1 - Opel Astra
The Opel Astra has always been a steady seller in Ireland, thanks to its rugged reputation for reliability and good pricing. It has never really been what we'd call the best car in the segment though. Until now. Launched in 2015, the current Astra really is a revelation. It has a lovely looking, well-designed interior that is also spacious front and back. The engines range from the surprisingly perky and refined 1.0-litre turbo petrol to a fast 1.4-litre petrol alternative and, of course, a 1.6-litre diesel engine, the most popular option - if not the cheapest. All are relatively economical and smooth to drive and the Astra is simply brilliant on the road thanks in part to a considerable weight reduction over its predecessor. Make sure you choose a bright paint colour to really bring out the Astra's design, though.
2 - Volkswagen Golf
The Volkswagen Golf has, for a long time, been the best car in its class, which is why you should take the positioning of the Astra above it in this list as a very big deal. The Golf is still exceptionally good by any measure, however, with an exceedingly high-quality cabin, refined driving manners and something in the range for everyone, be it entry-level petrol power, economical diesels, petrol/diesel/hybrid performance derivatives or even emission-free electric propulsion in the shape of the e-Golf. A considerably revamped version of the Golf should hit Irish shores in time for the July plate change and it may well return to the top of the pile then.
3 - Skoda Octavia
The evergreen Skoda Octavia is another car that's due a facelift this year, though not everyone will like the new face. If you have doubts about it, best get your order in now for one of the outgoing cars that is still on sale for the 171 period. In fairness, the core appeal of the Octavia won't be changing much and that is its huge space. The Octavia's boot is simply massive and rear passenger room is best-in-class. On top of that, the Octavia drives pretty much as well as the Golf it's based on; yet it's generally better value.
4 - Ford Focus
The Ford Focus has consistently been one of the best-selling C-segment hatchbacks in Ireland for years and we don't see that changing in a hurry. Though part of its success has undoubtedly been due to the sprawling Ford dealer network and the car's good value for money, it's also because the Focus is a good all-round car. Nowadays, it's not quite as spacious or as high-tech as the best in the sector, but it's still competitive. One area it excels in is how it drives. Even buyers that don't especially relish driving often say they enjoy driving the Focus.
5 - Citroen C4 Cactus
This may appear to be a bit of a wildcard entry on this list of otherwise quite conventional family hatchbacks, but we love the quirky Citroen C4 Cactus and its pricing puts it squarely up against the other cars listed here. Admittedly, it's not hugely spacious in the boot and the rear door windows only pop out (as opposed to sliding up and down), but there's so much else to like about it - and not just its unusual style. The C4 Cactus is particularly good at riding over rough roads and it is very economical too. One to watch we think.