Best hatchback 2022
British car buyers love the family hatchback. It is the second most popular type of car overall, behind smaller superminis, with both mainstream manufacturers and more upmarket premium brands offering many contenders.
The days of the three-door hatchback are long gone. The best hatchbacks these days all have five doors, which is more practical and family-friendly.
And what great family cars they make. Spacious interiors give ample room both front and rear, while hatchbacks also have roomy boots that easily expand by folding the rear seats flat.
Petrol and diesel engines form the backbone of the sector, but growing numbers of brands offer hybrid, plug-in hybrid and even pure electric hatchbacks, as the country moves towards 2030’s ban on non-electrified cars.
The great thing about our list of the best hatchbacks is there really is something for everyone, from the bargain-hunting buyer to the high-performance petrolhead. Read on for our favourites.
The Volkswagen Golf is a family hatchback icon. It is the defining silhouette of the sector, and still one of the most recognisable cars on the road. It’s also one of the most popular, regularly appearing high up in the sales charts both in the UK and across Europe. The latest Golf 8 has a modern front end and an even more high-tech cabin, with nearly every control centered around a central touchscreen. It takes some getting used to, but does mean the Golf is more feature-packed than ever. Affordable petrol and diesel engines are offered, a plug-in eHybrid gives up to 44 miles of pure electric driving, plus there’s a broad range of sporty Golfs as well: pick from petrol GTI, hybrid GTE, diesel GTD or the ultimate Golf R hot hatch.
The latest Corolla has a far more interesting design than previous models, as Toyota looks to inject more verve into its model line-up. This carries through to the interior, which is as impeccably built as you’d expect. It’s roomy, with good passenger space and a decent boot – and that’s despite the Corolla coming as standard with a ‘self-charging’ hybrid powertrain. Pick from 1.8-litre or higher-output 2.0 motors: either will amaze you at how much driving can be conducted in zero-emissions electric mode, particularly around town. There’s a recent added incentive for buying a Toyota, too: up to 10 years’ manufacturer warranty, provided you get the car serviced at Toyota retailers.
The latest Mercedes-Benz A-Class is proving to be a real hit here in the UK. It’s a premium car that’s a regular in the best-selling cars chart, helped by enviable retained values that keep monthly finance payments competitive. Alongside conventional engines, you can get the A 250 e plug-in hybrid, while A 35 AMG and A 45 AMG performance models sit at the top of the range. The good-looking A-Class has a standout interior that feels modern and upmarket, while we love the array of screens – including the option of augmented reality sat-nav. Add in the deep-down feeling of integrity you get from all Mercedes-Benz cars and it’s easy to see why the A-Class is so popular.
Ford Focus is readying a comprehensive facelift for the Focus in 2022, to help restore the fortunes of this traditional UK favourite. Improved engines boast fuel-saving mild hybrid tech, and onboard functionality is to be enhanced with even larger screens for the infotainment system. What Ford won’t be changing is the verve with which the Focus drives. It handles corners in a really engaging way, and never fails to put a smile on the face of its driver. The 280hp ST hot hatch simply enhances this effect further. Practical, roomy and reliable, get set for the Focus comeback this year.
BMW 1 Series
The current BMW 1 Series upset enthusiasts at launch by switching from rear-drive to a front-wheel-drive platform (with optional xDrive all-wheel drive also available). In making the change, however, BMW has been able to make the 1 Series an even better all-rounder. Space was the obvious beneficiary: the rear is now suitable for adults and the boot has grown in size and practicality. The high-quality interior mimics the excellence of the larger 3 Series, while advanced engines deliver strong everyday performance. We also really like the performance-honed 128ti and M135i xDrive models. And while you can’t buy a plug-in hybrid 1 Series, BMW is understood to be readying a pure electric version.
The Mazda 3 is a top choice for enthusiasts and design aficionados alike. The company that gives us the MX-5 sports car has injected some of that spirit into its five-door hatchback, which handles in an engaging way and has some really effervescent engines. Our favourite is the Skyactiv-X, a revvy and revolutionary 186hp motor that delivers 30 percent fewer emissions than a traditional petrol engine. As for design, the Mazda 3 is an undoubted beauty. Its body is beautifully sculpted, with almost concept car-like surfaces, while the high-quality, tactile interior is more premium than some genuine premium brands. Then, of course, there’s Mazda’s promise of exceptional reliability, as the icing on the cake.
