with face ache.
Where most coupes focus on style and creature comforts, this one is all about paring back the driving experience to raw thrills. There’s a horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine that simply loves to be revved hard. It’s got skinny tyres that mean you can have fun on the road at sensible, law-abiding speeds. And the whole package has a seat-of-the-pants feel that’s rare in modern cars.
What is it? A cheap, cheerful family workhorse with four-wheel drive.
How much does it cost? From £9,495 to £16,495
Secretly, every driver of an SUV or 4x4 would like to own a Land Rover. After all, it was the British company that invented the hardy, hill-walking sort of go-anywhere cars. And that makes them the real deal.
The Dacia Duster harks back to a simpler time when cars were about getting you from A to B, rather than announcing your status. They were also affordable, as is the Duster, costing from less than £10,000. The cheapest four-wheel drive version is £11,495, which again, is impressive.
However, it’s the well-sorted driving experience, proven mechanical ingredients and practical cabin that make it so appealing. Especially if you intend to put it to work as a family car.