By: Jason Woosey

In this brand-conscious, sometimes fad-driven world, it's no secret that popularity isn't always an indication of how good something actually is. So without further hesitation, let's take a look at our favourite underrated cars.

Citroen Cactus: R259 900 - R314 900

Look up quirky in the dictionary, and you'll see a picture of the new Cactus.

Citroen's far-out design sees plastic body armour applied to its doors - a feature devised to protect from minor bumps and scrapes inflicted in parking lot warfare.

It's a wild-looking crossover, that just happened to win the 2015 World Car Design of the Year award, and the minimalistic cabin is equally quirky. The cherry on top is a torquey 1.2-litre turbopetrol engine option.

In the last two months the Cactus averaged around 40 sales a month - a lot less than it should have in our opinion.

Ford Focus: R236 900 - R311 900

While the Focus doesn't sell all that badly, averaging around 330 units in the last two months, it certainly deserves to do a lot better.

Its prices undercut rivals by a considerable margin (although an EU trade deal does give the 1.0T a duty-free advantage) and that 1-litre EcoBoost turbopetrol is a gem of an engine, while the 1.5T is surprisingly perky.

The cabin might be showing its age a bit, but the nice ride, solid road-holding and overall practicality and value make it a compelling choice.

PS: The Ford's arch-rival, Opel's new Astra, could end up being equally underrated, if previous models' sales are anything to go by, but since it's just been launched we'll reserve our judgement for now.

Kia Grand Sedona: R552 995 - R704 995

Kia has found a nice little niche for itself with the Grand Sedona, a vehicle which we feel fills a slot between seven-seat SUVs and proper minivans.

Strictly speaking this is an MPV, but with a relatively macho look and a settled on-road demeanour which some passenger cars should be jealous of.

A clever floorplan allows seating for seven in addition to an enormous boot that's capacious enough to swallow luggage for all passengers. A beefy 147kW/440Nm 2.2 turbodiesel, or 199kW/318Nm 3.3 V6 petrol, provide effortless performance.

Mazda2: R198 500 - R278 900

Like the Focus, this little Mazda isn't completely without fans - usually selling around 180 units a month - but it should be in a far higher bracket than that.

Not only is the cheeky-looking hatch rather enjoyable to drive, with meaty steering, gleeful agility, a decent ride and a willing 1.5-litre engine, but it's also priced below most of its rivals, providing you don't go for the over-specced, over-priced diesel version.

Peugeot 308: R304 900 - R399 900

The latest Peugeot 308 represents a massive leap in refinement over its predecessor - so much so that we'd consider it a true rival to the class-leading Golf.

Peugeot's given the C-segment hatch an upmarket makeover with clean-cut new sheetmetal and a well-built interior which takes minimalism, and quality, to a new level for the brand.

It's 1.2- and 1.6-litre turbo engines also deliver impressive performance and efficiency.

Subaru WRX: R514 000 - R535 000

While there are more sophisticated sedans on offer at this price point, Subaru's WRX instead focuses on being a badass that majors on speed, grip, control and good old fashioned driver involvement. Key ingredients here are a 197kW 2-litre flat-four and Subaru's legendary symmetrical all-wheel drive system.

Best of all is that unlike some of its predecessors that felt rough around the edges in every other way, the latest model has a more luxurious and upscale feel that you'll easily live with - providing you haven't just stepped out of a Merc.

Suzuki Ciaz: R197 900 - R234 900

Its styling probably won't make your heart flutter, but the Ciaz certainly is easy on the eye and if a practical, no-nonsense sedan is what you're after, you'll struggle to find better value than this Suzuki.

Larger than its B-segment rivals yet undercutting them with super-keen prices that start below R200 000, it offers a roomy interior, a comfy ride and, largely thanks to a low kerb weight of 1040kg, the Ciaz provides better performance than you'd expect from a car with a normally aspirated 1.4-litre engine.

Toyota 86: R382 300 - R451 700

The car that boy-racers love to hate, Toyota's 86 coupé is not for your everyday robot-to-robot racer who's accustomed to the straight-line turbo thrills that today's front-wheel drive hot hatches provide.

Instead the 86 panders to those who appreciate the balance and driver involvement afforded by a well-engineered rear-wheel drive car. Sure, its 147kW normally aspirated motor struggles to provide any real thrills, especially at altitude, but if drifting is more your thing, the 86 offers keen value.

Volkswagen Up: R152 500 - R185 000

At only a smidgen over 800kg, VW's Up hatch is a true flyweight in motoring terms. It's also the most affordable car in the brand's humungous range with a starting price of R152 500 - even if we hoped it would come in even cheaper.

Still, it's a likeable little city car with solid build quality, a sassy image and great fuel economy from its tiny 1-litre petrol engine.

While the three-door models have struggled on the sales charts, the recent addition of five-door models to the range could well perk up its popularity.

Volkswagen Passat: R423 500 - R507 300

It's no secret that the Passat has never been the most exciting saloon on the block, but this all-new eighth generation, though still erring on the conservative side, is incredibly classy and sophisticated.

A tech injection sees some new-age toys like radar cruise control and a fully digital colour instrument cluster joining the options list, and top models get the same 162kW 2-litre engine as the Golf GTI.

If your inner snob can live without the premium badge, the new Passat models will save you around R50 000 over the equivalent Audi A4 models.

Have we left anything out? Of course we have. Follow the links to our social media pages below and tell us what your favourite underrated cars are.

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