Therefore, while the likes of General Motors and Ford have saloon customers lining up in sunnier climes, it remains viable to cater for Britain's motoring minority - albeit with narrow ranges. Ford, for instance, chose to launch its Focus saloon in Ghia trim only with prices starting from ú14,500 (1.6-litre or 1.8-litre petrol engines are the same price) and featuring air-conditioning, sunroof, CD player, a touch of leather, and wood-effect panels. 'The saloon will appeal to the more conservative buyer,' Ford Focus brand manager John Rogers told us.
Given the goodies and Focus's capable reputation, the Ford four-door is competitively priced. The 1.8-litre diesel and 2.0-litre petrol derivatives are ú15,000 and ú15,500 respectively.
Vauxhall has had longer to establish its new Astra range, thus its four-door selection is marginally more extensive. It has five engine choices - 1.6-litre 8v, 1.6-litre 16v and 1.8-litre petrol and 1.7-litre turbodiesel and 2.0-litre direct injection - and four trims - LS, Club, CD and CDX - allowing a nine-model range with delivered prices from ú12,995 to ú16,150. But that's small fry compared with the five-door's 29 models, the estate's 22, and the three-door's 12, covering ú11,675 to ú16,900 delivered to dealer.
Both Vauxhall and Ford resisted fleet-confusing rebranding moves for their saloons - in the past the booted Astra was known as a Vauxhall Belmont, then Astra Belmont, and the Escort was a Ford Orion. Volkswagen, however, continues to believe the four-door requires separate marketing. In the States, the Jetta saloon (Vento in Europe) considerably outsells the Golf hatchback, on which it is based. Its replacement, the Volkswagen Bora, is due to be launched here in May, and VW insists that while it uses the new Golf platform, it's a bigger car altogether and will fit between Golf and Passat.