Top ten best saloons for 2011

An ever-popular means of transport for businesses in the UK is the saloon car. However, the increasing luxury, equipment and more importantly, low prices, of many saloons mean private buyers are increasingly likely to consider buying one.

Particularly popular with families saloons offer a spacious, comfortable ride for up to five people, most often with plenty of room in the boot for luggage.

In recent years, the introduction of more efficient and cheaper to run engines has opened the sector up even more to private buyers.

To celebrate this, we’ve collected our favourite ten saloon cars, both old and new. It’s a broad spectrum, with some offering luxury and elegance while others are practical, spacious and priced at the bottom end of the scale.

Below are our choices for top ten saloon cars in 2011:

10) Renault Laguna

The Renault Laguna is an often overlooked saloon because of its subdued styling but the car has sold well in the UK – arguably its best performing market.

The Laguna is a popular used buy, mostly because of the impressive levels of equipment and relatively low price. Surprisingly, it’s also well put together and was the first car in its class to receive a top safety rating at the EuroNCAP test – making it ideal for family use.

It may not be the most stylish saloon on the market, but the Laguna is one of the best used car buys around, and even older versions won’t break the bank in terms of running costs.

A new version is set to arrive in the UK in 2011, further reducing used prices for the current generation.

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9) Alfa Romeo 159

The Alfa Romeo 159 is a bit long in the tooth now, having first arrived in 2005 to the UK market. However, those looking for classic Alfa Romeo style won’t be disappointed by the classy design of the saloon.

Unusually for an older Alfa Romeo, the car is also comfortable and well equipped inside, and the old reliability issues are missing in the 159.

Range-topping petrol engines such as the 3.2-litre V6 will be expensive to run, but lower down the range the engines are capable and refined, allowing for a comfortable but gutsy drive.

The Alfa Romeo 159 is perfect for somebody looking for something out of the ordinary in terms of style. And, as many have said before, you’re not a real petrolhead until you’ve owned an Alfa.

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8) Seat Exeo

The Seat Exeo is another older saloon, this time based on the older Audi A4 model. However, this is an advantage for the Exeo, which uses its Audi roots to deliver a high-end interior above what you would expect for the price of the Exeo.

The Volkswagen-sourced underpinnings also deliver reliable engines and the car feels well put together and running costs are low.

As a compact executive-styled car, it is ideal for driving in cities thanks to its smaller dimensions than some rivals as well.

The Seat Exeo is a car for those looking for a safe, reliable car with a touch of class taken from the more premium models sat above it in the pecking order – all for a low price.

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7) Citroen C6

The Citroen C6 is notable for its elegant design and classy styling. Much more of a limousine than a family saloon, the C6 is a favourite as a business and fleet car.

However, private buyers who clock up plenty of motorway miles will be impressed with the superb suspension set up which allows it to cruise serenely along in style.

The Citroen C6 is large, spacious and comfortable – all the attributes needed to swallow up motorway miles. In terms of looks, it also offers something impressively different to the dominant German manufacturers in the segment.

The Citroen C6 is a car for those who want a limousine style experience – but this translates as slightly higher running costs than other saloons on the market.

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6) Mazda6

The Mazda6 was awarded Best Family Car by What Car? in 2010. This is a testament to the quality of Mazda’s often overlooked saloon.

Mazda has implanted all its knowledge of handling and steering into the Mazda6 and the result is one of the best drives from a saloon you are likely to find.

It’s also good looking enough and well built, with solid materials and good levels of equipment inside.

The diesel engines are the pick of the bunch thanks to their ultra-low running costs and the engines are well put together, keeping maintenance costs down.

It isn’t the most stylish saloon on the market, but it is one of few saloons to tick all the right boxes – and at an affordable price too.

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5) Kia Optima

The Kia Optima is the newest car on the list, mainly because the latest version won’t arrive in UK showrooms for another couple of months.

However, the latest generation has been designed with Europe in mind and comes with three new trim levels to destroy the myth of Kia being a low-cost, low-quality brand.

It also brings with it the impressive styling seen in other new Kia’s, including the superb Sportage crossover. This, coupled with low prices and petrol and diesel engines ranging from 140bhp all the way up to 200bhp, should be enough to challenge the leaders in the saloon segment.

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4) Peugeot 508

Another new car, the Peugeot 508, will enter the UK market in summer 2011 as a replacement for both the 407 and 607.

The Peugeot 508 has followed in the tyre treads of the Citroen C6 by delivering an elegant design with an improved interior in keeping with other Peugeot success stories such as the 3008.

The 508 is spacious inside thanks to its larger dimensions than the 407, but the real draw is the fact the French marque has installed an enjoyable and responsive drive in its flagship saloon without affecting comfort.

For those looking for cheaper running costs, Peugeot has promised a diesel-electric hybrid version of the car, one of the first of its kind in the UK. A future hybrid could even have CO2 emissions below 100g/km – enough to exempt it from UK road tax.

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3) Vauxhall Insignia

Brought in to replace the Vectra, the Insignia is a drastic improvement over its predecessor. It was one of the first models to undergo Vauxhall’s revamp of the interior (the Astra hatchback and Corsa supermini soon followed) to bring it in line with rivals at the top end of the family saloon sector.

As a result, there is plenty of equipment and the materials used in the cabin are suitably upmarket while remaining practical for family use.

The design is eye-catching, but the Insignia really shines when being driven. The ride is smooth but involving enough to be enjoyable and the engines – in particular the 2.0-litre diesels – are cheap to run but more than capable.

The Insignia is a regular in the top ten most popular cars in the UK based on sales, and as a huge step forward over the Vectra, it isn’t difficult to see why.

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2) Jaguar XF

The car that revived the British motoring giant has won a plethora of international awards since its launch in 2009.

The Jaguar XF is the peak of saloon excellence. Luxurious, gadget-packed and with a style and verve not seen in a Jaguar car for several years, the XF is more than a match for high-end German rivals and is a perfect reason to buy British.

Being driven, it is refined and comfortable and offers superb handling. Meanwhile, the sporty engines are smooth but powerful.

The only reason the quite frankly brilliant Jaguar XF didn’t finish as our number one is because prices start from £35,000 – much more than the family-oriented saloons on our list.

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1) Ford Mondeo

At the top of the family-size saloon pile is the Ford Mondeo. The perennial favourite has had a styling, equipment and engine upgrade for 2011 and despite the lower prices, it has never been closer to more expensive premium models.

The Mondeo is undoubtedly the best value car in the segment and the range of EcoBoost petrol and ECOnetic diesel engines deliver impressively low fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

Inside, the interior is more akin to an executive car with only the badge giving away its Blue Oval roots. Equipment is generous, and even standard models will boast enough gadgets for most.

There doesn’t appear to be a downside to the Ford Mondeo – it really is the best family car of 2011. But don’t just take our word for it; the Mondeo was named as such by What Car?

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