1) Toyota Matrix
A used Toyota Matrix is at its core the hatchback version of the Corolla, and if you're into basic transportation with a practical twist, then it's hard to argue with this particular package. Better still, the Toyota Matrix is also available with all-wheel drive - a rarity in the compact hatchback world - when paired with its 158-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. A more frugal experience can be found with the car's standard 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine, which produces 132 horsepower and returns 32 mpg on the highway. In 2010, it was also possible to order a special XRS edition of the Matrix that offered sporty handling to go with its 61.5 cubic feet of total cargo space. The Matrix was discontinued in 2013, which means the newest ones out there are probably still in pretty good shape.
2) Honda Fit
The second-generation Honda Fit, which was sold until 2014, is the used hatchback you look for when you need something small - read, subcompact - but absolutely have to cram as much junk inside of it as possible. Think of the Honda Fit as the ultimate garage sale warrior, a hatchback that you can slip unobtrusively into a parking spot but at the same time haul home those five tubs full of beanie babies that you just can't live without. 57.3 cubic feet of usable room inhabit the Fit's highly customizable interior, and its 117-horsepower, 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine delivers 35 mpg during highway cruising.
3) MINI Cooper
Hatchbacks are an inexpensive way to combine fun and utility, and such is the case with the MINI Cooper. Although not as reliable as its Japanese counterparts, the MINI Cooper delivers a more connected driving experience that takes maximum advantage of its wheels-pushed-to-each-corner platform. The MINI Cooper is one of the most rewarding front-wheel drive automobiles on the market, and its light curb weight means that the 121 horses produced by its 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine aren't overly stressed. For the best possible time behind the wheel of the MINI, make sure to find one with a six-speed manual transmission. The third generation was introduced in 2014, so go back a couple years to get a good deal.
4) Chevrolet Sonic
The Chevrolet Sonic is a perfect example of how you can cash in on outdated thinking to score yourself a great deal on a subcompact hatchback. The Chevrolet Sonic is very competitive in its class, with an available turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 138 horsepower and provides a stout 40 mpg on the highway. It also boasts 30.9 cubic feet of total cargo space with the rear seats folded forward, but thanks to lingering doubts about the quality of small GM cars, secondhand prices for the Sonic qualify as a steal. It won't last forever, but while it does, take advantage of the herd being pointed in the wrong direction and pick up a Sonic for a song.
5) Volkswagen GTI
The Volkswagen GTI has long been the stalking horse of those who love the idea of a hot hatch but who don't want the boy racer image that goes with it. Mature enough on both the inside and the outside to pass the client test and the pick-your-date-up test, the Volkswagen GTI still has plenty of thrills to offer thanks to its tight suspension system, its 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine, and its 200 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual is standard with the GTI, but for added day-to-day practicality seek out the car's DSG dual-clutch automated manual gearbox. For the best deals, look for an example produced between 2010 and 2014.
6) Scion xB
The Scion xB might not be your first thought when someone mentions the word “hatchback,” but this little box on wheels has a gaping cargo hole at the back that's just begging to be filled with all the necessities that go with an active lifestyle. The Scion xB's rectangular shape lends itself well to being stuffed, with 70 cubic feet of space available under its flat roof. The xB isn’t just affordable to buy, but it’s also relatively thrifty to operate, too, thanks to the 28 mpg highway offered by its 2.4-liter, 158-horsepower four-cylinder motor. For the most lively acceleration from this hatchback, make sure to purchase a model featuring a five-speed manual transmission, preferably from the second generation, which goes back to 2007.
7) Mazda Mazda3
The Mazda Mazda3 is an inexpensive hatchback that surprises with its pleasant driving demeanor. Imbued with the same engineering prowess that makes the MX-5 Miata such an attractive sports car, the Mazda Mazda3 manages to brighten up the compact segment with its lively suspension system and spot-on steering. A number of drivetrains can be specified under the hood of the Mazda3, with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder unit representing the most robust (thanks to its 167 horsepower and 168 lb-ft of torque). As an added bonus, this particular motor can be found yoked to a six-speed manual transmission. The second generation, from 2008 to 2013, will provide the best bang for the buck, but you might be pleasantly surprised by the prices on a third-generation example, too.
8) Ford Fiesta
The Ford Fiesta can be thought of as the Mazda3 of the subcompact segment, a runabout that is far from boring to drive yet also efficient and inexpensive to buy. As a used hatchback, the Ford Fiesta is perfect as a commuter or a second car, and its diminutive interior can transport either five passengers or up to 26 cubic feet of cargo. A 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine is included with each and every edition of the Fiesta, and not only does it offer 120 horsepower, but in SFE trim Ford advertises 40 highway miles per gallon for the hatch. The Ford Fiesta landed Stateside as a 2011 model and not much has changed, so going back a few years can help the wallet without hurting the fun factor.
9) Subaru Impreza
The Subaru Impreza is the only compact hatchback on this list to deliver all-wheel drive as standard equipment, but if you want that extra grip combined with reasonable fuel economy then you'll have to stick with very recently used - think 2012 and newer - editions of the car. That's when the Subaru Impreza received an all-new platform and a fresh 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine good for 148 horsepower as well as 27 mpg in city driving and 36 mpg on the highway. Those numbers are only achievable when the car is found with a continuously variable automatic transmission handling the gear shifting duties, but all models of the Impreza hatchback can haul up to 52.4 cubic feet of luggage.
10) Nissan Juke
The Nissan Juke is an oddball hatchback that has worked its way into the hearts of American buyers looking to buy used, but also to buy different. Introduced in 2011, the Nissan Juke's unconventional looks conceal sprightly performance from a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 188 horsepower. More of a two-person subcompact hatch than a family option, the Juke can be had with either a six-speed manual transmission (front-wheel drive) or a continuously variable automatic (all-wheel drive). The latter does an excellent job of maximizing the amount of time its small engine stays in boost.