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BMW 3-Series

Our choice: 320d SE
Price: £29,475
Specs: 181bhp, 280lb ft, 0-62mph 7.5secs, 146mph top speed, 61.4mpg, CO2 120g/km

All you need to know about the BMW 3-Series is that it is possibly the best car in the world. And the 320d is the best model. Or a 335d, if you like power. Or the latest M3 if you like sideways, and you like it a little spiky…

Read Top Gear’s full verdict on the BMW 3-Series

Mercedes C-Class

Our choice: C250 Bluetec Sport
Price: £34,355
Specs: 201bhp, 369lb ft, 0-62mph 6.6secs, 153mph top speed, 65.7mpg, CO2 109g/km

Doesn’t have quite the handling fluency of the BMW, but it’s perhaps an even more upmarket contender for class honours. Hate diesel? It’s got to be the wonderful new V8, twin-turbo C63 AMG.

Read Top Gear’s full verdict on the Mercedes C-Class

Skoda Superb

Our choice: 2.0 TDI CR 170 SE
Price: £23,060
Specs: 168bhp, 258lb ft, 0-62mph 8.8secs, 138mph top speed, 61.4mpg, CO2 120g/km

A bargain. A huge bargain, both financially and physically. Not one for the high speed corner attack, but for wafting and comfort it’s peerless. New Superb lies not far around the corner, and it’s even better.

Read Top Gear’s full verdict on the Skoda Superb

Volkswagen Passat

Our choice: 2.0 TDI 150 GT
Price: £26,595
Specs: 148bhp, 251lb ft, 0-62mph 8.7secs, 137mph top speed, 68.9mpg, CO2 109g/km

The new Passat hardly moves the game on, but it’s several notches better in every way than the old one, which may make it the most sensible car on the road. Looks classier than ever, too.

Read Top Gear’s full verdict on the Volkswagen Passat

Ford Mondeo

Our choice: 1.5 160 Ecoboost Zetec
Price: £21,345
Specs: 157bhp, 177lb ft, 0-62mph 9.2secs, 138mph top speed, 48.7mpg, CO2 134g/km

Don’t sleepwalk into buying a diesel, Mondeo man - the 1.5 turbo petrol in this new generation is a sprightlier, more hushed performer. The whole car’s more grown up than the old Mundane-o, too.

Read Top Gear’s full verdict on the Ford Mondeo

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