DESPITE the flood of niche family cars - some with go-anywhere credentials, others with an extra row of seats and a few with the visual proportions of a cube - we are still in love with the common hatchback.
SUVs and people carriers have their places, but the five door hatch is the failsafe choice of British buyers who appreciate a blend of practicality and driveability.
Perhaps the only recent change in buying habits is there's less demand for three-door models and greater interest in more generously proportioned models with rear doors.
Significantly, neither the Polo nor the Focus is now manufactured in three-door form.
Renault - a stalwart of sensible, family cars - renewed its challenge in the summer with the new Megane.
Predictably, perhaps, it's lower, longer and more frugal than the outgoing model. With sleek, purposeful styling and signature headlights and tail lights it possesses bags more road presence than most of its rivals.
Although it is the same width, the latest Megane appears squatter and sportier partly thanks to its broader track and lower roofline. The wheelbase is longer benefiting passenger space, and the rear overhang is slightly shorter.
LED front lights with a 3D effect dominate the nose and at the rear permanently lit lights create a similarly dynamic impression.
The cabin is neatly fashioned and has borrowed cues from Renault's premium models - the Talisman and Espace, which don't come to Britain. Soft touch, tactile plastics abound and a large touch screen, incorporating sat nav and reversing camera, is positioned in the centre of the facia. It looks great and the TomTom navigation system is so simple to operate.
There's plenty of shoulder room between driver and passenger with ample headroom too.
If you want to keep costs down, one of the best choices in the 25-strong range is the 1.5dCi, which packs 109bhp yet score highly on economy, boasting 76.4mpg and emissions of 96g/km.
It offers particularly refined travel thanks partly to an impressive absence of wind noise and the fact that very little road rumble is passed back into the cabin. The six-speed manual gearbox is light and unobtrusive, although I found the clutch pedal to be on the heavy side.
Road holding is sure-footed and confident, but it's a relaxed drive rather than a sporty one. Steering is light but passes little road feel back to the helm. So keener drivers may want to wait until the RenaultSport version comes along with more focused dynamics.
Ride is compliant and easy-going without too much body roll when pressing on around corners. Front seats are supportive and well-shaped.
There's plenty of room for four onboard and even five at a pinch with adequate head-room for a six-footer, despite the sloping roof. Boot space is marginally less generous than some rivals with a capacity of 434 litres but it's regularly shaped and flat-floored.