Best hatchbacks: 20-4

Our rundown of the best hatchbacks on the market, from 20 to 4

20. Fiat Bravo

£15,200 - £19,600

Smart looks, affordable prices and a line-up of economical diesel engines are the Bravo’s biggest strengths. It doesn’t have the effervescent character we associate with Fiat’s smaller cars, though, and lacks the dynamic polish of the class leaders. Competitive prices keep the Bravo on the radar as a leftfield alternative to mainstream models.

19. Alfa romeo Giulietta

£17,755 - £25,510

What a disappointment. The Alfa looks great and has cracking petrol and diesel engines, but its uninspiring chassis undermines the package. The ineffective DNA drive mode selection system prevents the driver from getting the best combination of steering and throttle responses.

18. Peugeot 308

£15,245 - £21,645

The only thing separating the 308 from last place here is its new e-HDi system. It’s the smoothest stop-start set-up we’ve tried and helps to boost economy on Peugeot’s family hatch. Unfortunately, the recent facelift hasn’t fixed its ungainly looks and wooden chassis. High-spec models are the most attractive as they’re brimming with features.

17. Citroen C4

£15,750 - £21,645

Created with comfort in mind, the Citroen C4 impresses with its refinement and classy, spacious cabin. A line-up of excellent diesel engines blends punchy performance with decent fuel returns, while all versions get a generous haul of standard kit. Sadly, the C4 is let down by its lacklustre driving dynamics. Numb controls and poor body control relegate it to a class also-ran.

16. Toyota Auris

£15,385 - £21,895

Look past the bland styling and you’ll find a dependable, practical and well equipped family car. The Auris won’t get keen drivers excited, but has a range of smooth petrol and diesel engines, plus nimble handling. Hybrid version uses petrol/electric drivetrains from the Prius and all models

get a five-year warranty.

15. Chrysler Delta

£16,695 - £25,695

Stand out from the family car crowd with the new Delta. Rebadged Lancia sells on its eye-catching looks and class-leading cabin space. Sadly, the average dynamics let the side down when you hit the road. Still, the newcomer is easily the most convincing Fiat Group contender in the family car class.

14. Chevrolet Cruze hatch

£13,995 - £18,795

Not as stylish as the Delta, but the Chevrolet is a capable and cost-effective family car. While quality trails the class leaders, it has a spacious cabin and boot, plus there’s a five-year warranty. Vauxhall Astra underpinnings mean poised driving dynamics, but gruff petrol and diesel engines trail on pace and CO2 emissions.

13. Toyota Prius

£21,055 - £26,845

The car that started the hybrid revolution is still at the top of its game. Versatile hatch body and roomy interior impress, while the novelty of running in silent electric mode never wears off. But firm low-speed ride, cheap materials and high prices detract from the Prius package. It also struggles to match diesel rivals’ efficiency.

12. Vauxhall Astra

£12,995 - £25,170

Stylish looks and upmarket cabin give the Astra plenty of appeal. Entry-level cars get a decent amount of kit and good-value prices, but range-toppers are expensive. On the move, Vauxhall is composed and inspires confidence, despite its lifeless steering. However, turbo petrol and diesel models trail rivals for performance and economy.

11. Renault Megane

£15,690 - £22,095

The Megane is much more than just a pretty face. A solidly built and attractively styled cabin, plus excellent diesel engines and an agile chassis, help the car stand out in this class. It’s not perfect, as the ride is firm and the radio controls are confusing. TomTom versions are fitted with an excellent sat-nav system as standard.

10. Honda Civic

£12,995 - £23,235

An all-new model is just around the corner, but the current Civic still has a lot to recommend it. Look past the outlandish styling and you’ll discover a versatile, well equipped cabin and big boot. The garish dashboard design and firm ride count against the Honda, but engines are strong and you should be able to bag a healthy account.

9. Audi A3

£16,620 - £39,930

With its premium badge and upmarket cabin, the Audi is a desirable choice, while the engine line-up includes smooth TSI petrols and frugal TDI diesels. Prices are higher than mainstream rivals’, but the solid finish and decent refinement make the A3 feel a cut above the rest. Quattro four-wheel drive and slick twin-clutch S tronic box are worthwhile options.

8. SEAT Leon

£14,885 - £25,995

With its VW Golf underpinnings, sleek styling and great-value pricing, the Leon is hot property in the family hatch sector. Decent driving dynamics, a roomy interior and strong engine line-up add to the appeal – the only real bugbears are the low-rent cabin materials and stiff ride. Ecomotive models promise CO2 emissions of less than 100g/km and 70mpg fuel economy.

7. Kia Cee’d

£11,373 - £16,104

Handsome looks, a solidly built cabin, excellent diesel engines and a seven-year warranty mean the Cee’d can mix it with established rivals. All versions come loaded with standard kit, and Ecodynamics models add stop-start for lower CO2 emissions. What’s more dealers will pay the VAT on any car bought before the end of the year.

6. Hyundai i30

£13,780 - £17,750

The i30’s place among the family car frontrunners was assured when it took overall honours in our Driver Power 2010 satisfaction survey. It scores with its robust build, generous kit, attractive prices and composed chassis. What’s more, Hyundai’s standard Triple Care package includes five years’ worth of warranty, breakdown assistance and free annual health checks.

5. Mazda 3

£14,755 - £23,185

If it wasn’t for its cramped boot and limited engine line-up, the Mazda would be fighting it out with our top three. Ignore these flaws and it’s a cracking family hatch. The attractively styled cabin is packed with soft-touch plastics, while all models get air-con, ESP and electric windows. But the engaging dynamics stand out – few rivals are as much fun.

4. Skoda Octavia

£13,280 - £23,995

Versatile Octavia misses out on the top three by the narrowest of margins. Roomy, solidly built and good to drive, the Skoda is an Auto Express favourite. Slightly staid looks hide excellent VW engines and a poised chassis, while it undercuts mainstream rivals on price. Strong Driver Power results complete the Octavia’s impeccable family credentials.

Now our top three go head-to-head...

We've counted down the UK’s top hatchbacks from 20 to four – and now we look at the top three in more depth. So our established favourites, the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf, go up against the latest arrival in this class, the all-new BMW 1 Series, in a three-way fight for overall victory.

 

The original 1 Series five-door launched in 2005, and combined a premium badge, rear-wheel-drive handling and sharp styling. It proved a huge success, with 108,765 sales in the UK. And BMW hopes to build on this, as the more comfortable and spacious second generation answers some of the criticisms of the MkI.

 

But how will the entry-level 1.6-litre turbo 116i fare against top-spec versions of our favourite conventional family hatchbacks?

 

First into the firing line is the Focus. With its reputation as a driver’s car, it’s a perfect rival for the BMW, especially with the excellent 1.6-litre EcoBoost turbo engine under the bonnet.

 

But the hatchback with the badge kudos to worry the new 1 Series is the Golf. We test the twin-charged 1.4-litre TSI, which is the most powerful car here, in upmarket GT trim. Which of the top three will be the last one standing in our mega hatch shoot-out?

Details

Chart position: 4

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