Does price separate the Focus, Golf and Astra?
There were no real surprises in the top ten best-selling cars of November 2011 list released this week by the Society of Motoring Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
The Ford Fiesta was out in front in terms of sales - as it has been all year - closely followed by its main rival, the Vauxhall Corsa.
However, the next three places in the top five showcased an intriguing battle in one of the most popular car segments in the UK.
The Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra are all direct competitors in the small family car sector and although the Focus has sold more often in 2011 to date, the gap between the three is almost non-existent.
Just 400 sales separated the three and when you compare Ford Focus prices with the other two, it becomes clear why it is so hard to choose between the three.
The Ford Focus starts from £16,000 but this has been reduced to just £14,000 for entry-level models in recent months as part of a sales push from the Blue Oval.
Seen as the best drive of the three, the Ford Focus is renowned for its handling and response and, in its newest guise, its incredible levels of equipment such as lane departure warnings, voice activation and wireless connectivity. In higher trim levels, it even parks itself.
The Vauxhall Astra was updated in 2010 to bring it up to Focus-levels of quality inside. It represents the comfortable, practical model in the line up and comes with impressively low running costs courtesy of an Ecoflex engine.
When comparing Vauxhall Astra prices, it also represents the lowest entry point out of the three at just £13,000 for hatchback versions - an obvious advantage in these difficult times for UK car buyers.
With just £1,000 separating the two, the choice is difficult. The British-built Astra is a very good car, but it does not do anything the Focus cannot do and the extra equipment is sure to encourage many buyers to opt for the Focus.
The Volkswagen Golf meanwhile, is by far the most expensive in the line up. Starting from nearly £16,000, it is not clear how it has leapfrogged the Focus and Astra in the sales charts.
However, the Golf has become a byword for quality and the weight of the badge alone will encourage people to go with the German car maker.
It is also on par with the Focus in terms of driveability and it comes with particularly high residual values.
Is it enough to warrant a £2,000 outlay over the entry-level Focus? For some, who value the inherent quality of the VW badge and with an eye on residuals, it is.
For us, the Ford Focus remains the car to beat however, thanks to its impressive list of equipment, lower prices and superb drive.