An ever-increasing number of new car ‘niches’ may be mixing things up in the family car sector, but the good old five-door hatchback continues to attract buyers in droves – indeed many models feature in the top 10 best-selling cars in the country.
Long-standing family favourites like the Vauxhall Astra, Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf have been a success story for as long as many drivers can remember, but newer market entries including the stylish and ever-expanding MINI (in 5-door form) and the Skoda Octavia have made life a lot tougher in recent years.
In addition, as our in-depth hatchback reviews and group tests regularly prove, models such as the Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series are not afraid to fight for a bigger share of the market, by attracting more brand-focused buyers away from the traditional sector stars.
Since the 1960s arrival of cars like the Renault 4 and Austin Maxi, the term 'hatchback' has been be used to describe all sorts of machines: superminis, crossovers, plenty of sports cars and even some large executive cars feature a single-piece tailgate. However it’s the small family five-door class - known as the C-Segment – that has become the definitive hatchback in most people's minds.
The popularity of the genre is easily explained as the best hatchback models make great all-rounders, and tend to be extremely practical. Latest models are typically roomy, compact around town but with good refinement on the motorway, and they're often highly efficient too. The best ones are also great fun behind the wheel, and that’s before we’ve even started on our top 10 hot hatchback list.
Affordability has always been important to drivers in the hatchback sector, but while price, mpg and overall running costs are top of the priorities list for many buyers, the premium rivals can make things pretty pricey.
The good news is that most hatchbacks from all manufacturers offer excellent running costs, with a wide range of efficient petrol and diesel engines available. We'd always go for petrol if you're planning on only doing short journeys, as diesels are more likely to have problems if not driven regularly on longer motorway trips and they usually cost more to buy in the first place.
With these cars likely to be used as a daily driver, there needs to be plenty of equpiment on board as well - like heated seats for those winter mornings, a DAB radio for the commute and Bluetooth for those important phone calls during the day. These days, even basic hatchbacks are full of equipment as standard but it's also important to look at the options list when buying to get the most out of your new car.
Being a good all-rounder doesn't have to make a car boring, though. There are many stylish, fun models in this class that'll put a smile on your face. There are comprehensive warranty and servicing deals available, too, ensuring reliability and further reductions in running costs. Basically, there's bound to be something to suit the tastes of every buyer and if you stick to our top 10 best hatchbacks you won't go far wrong.
Click through the links to find out more about the best hatchbacks on the market right now.