Group test: Small family cars

Three potential small family cars, written for Professional Manager magazine

Alfa Romeo Giulietta

Alfa’s new small family car is quite the looker, with an attractive, clean design idiom that really sets it apart from the other cars in the sector. This being an Alfa it’s designed to appeal to drivers on an emotional level and the striking looks and eye-catching trim – rocker switches and the Alfa DNA control, which determines drive dynamics, on the console add a dash of Italian flair.

The real star of the Giulietta is the 2.0-litre JTDM-2 diesel engine, however. It’s capable of 62.8mpg combined – there’s a long sixth gear for cruising – and while it only has 140bhp there’s up to 350Nm of torque available. In Normal mode it’s pleasant enough; in Dynamic mode the car comes alive and can withstand some expressive driving with ease.

The Giulietta isn’t cheap, but there’s lots of kit on the middling Lusso model that I tested. User-choosers will warm to the hatch’s sports looks and performance; managers may nod appreciatively at the running costs – crucially CO2 is at 119g/km.

Good

Stunning exterior looks; eye-catching details inside
Flexible diesel engine offers performance and economy
Fun to rag around in Dynamic mode

Bad

Prices for this model look high
Ride comfort isn’t great on poor road surfaces
Rear space for passengers isn’t great and boot space is only adequate

Renault Captur

The long-awaited Gallic interpretation of the Nissan Juke looks great and the styling sets it apart form the volume superminis on the road and its Japanese cousin. The alloys, body-coloured bumpers and the jacked-up stance of the small SUV means a high seating position and good visibility. Step inside and you’re treated to impressive interior space, though the boot space rather betrays the Captur’s small-car roots.

Sadly the driving dynamics can’t match the promise of the styling. The Captur is reassuringly dull to drive and has no off-road credentials. But does that really matter with acceptable ride comfort and a strong engine like the 1.5-litre diesel engine? I’d argue not – the powertrain is smooth, quiet and has enough grunt to pull the car without straining and comes in at 95g/km in manual guise.

The Dynamique MediaNav includes an integrated multimedia tablet featuring a seven-inch touchscreen, satnav, Bluetooth, USB and hands-free tech – great for the too-busy-to-stop motorist – while every models benefits from cruise control, an ECO setting and hill-start assist.

The Captur may not win over any boy racers, but for the fleet manager it’s a proposition that demands inspection.

Good

Strong styling means the Captur will turn heads
Low depreciation and CO2 mean attractive whole-life costs
Good interior space, smooth engine and gadgetry should attract managers

Bad

Boot space is not particularly impressive
Driving dynamics are nowhere to be found
Ride can feel twitchy at high speeds or difficult conditions

Vauxhall Mokka

Vauxhall’s assault on the same territory as the Captur is the Mokka, an elevated supermini of the kind that Nissan has found such success with in the shape of the Juke.

It’s the sister car of the Chevrolet Trax – a surprisingly engaging car – but General Motors is using the Vauxhall to target the fleet market and, while the cars do have some distinguishing features, they’re essentially built on the same platform.

Where the Mokka – and Traxx – differ from the Captur is in the provision of four-wheel drive, but it’s the specification that is the real winner, matching a lusty-yet-economical diesel engine to strong technology.

Kit includes steering wheel controls, a digital radio, cruise control, hill start assist, hill descent control, dual-zone climate control, parking sensors, Bluetooth, alloy wheels and colour-screen satnav.

It looks good, it’s comfortable, it’s spacious and it’s economical, and while the diesel engine is rather grumbly at low revs it’s flexible and surprisingly swift.

Good
At higher revs the engine is rather fun
Very smart interior with good storage
Excellent levels of specification

Bad
Engine is grumbly and comparatively high in CO2
Price looks steep against competitors
Handling is dull

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