Even though it sometimes seems as though manufacturers would rather place you in a more expensive crossover SUV, there are still a plethora of hatchbacks on the market for those looking for a cheap and economical ride. And don’t think that cheap and economical means bad; today’s compact and subcompact hatchbacks are better looking, more comfortable and better to drive than ever before. They’re also much better equipped, with touchscreen infotainment systems, keyless entry and even the possibility of leather on the table. So whether you’re looking for something stylish or something practical, our expert editors have something to satisfy your needs on this list of the ten best hatchbacks under $20,000.
10 Top Hatchbacks under $20,000
Photo Credit: FIAT
10) 2017 Fiat 500 - $14,995
The FIAT 500 is a retro-inspired subcompact car that is heavy on charming Italian style. The rear seats and cargo area are on the small side but there’s more than enough room in front for most and you do get a five-inch version of FIAT Chrysler's excellent Uconnect infotainment system as well as many interior customization options. All models except for the top of the line Abarth come with a normally aspirated engine that can sometimes feel a bit underpowered at higher speeds, but there’s plenty of pep for driving around town and the 500 handles like a go-kart on steroids. If you're looking for an attractive city car, the FIAT is a bargain compared to other fashion-forward models and should be on your radar.
Photo Credit: Toyota
9) 2017 Toyota Corolla iM - $18,750
Previously known as the Scion iM, the Toyota Corolla iM is a practical, comfortable and roomy compact hatchback. Though more fun than the regular Corolla, the iM’s handling is secure but not sporty. Power comes from a normally aspirated four-cylinder engine that isn’t particularly quick, whether mated to the manual or the continuously variable transmission (CVT). The iM comes in only one trim level, meaning that all you need to decide is which color and transmission you want. All models come with keyless entry, touchscreen navigation, Bluetooth, a pre-collision system and lane departure warning. If you’re looking for a reliable hatchback under $20,000 to get you from A to B in comfort and style, the Corolla iM is well worth a look.
Photo Credit: Kia
8) 2017 Kia Forte5 - $18,200
The Kia Forte5 is a compact hatchback that has recently been updated with attractive front end styling that helps it fit in with Kia’s other cars. Power comes from a normally aspirated four-cylinder engine that gets the car moving quickly enough and returns decent fuel economy. The interior is well laid out, the materials are nice and there is plenty of room to carry four adults and their bags (or five in a pinch). Unfortunately, you’ll only be able to get the base model for less than $20,000, but you’ll still get keyless entry, a six-speaker audio system with steering wheel controls and Bluetooth. All that makes the Forte5 a serious contender when it comes to hatchbacks under $20,000.
Photo Credit: Hyundai
7) 2017 Hyundai Accent - $14,745
The Hyundai Accent is a subcompact hatchback that is surprisingly comfortable for a vehicle that can be had for significantly less than $20,000 even when fully loaded. Inside there are comfortable seats and there’s enough space for four adults and their luggage, and while there are lots of hard plastics they look and feel better than you would expect at this price point. The normally aspirated four-cylinder engine makes good power and comes with a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty, but could be a bit more economical. While a new Accent sedan should be arriving soon the new hatchback won’t be available until next year; until then the 2017 Hyundai Accent remains one of the ten best hatchbacks for the money.
Photo Credit: Subaru
6) 2017 Subaru Impreza 5-Door - $18,895
If you’re looking for a compact hatchback under $20,000 that features all-wheel drive, the redesigned for 2017 Subaru Impreza 5-Door is just about your only choice (and it isn’t a bad one). To stay under our budget you’ll need to go for the base model, which means making do without most features other than air conditioning, cruise control, power windows and Apple CarPlay / Android Auto support. Along with the redesign comes a very roomy interior with space for four six-footers and better quality materials (though they are still a step behind some competitors). Handling remains good but the Impreza (unlike the WRX) doesn’t feel sporty and the normally aspirated four-cylinder engine could do with some more power, though it is frugal.
Photo Credit: Ford
5) 2017 Ford Fiesta Hatch - $13,960
The Ford Fiesta Hatchback is a fun to drive subcompact car, and while even base models are comfortable, on our budget you can afford to go for the top of the line Titanium model (though unfortunately, the hotter ST is just out of our price range). The Fiesta has a good ride and a nice interior, but its small dimensions mean that the rear seat and cargo area pay the price. Power comes from a selection of normally aspirated and turbocharged four-cylinder engines that are decently strong and relatively economical (though some compacts are more efficient). We prefer the manual transmission, as while the dual-clutch transmission is better than it was, it’s still not as smooth as a conventional automatic.
Photo Credit: Chevrolet
4) 2017 Chevrolet Sonic - $18,455
The subcompact Chevrolet Sonic received a refresh for the 2017 model year and though the styling hasn’t changed much its attractive new front end fits in better with the rest of Chevrolet’s lineup. The available turbocharged engine is both frugal and quick making the Sonic fun to drive, though some models have a ride that’s too stiff for our tastes. The interior is relatively roomy for the class, with plenty of room in front for larger drivers. As you’d expect for the price the interior does make use of some hard plastics, but you also get a seven-inch touchscreen with Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, as well as integrated 4G LTE internet connectivity with onboard Wi-Fi.
Photo Credit: Mazda
3) 2017 Mazda Mazda3 5-Door - $19,095
The compact Mazda3 has been refreshed for the 2017 model year, making a good thing just that little bit better. To stay under our $20,000 budget you’ll need to select a base model with a manual transmission (an automatic is available, but will push the price just over our limit), which includes air condition, cruise control, an infotainment system with a seven-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth and keyless entry as standard features. The interior is nice, the seats comfortable and the materials are better than most others in the class, but interior space is a bit on the low side. The normally-aspirated four-cylinder is economical and adequately powerful, but the Mazda3 is so well sorted it feels like it could handle much more power.
Photo Credit: Volkswagen
2) 2017 Volkswagen Golf - $19,895
Ever since it was first released the compact Volkswagen Golf hatchback has been a perennial favorite of discerning drivers. Although it’s no GTI, the regular Golf can still put a smile on your face thanks to excellent steering, great suspension tuning and a solid chassis that allows for good handling without a super-harsh ride. The interior is well executed with a simple layout and nice soft-touch materials, though the rear seats can be a bit cramped for larger passengers. A refresh should be coming for the 2018 model year, but with Volkswagen known for only incrementally upgrading the Golf there’s little risk in purchasing the current model (though waiting might reap some savings when VW tries to clear out older models).
Photo Credit: Honda
1) 2017 Honda Civic Hatchback - $19,700
The compact Honda Civic Hatchback returns after a long absence (at least from our shores) for 2017, starting at just under our $20,000 limit. Power for most Hatchbacks comes from a turbocharged and direct injected four-cylinder that is both frugal and fun, especially when paired with the manual transmission. Like other cars in the Civic range, the Hatchback is ready for a bit of fun with lots of grip and a good balance between ride and handling. Even base models come fairly well equipped with automatic climate control, steering-wheel-mounted controls, Bluetooth, and a 60/40 folding rear seat. If you’re looking for one of the ten best hatchbacks under $20,000 make sure to give the new Civic a look.