The latest SEAT Leon is a car that’s evolved from an overtly sporty model into something well-rounded, but still with a welcome dose of sporty spirit. While it handles in an engaging way, the ride is more comfortable and noise levels are lower – particularly in the e-Hybrid plug-in hybrid. It’s a good looking car on the outside (we like FR grade) and it feels high quality and user-friendly on the inside. If you want the ultimate Leon, racy sister brand Cupra will also sell you a variant with the pace to beat a Ford Focus ST. Whichever Leon you choose, all benefit from the SEAT Easymove programme, which simplifies the purchasing process and maximises value for money.
The Skoda Octavia is a commodious family hatchback with an enormous 600-litre boot, even with the rear seats up. Not only is that bigger than any other hatchback in this sector, it’s also a match for many estate car alternatives. Plenty of Skoda ‘Simply Clever’ design touches, such as the ice scraper inside the fuel flap, make it easy to use, too. The Octavia also has loads of room for passengers, while an all-turbo range of engines provides enough oomph to cope even when fully-laden. There’s a plug-in hybrid Octavia iV, and the acclaimed Octavia vRS sits at the top of the range for high-performance thrills. The plug-in Octavia iV vRS, meanwhile, aims to offer the best of all worlds.
The venerable Kia Ceed has recently been facelifted, giving it a fresh appearance and a further lift in interior quality and technology. As it was already a stylish and well-equipped car, this only enhances its appeal. Kia has even introduced some high-impact metallic colours (we love the new orange hue). Great-value prices are a feature across the board, particularly for the core 158hp 1.5-litre T-GDI petrol engine, which is available with a manual or seven-speed DCT automatic gearbox. There’s also the obvious draw of Kia’s excellent seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty, for ultimate long-term peace of mind.
Sitting alongside the Golf is Volkswagen’s all-electric hatchback, the ID.3. From the company that effectively invented the family hatchback sector, the ID.3 is its interpretation of these cars’ all-electric future. Distinctively designed, the ID.3 is available in fashionably bright colours, and you can get similarly eye-catching interior colour schemes. Roomier and more space-efficient than a Golf, thanks to its electric drivetrain, the silent-running ID.3 boasts a driving range of up to 259 miles. It still commands a price premium over the Golf, but Volkswagen is working to narrow this all the time. For the Golf owner looking to make the switch to electric, it’s ideal.
What is the most reliable hatchback?
As some of the nation’s best-selling cars, the best family hatchbacks featured here are generally all very reliable. Our tips for the most dependable models are the Toyota Corolla and Mazda 3, which benefit from ever-excellent Japanese reliability. The Kia Ceed is also a very robust car that’s backed up by a seven-year warranty. Premium BMW and Mercedes-Benz models are reliable too, as are well-proven choices such as the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus. We’d wager the all-electric alternative to the Golf, the Volkswagen ID.3, may end up proving even more reliable than its combustion cousin as well.
Can I get an electric hatchback?
The Volkswagen ID.3 is the first high-volume hatchback to compete in this class, but plenty more are coming. Vauxhall is planning a pure electric version of its forthcoming all-new Astra, called the Astra-e, and there will be an e-308 version of the new Peugeot 308. We’re expecting an electric version of the BMW 1 Series hatch, possibly called i1, and Cupra is getting ready to launch the Born, a sportier relative of the ID.3. Expect an ever-broader choice of electric hatchbacks as 2030 approaches.
What is the best-selling hatchback?
In 2021, Mercedes-Benz caused a stir when the A-Class became the best-selling hatchback in Britain. It didn’t just outsell the Volkswagen Golf, it also beat the Ford Focus – pushing the UK’s former favourite out of the top 10 chart. Overall, family hatchbacks are the second most popular type of car in the UK, after superminis. The A-Class ended the year as the fourth best-selling car, with the Volkswagen Golf in sixth place.