The original “sport utility vehicles,” hatchbacks have been among America’s favorite automobiles for their combination of fun, function and value for more than 50 years. They make great family cars, great first cars, great road trip cars and in many cases, thrilling enthusiast cars, too. As hatchbacks have adapted to modern tastes for efficient fuel economy and loaded interiors, they’ve grown to present a fascinating cast of characters that still stay true to their smile-inducing roots. Here are ten of the top-rated hatchbacks on the market today, and the argument for each to find a home in your driveway.
10 Top Rated Hatchbacks
Photo Credit: General Motors
2017 Chevrolet Volt
A spacious interior and excellent driving characteristics would make the 2016 Volt a justifiable purchase for just about anyone. The key to its appeal, however, is the gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain that delivers fantastic fuel efficiency. Completely redesigned for 2017, the Volt is rated at 43 MPG city and 42 MPG highway, and is capable of up to 53 miles of electric-only driving. General Motors introduced the Volt during the efficiency rush in 2008 as a zero emissions vehicle without the all-terrible “range anxiety” fears gripping the nation then. While its mission may be a bit outdated in the age of the BMW i3 and the rise of Tesla, you can’t argue that GM didn’t execute that mission with its newest version of the Volt—a fantastic hybrid and all-around car in its own right.
Photo Credit: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
2016 Fiat 500
Built for a unique set of customers, the FIAT 500 attempts to stuff as much character and personality into that diminutive chassis as possible. It succeeds largely due to the unique design, fun and composed handling, and fuel economy marks as high as 31 MPG city and 40 MPG highway. For the new model year, Fiat added a standard 5-inch touch screen and another trim level; Easy, which adds to the growing list of variations available to the 500. Power comes from a 1.4-liter inline-four engine that produces 101 horsepower and 98 lb.-ft of torque, but the Ferrari-esque pops and crackles from a turbocharged model with 160 horsepower is still available in the Abarth trim. Cargo capacity is limited to 9.5 cubic feet with the rear seats up, and 30.2 cubic feet with them folded. This isn’t the choice for those who need space, but there’s plenty to like from this unique setup.
Photo Credit: Ford
2016 Ford Fiesta
For enthusiasts, the 2016 Ford Fiesta is the pinnacle of the hatchback segment and a darling in the automotive industry at large. Direct steering response and an athletic, nimble chassis deliver the handling and potential for theatrics that purists crave. There are different models to suit your tastes, too: a turbocharged 1.0-liter three cylinder engine that reaches 32 MPG city and 45 MPG highway; a 1.6-liter four-cylinder with 120 horsepower and 112 lb.-ft of torque; and a shrieking 1.6-liter turbo-four in the Fiesta ST with a sport suspension and 197 horsepower. Other competitors have more rear seat room and cargo capacity, but there may not be a more fun hatchback on this list. For the money, there isn’t a more fun vehicle available, period.
Photo Credit: Honda
2016 Honda Fit
From a practicality standpoint, there is simply nothing on this list that can compete with the 2016 Honda Fit. Innovative ideas like the patented Magic Seat create impressive storage capacity, and clever ergonomics and design leave plenty of room for passengers in all five seats. A 1.5-liter four-cylinder is the only engine available across all trims, and it boasts 130 horsepower and 114 lb.-ft of torque—ample, if not thrilling. Fuel economy is impressive at up to 33 MPG city and 41 MPG highway in the LX trim. The selling point here, though, is the stellar interior fit and finish, excellent visibility and plentiful space. The 2016 Fit may be Honda at its best, and Honda’s best is very good indeed.
Photo Credit: Hyundai
2016 Hyundai Elantra GT
Hyundai underwent a total brand makeover in the past decade, thanks largely to the success of their Elantra. Now they’ve redesigned the car, but the Elantra GT hatchback keeps its old design for the moment. And that’s not a bad thing at all. Hyundai’s reputation for loading cars with standard features continues here, as the Elantra GT comes with heated seats, SiriusXM radio, a blind spot mirror and much more. A 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine delivers 173 horsepower, but more importantly, estimates of 24 MPG city and 33 MPG highway. The seats and interior materials are of a quality that would have been unthinkable in a compact hatchback ten years ago, and cargo capacity of 51 cubic feet (with the rear seats folded down) is great for the class.
