Top 10 best hatchbacks to buy 2023
We’ve selected our top ten best family hatchbacks so you don’t have to.
Of all the cars on the road, family hatchbacks have one of the hardest jobs. These mid-size workhorses need to be practical, cheap to run, easy to drive, reliable, achieve a high Euro NCAP safety rating – all while remaining relatively affordable to buy. This is no easy task, but that might be why the models that are able to pull it all off have become some of best known and best selling cars in the UK.
The best hatchbacks on sale are able to cater for a range of different requirements, often coming in a wide range of formats for a broad appeal. You can opt for almost any type of powertrain with petrol, diesel, hybrid and all-electric configurations on offer, not to mention hot hatch performance versions. Body styles can vary too, with many models being offered in estate or saloon guise.
Top 10 best hatchbacks on sale
With so many makes and models to choose from, we’ve rounded up our ten favourites to help you make the best hatchback buying decision.
These are the ‘C-segment’ mid-size family cars that deliver the best mix of kit, safety, running costs, fun driving and family-friendly features.
10. Mercedes A-Class
While the Mercedes A-Class isn’t going to set the world alight when it comes to handling, it does offer motorists class-leading onboard tech and great refinement. Despite the continued success of the previous A-Class, Mercedes went back to the drawing board with the latest car – revising the platform it uses, along with the interior, engines and tech.
The changes don't end there, either, as Mercedes claims that the latest car’s aerodynamic alterations are equivalent to shaving 100kg from the kerbweight. However, all these improvements don’t come cheap, with the A-Class range starting at over £31k.
As you might expect, the refinement of the A-Class really shines on the motorway, where it is quiet, stable and composed. Mercedes bosses have even claimed that it offers C-Class levels of comfort.
9. Volkswagen Golf
The Volkswagen Golf has been a staple of UK roads for decades, and it was even the UK’s eighth best-selling car in 2022. While the latest Golf does have its flaws – such as a frustrating infotainment system and compromised ride quality – it still offers plenty of appeal to a huge range of customers.
The Golf is offered with a broad range of powertrains to choose from, with petrol, diesel, mild-hybrid and plug-in hybrid options all available. Equipment levels are pretty easy to understand with the core models being the Life, Style and R-Line. Life trim offers a digital instrument display, a 10-inch colour touchscreen and wireless smartphone charging as standard. The mid-range Style models add items such as larger 17-inch alloy wheels and sports seats with upgraded upholstery, while the dynamic R-Line spec brings lowered suspension and an exterior styling kit.
8. Mazda 3
The third generation Mazda 3 acts as a bit of a quirky alternative to the usual hatchback picks. In typical Mazda fashion, the 3 combines a pleasurable driving experience with unique styling and classy build quality.
The 3’s 2.0-litre Skyactiv-G engine is available in either 120bhp or 178bhp guises – depending on your chosen trim – and both versions feature Mazda's M Hybrid tech to help lower CO2 emissions. There’s a rigidity to the chassis, but the suspension also copes with imperfections in the road. As a result, the Mazda 3 has composed handling while retaining a comfortable ride.
The Mazda’s plush interior is among the best in the class with great build quality and crisp, modern touches. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available and the infotainment unit itself is easy to use with a BMW iDrive-style rotary dial on the centre console.
7. Skoda Scala
The Skoda Scala has long boasted a reputation as a class-leader – we even named it our Compact Family Car of the Year when it first launched in 2019 – and it still offers some of the largest amounts of space, quality and comfort of any car in this class.
Despite being a direct rival for the Volkswagen Golf, the Scala utilises the smaller MQB A0 platform found in the Volkswagen Polo and Audi A1. This doesn’t result in a smaller interior though, in fact the Scala’s 467-litre boot dwarfs the Golf’s 380-litre loadbay. There’s also more room in the rear seats, making the Scala one of the more sizeable cars in the hatchback segment.
The Scala comfortably undercuts the Golf and many other rivals when it comes to price, too. However, if you like your creature comforts then it would be a good idea to spend a bit more and go for the SE trim, as this adds in an eight-inch touchscreen, Autonomous Emergency Braking, LED headlights and smartphone connectivity.
6. Ford Focus
If having fun behind the wheel is a priority, the Ford Focus should be high on your hatchback list. Keeping up the tradition of previous generations, the latest Focus puts driving pleasure first with sharp handling and excellent body control.
The Focus can be specced with petrol, diesel or hybrid power. Each powertrain brings its own benefits in terms of emissions and running costs, but every car in the range is sure to put a smile on even the discerning enthusiast’s face.
The biggest criticism of the old Focus was its lack of interior space, but while its styling is proving to be rather divisive, the longer wheelbase on the latest car means the cabin space has been vastly improved. There’s plenty of room for four adults and boot space has also been increased to make this a truly capable family car.
5. Vauxhall Astra
The Vauxhall Astra is another well-established model that has recently entered a new generation. While the surge in SUV popularity has knocked Vauxhall’s hatchback down in the sales charts, the latest model is one of the best yet.
Available with all-electric, petrol, diesel and hybrid powertrains, the eighth-generation Astra has what is arguably the boldest design of any Astra to date. Its angular look and ‘Vizor’ front end really help it to stand out from the crowd. The more keen-eyed might also notice a small amount of resemblance to the Peugeot 308. This is no coincidence as the two models share the same EMP2 platform from the Stellantis group.
