More importantly, the chassis is even better. Here’s a fairly humble hatchback that’s genuinely stimulating to hustle, with quick steering, strong grip and impressive body control that also manifests itself in a composed and comfortable ride. Yet it’s relaxing when you just want to mooch, with low noise levels and easy-going controls that make for hassle-free progress whether you’re slicing through town or pounding along motorways.
Elsewhere, the Honda has all the family car bases covered, with a roomy interior, big boot and more standard kit than you can shake a BMW optional extras brochure at. It even has a user-friendly dashboard that includes physical controls for the most commonly used infotainment and ventilation functions. It earns its top three placing almost based on this fact alone.
It’s been a while since Peugeot has a credible challenger in the compact family hatchback class, but the latest 308 is one of the French firm’s finest efforts so far. More to the point, because it’s based on the same EMP2 V3 platform (also used on the Citroen C4, DS 4 and Vauxhall Astra) it packs a plug-in hybrid powertrain for the first time, broadening its appeal.
Featuring a turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol, a 108bhp motor and 12.4kWh battery, the 308 is available with either 222 or 178bhp, but given there’s little to separate the two on performance the less costly lower powered model is our pick. Overall, it’s a smooth and well-integrated powertrain that serves-up brisk performance and can run in near-silent EV mode for a claimed 40 miles, allowing it to qualify for the 8% BiK rate. It also benefits from the sort of fluid and engaging handling that used to be a Peugeot calling card, its blend of agility and easy-going comfort making it genuinely rewarding to drive.