Photo Credit: Kia
2016 Kia Soul
Hatchbacks are prone to some funky styling by their very nature, so why not embrace it? That’s been the strategy with the Kia Soul, and it’s worked wonders. This odd-looking compact makes the most of its unique design with an excellent interior, tons of cargo capacity and more room for passengers than most other hatches. With a 1.6-liter inline four making 130 horsepower, or a 2.0-liter inline-four making 164 horsepower, performance is not the Soul’s strong suit. Neither is its fuel mileage, topping out at 24 MPG city and 31 MPG highway. But the versatility, including up to 61.3 cubic feet of space with the rear seats folded, is remarkable enough to be an excellent choice for families. If the fuel economy has got you down, there’s even an EV version that offers 93 miles of electric driving range.
Photo Credit: Mazda USA
While certainly not the most creative name on this list, that’s about the only area where Mazda didn’t put extraordinary effort into their remarkable compact hatchback. It should be no surprise by now that the Mazda3 is easily at the top of its segment in terms of handling and performance. Both the 2.0-liter and the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engines are a joy to drive, especially paired with an inherently athletic chassis and direct steering input. Even better, both engines are optimally tuned for fuel economy: up to 30 MPG city and 40 MPG highway, or 28 MPG city and 39 MPG highway, respectively. The Mazda3 has also garnered top safety ratings, and while the rear seats are tight, folding them leaves substantial room for most needs. The interior is also class-leading in terms of materials and ease of use. For many competitors, the Mazda3 has set a high bar that will be very difficult to clear in the future.
Photo Credit: MINI
2016 Mini Cooper
Mini makes innovative hatchbacks in all sizes these days: from the SUV-ish Countryman to the wagon-ish Clubman and even the interesting (ish) Paceman. But the standard for the brand is still the diminutive two-door Hardtop, with its zippy handling and BMW build quality that have energized a new generation of fans. The MINI Cooper Hardtop is also known for its premium interior, which comes standard with climate control, Bluetooth connectivity, ambient lighting and much more. These days there’s even a four-door version, which shares the same 1.5-liter inline three-cylinder engine with 134 horsepower, or 2.0-liter turbo-four with 189 horsepower. To pack your hatch with the most grunt, the coupe-only John Cooper Works edition boasts 228 horsepower and a thrilling drive. All trims are fuel efficient, too, topping out at 29 MPG city and 39 MPG highway. Mini has a reputation for being pricier than the competition, however the amenities and technology packed into today’s Cooper make it easy to see why this hatch is as popular as ever.
Photo Credit: Toyota
2016 Toyota Prius
You’re already familiar with the reputation for excellent fuel economy, but you may not be as familiar with the bold new styling of the 2016 Toyota Prius. Completely redesigned for 2016, Toyota is clearly trying to make inroads with younger buyers. While that is up to personal preference, the efficiency rating of 58 MPG city and 53 MPG highway is enough to appease anyone. Likewise, impressive cargo capacity—especially with the rear seats folded down—is sure to please new owners, and a long list of standard features like voice command and three display screens make the interior a very welcoming place to be. Recently, Toyota also introduced a smaller Prius c variant that starts out more than $4,000 cheaper than its bigger brother, so there’s now a Prius hatchback available for all types (and all wallets). There may be sexier hatchbacks on the market, but the Prius is still king when it comes to efficiency, and has a lot of other feathers in its hat, as well.
Photo Credit: Volkswagen
2016 Volkswagen Golf / GTI
Surely you’ve heard that Volkswagen is going through a bit of a rough patch. Specifically, the diesel-powered TDI, once a darling of environmentalists and enthusiasts alike, has been shelved while VW trudges through the litigious swamp created by their emissions cheating scandal. In the meantime, though, their Golf family of hatchbacks remains one of the best options on the market. A wide variety is available, too—from two-door coupes to four-door models, and turbocharged four-cylinder engines ranging from 170 horsepower, to 220 in the GTI, or even 292 in the Golf R. Fuel economy tops out at 25 MPG city and 37 MPG highway, while a premium interior and very good cargo capacity are another strong point. Overall, the 2016 Golf is a balanced and well rounded near-luxury hatch, and one of the best value options in the segment.