Once the go-to choice for family car and company car buyers alike, the ‘C-segment’ family hatchback might not be as popular as it once was — yet another victim of the rise of the SUV — but there are still plenty of reasons to choose one. In fact, the best hatchbacks on sale make a compelling case for themselves with class-leading tech, comfortable interiors and practical yet stylish designs. There are some real household names in this section of the market and competition is fierce. 

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While many hatchbacks offer the usual choice of petrol, diesel or hybrid power, an increasing number also provide the choice of an all-electric powertrain. There’s plenty of choice on offer, so our expert road testers have gathered the top 10 best hatchbacks to buy right here to help you compile your shortlist.

In order to make the grade, these cars need to be practical, cheap to run, easy to drive and boast a high Euro NCAP safety rating, all while remaining relatively affordable to buy. 

Top 10 best hatchbacks to buy

There are plenty of makes and models to choose from, so read on to find our top 10 hatchbacks to buy right now, listed below in reverse order.

10. 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 184bhp 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. 

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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. 

9. 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 sizable 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.

8. 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. 

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The Focus can be specced with petrol 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.

7. 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 or 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.

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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.

6. 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 98g/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 at our 2023 New Car Awards. 

5. MG4 

A brand-new electric car for less than £30,000? It’s certainly a rare occurrence in the new-car world, but the MG4 is something of a bargain. Prices start at just £26,995 for the base SE model, which gets an official range of 218 miles, but the Long Range version adds another 63 miles between charges, yet its asking price still starts with a two. 

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For the most part, it doesn’t really feel like you’re having to scrimp for the privilege, either; sure, the infotainment system is a bit basic and the finish isn’t mind-blowing, but there’s plenty of space inside, performance is strong, and it’s one of the most fun cars to drive in its class. Then there’s the hot MG4 EV XPower, which offers a mind-blowing 0-62mph time of 3.8 seconds.

4. Renault Megane E-Tech

Renault’s Megane nameplate has been around for nearly 30 years, but in 2022 it underwent its most radical transformation by becoming exclusively available with electric power. Called the Megane E-Tech, the hatch instantly made a splash by driving just as sharply as it looks. 

Its Android-based infotainment system is the best in its class by some margin, and it’s only set to get better as over-the-air updates add more smart features. 

And bucking the usual trend of cars getting ever more pricey, Renault recently sweetened the deal by slashing between £2,500-£3,500 off the cost of the Megane E-Tech, depending on trim level. We’d go for the mid-range techno+ spec, because its standard-fit heat pump improves range in cold weather. 

The Megane E-Tech also makes a strong case for itself as a family car. Its large stature means there’s a decent amount of space for passengers, and there’s a 440-litre boot in the back for their luggage.

3. Citroen C4

The Citroen C4 is something of an under-appreciated hero in the family-car segment. The quirky-looking hatchback –— or saloon, with the big-booted C4-X — goes its own way, not only in terms of exterior design, but also in how it behaves on the road. There aren’t any big wheels or ride-destroying sporty suspension set-ups here; instead, comfort is the order of the day, with a supple ride and sofa-like seats that give a soothing experience from behind the wheel. 

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And while some rivals are a little more spacious or more composed on the road, few are so cheap. Prices for the entry-level petrol-powered C4 You! start from £19,495 — a figure that undercuts many cars from the class below. The C4 is even available with a fully electric powertrain.

2. Skoda Octavia

Ever since the release of the Mk1 in the mid-nineties, the Skoda Octavia has been a default choice for family buyers who desire space and value above everything else. Over the decades, the Octavia has moved upmarket in finish, tech and price, but its core strengths remain. 

Nothing in the segment offers as much space; back-seat passengers can stretch out further than in any rival, while a 600-litre boot is the class best by some margin. Go for the estate, and that grows to a whopping 640 litres. On top of all that, it’s composed and comfortable to drive, the cabin is one of the smartest in the segment, and there’s even the rapid Octavia vRS for hot hatchback fans. A mid-life update is coming soon, so it looks set to become even stronger, too.

The fourth-generation Octavia also boasts a full five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP. Comfort and refinement are also better than before which means longer journeys should be pleasantly relaxing.

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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 always been a worthy family hatch contender, but previous models have fallen behind the class best, either because of their in-car tech, the driving experience or due to high prices. All of those things have been resoundingly addressed with this latest model, which is why it now tops the class. 

Its vast cabin is ideal for everyday life, with even the tallest of kids (and adults) left with plenty of room to stretch out. A 410-litre boot is above average for the class, too, so there’s also space for everyone’s stuff.

Add in a stylish cabin, plus impressive ride, refinement and handling all backed up by a £2,000 PCP deposit contribution from Honda, and it’s an easy car to love.

Top 10 best hatchbacks on sale

  1. Honda Civic
  2. Skoda Octavia
  3. Citroen C4
  4. Renault Megane E-Tech
  5. MG4
  6. Toyota Corolla
  7. Vauxhall Astra
  8. Ford Focus
  9. Skoda Scala
  10. Mazda 3

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.

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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 family hatchback 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. It’s this ‘family hatchback’ sector of the market that we’ve based our top 10 on. 

If you want some performance with your practicality, there’s 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.

Looking to sell your current car quickly and for a good price? We’ve partnered with Motorway to bring you the best offer from its network of UK dealers

Shane is responsible for looking after the day-to-day running of the Auto Express website and social media channels. Prior to joining Auto Express in 2021, he worked as a radio producer and presenter for outlets such as the BBC.

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