The Vauxhall has the lower starting price of the two, though, and it offers plenty as standard. The angular styling of the Astra continues on the inside, too, and the cockpit features two 10-inch displays instead of traditional dials.
4. Toyota Corolla
The Toyota Corolla is a nameplate known around the world, but for 17 years it was defunct in the UK as the largely forgettable Auris took its place. Now, though, the Corolla has regained its place as a top choice on the UK hatchback market.
There’s two economical petrol engines on offer: a 138bhp 1.8-litre petrol hybrid and a 193bhp 2.0-litre petrol hybrid. Both are efficient and relatively green as emissions start from just 101g/km, so they should return low running costs.
While the Corolla isn’t as fun to drive as a Golf or Focus, the ride is refined and wind and road noise is well suppressed at motorway speeds. The interior is one of the best in its class with soft touch materials and a modern design. However, if you need extra cabin and boot space, the Corolla is also available as an estate. We liked the estate version so much, we named it Estate Car of the Year 2023 at our New Car Awards.
3. Renault Megane E-Tech
The all-electric Renault Megane E-Tech is a top zero-emission choice, particularly for use as a family car. There’s plenty of practicality, such as a 440-litre boot, and lots of useful features – including one of the best touchscreen infotainment systems on the market.
It may look more like an SUV than a hatchback from the outside, but the Megane E-Tech is actually rather good to drive. It will go from 0-62mph in 7.5 seconds and feels eager from a standstill thanks to 300Nm of torque. It’s also impressively refined.
Make no mistake, the Megane E-Tech is far from being a lightweight car, but it still manages to come in at around 200kg lighter than the Volkswagen ID. 3, and this helps with efficiency. There’s only one battery available, but this 60kWh unit can be topped up from 15 to 80 per cent in as little as 30 minutes, thanks to the Megane E-Tech’s 130kW rapid-charging ability.
2. Skoda Octavia
The Skoda Octavia is one of the biggest cars in this class. Although it shares a platform with the Volkswagen Golf and SEAT Leon, the Skoda’s longer body and clever packaging mean it offers more boot space than its siblings, as well as a hugely practical interior and enough room for five. Similarly to the Corolla, the Octavia is also available in either hatchback or estate form, and both versions offer plenty of space and standard equipment.
Now in its fourth generation, the Octavia offers improved on-board technology, with updated infotainment systems and important driver-assistance kit. It also boasts a full five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP. Levels of comfort and refinement are also better than before which means longer journeys should be pleasantly relaxing – with all Octavias offering reasonable levels of equipment as standard.
As well as conventional petrol and diesel models, there's also the option of the frugal Octavia iV plug-in hybrid.
1. Honda Civic
The Honda Civic has been with us for more than fifty years, and the eleventh-generation model is definitely one of the best cars to carry this established family hatchback name.
Take one look at the ‘FL5’ Civic and you will notice that it’s a bit more understated than its predecessor. It’s more stylish, though, and a generous amount of kit comes as standard.
Underneath the sleek styling, the latest Civic is better than ever, being powered by a 2.0-litre e:HEV full-hybrid setup. This system differs from most rivals as the petrol engine acts primarily as a generator to charge the battery. This means that it will run in EV mode as much as possible, resulting in lower emissions and fuel consumption.
On the road, the Civic offers crisp and entertaining handling, as well as solid build quality and reliability.
Top 10 best hatchbacks on sale
- Honda Civic
- Skoda Octavia
- Renault Megane E-Tech
- Toyota Corolla
- Vauxhall Astra
- Ford Focus
- Skoda Scala
- Mazda 3
- Volkswagen Golf
- Mercedes A-Class
History of the hatchback
Hatchbacks, as we know them today, originated in the 1970s. The idea behind the design was similar to that of an estate – a top-hinged tailgate set at a jaunty angle to provide a stylish look but also more versatility than a saloon.
In the early days, some manufacturers did miss the mark with what a hatch should be, offering a saloon-style hinged section below the rear glass, but it was not long before all manufacturers were designing cars with the highly practical boot door which incorporated the rear window. The Renault 4, 5 and 16, Austin Maxi and Fiat 127 were all pioneers of the hatchback body style, and by the start of the 1980s, mainstream cars like the Ford Escort had moved from saloon to a hatch layout.
Today, the smallest hatchbacks are in the city car class, and models such as the Toyota Aygo X feature a small rear hatch that's not much more than a reinforced pane of glass. This is a cheap way of making a hatch, and is pretty effective. Further up the size scale, the hatchback body is the default choice in the supermini class, and while some superminis are available as saloons in other regions, the hatchback overwhelmingly rules the roost in the UK.
You have plenty of choice in the compact hatch class where the cars most regularly referred to as ‘hatchbacks’ reside. Starting with the likes of the Ford Focus, Honda Civic, and Peugeot 308, then moving up to the Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series at the premium end of things.
If you want some performance with your practicality, there are a host of ‘hot hatch’ performance models based on cars in this class, such as the Volkswagen Golf GTI, Honda Civic Type R and Hyundai i30 N. For the purposes of this page, it’s the ‘family hatchback’ cars that we’re concentrating on but the actual hatchback boot door has spread far further.
Moving up in size, there are hatch versions of the BMW 3 Series and Audi A5 Sportback, and, at the very top of the tree, the Audi A7 Sportback, Tesla Model S and Porsche Panamera are the most luxurious hatchbacks you can buy. SUVs use the hatchback boot style, too.
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