Home > Buying Guides >  

6 of the Best 2021 Hatchbacks

The Best Hatchbacks of 2021

Hyundai Veloster N

Although extremely popular overseas, hatchbacks have never managed to establish themselves as a legitimate first choice for families. With crossovers and SUVs gaining more and more market share foothold with each passing year and conventional passenger cars – which hatchbacks are part of – losing their ground, it certainly seems they never will. Regardless, some U.S. buyers are well aware of their advantages and we’ll now explore the best 2021 hatchbacks options for them.

Passenger cars market share in the U.S. is currently dangerously close to the 30 percent mark despite commanding almost 50 percent of the entire car market just a few years ago. Most passenger cars bought in the U.S. are still sedans, however, hence hatchbacks amount to an almost insignificant portion of the mentioned percentage.

More specifically, passenger cars amounted to almost 5.5 million of total U.S. vehicle sales in 2018. Considering the totals came to a stop just shy of 17.3 million vehicles, passenger car market share for 2018 stood at little over 31 percent.

Compared to 2017, conventional passenger car sales took a nosedive of 13 percent considering how 6.3 million of them were sold back then. This trend is expected to continue and hatchbacks will continue to suffer alongside sedans for foreseeable time.

Let’s now take a look at some of the best hatchbacks 2021 is expected to bring to market. Both the affordable and luxury badges will be considered regardless of their obvious comfort, refinement, and technology-oriented differences.

06. 2021 Volkswagen Golf 8

The perennial hatchback is finally entering its eighth generation come MY 2021 time. The most popular hatch in the world was initially supposed to make its debut in late 2019 as 2020-year model, but software issues have pushed its arrival back a few months. The U.S. version will likely arrive even later than its European counterparts, and base models might not make it stateside at all. If that happens, the performance VW Golf GTI will actually take the base version’s place at the bottom of the lineup, and should arrive in time for MY 2021.

The 2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI won’t differ much from the regular version which has already been caught with no camo whatsoever, but a large honeycomb lower grille, more pronounced fenders, and GTI’s hallmark upper-grille red stripe will be instantly distinguishable regardless.

An updated MQB platform should help the next-gen Golf in a weight loss mission, but that’s not all it’ll bring. Together with a mild-hybrid 48-volt system, the revised platform should also allow for a more advanced technology usage, New advanced driver aids, permanent internet connection, and a digital dash are practically a given thing at this moment.

Speaking of a mild-hybrid setup – it’ll likely be deployed across most of the hatchback’s range. The more powerful Volkswagen Golf GTI will use the existing 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, albeit with around 250 horsepower this time. It should also be paired with a 6-speed manual transmission, but an optional 8-speed auto would be a welcome addition as well.

With a possible discontinuation of non-performance Golf versions, Volkswagen puts itself in a bit of predicament when prices are concerned. The Golf GTI currently starts from just under $28,000 which is a lot for an entry-level family compact hatchback but there isn’t too much room for adjustments.

We’ll have to wait and see how the Germans are planning on addressing this apparent issue.

Volkswagen Golf will be one of the best 2021 hatchbacks

05. 2021 Toyota Corolla

The best-selling car in history and the second best-selling vehicle in the world for 2018 isn’t as popular in the U.S. as it is across the globe. Atop of 280,886 Corolla sedans, Toyota has marketed only 22,846 Corolla hatchbacks which is just enough for the 10th spot among the best-selling models in the U.S. The twelfth-generation Corolla which made its debut for MY 2019 isn’t expected to reverse the previous generation’s fortunes considering the way the winds are blowing at the moment, but it should be able to slow the bleeding regardless.

The new Corolla hatchback rides on the TNGA platform which distinguishes it from its predecessors in numerous ways. The next-gen models are more fun to drive, they’re more comfortable, and they’re much better equipped than their predecessors.

There are two grades to choose from and both can be had with two transmission choices. The entry-level SE starts from around $20,000 with a 6-speed manual gearbox, while the CVT upgrade costs additional $1,000. The Corolla hatchback XSE starts from $23,000 and comes with a corresponding transmission upgrade. The range-topping trim also adds standard dual-zone climate control, larger 7-inch display, leather-trimmed seats with heating, and a more advanced safety bundle among other things.

There’s only one engine available with the Corolla hatchback which is where the hatch and sedan differ the most. A 2.0L 4-cylinder is good enough for 168 horsepower and 155 pound-feet of torque, and atop of that, returns up to 33 mpg combined with the optional CVT gearbox. Version with a stick only manages 31 mpg combined, in comparison.

The all-new Toyota Corolla HB is one of the best hatchbacks 2021 will have to offer despite the fact fewer and fewer of these compacts are finding their way to new owners. With the new generation of models still rather fresh, Toyota won’t be forced into redesigning its most successful car in history in a while, so don’t expect any substantial changes prior to MY 2022.

Toyota Corolla hatchback

04. 2021 Honda Civic

Not only is Honda already planning on introducing the all-new eleventh-generation Civic during MY 2021, but even the hatchback’s production could end up migrating to the U.S. after the company’s Swindon, U.K. plant has been scheduled for closure within the next couple of years. Honda is already producing the Civic sedan in its Greensburg, Indiana plant, as well as in Alliston, Ontario, Canada.

With 325,760 models sold in the U.S. during 2018, Honda Civic is officially the ninth best-selling vehicle here just in front of the aforementioned Toyota Corolla. At the same time, with 812, 767 units delivered, the Civic is also the third best-selling vehicle in the world for that year, just behind the F Series trucks and Corolla this time.

The 2021 Honda Civic isn’t expected to bring any groundbreaking innovations in any department, but is still expected to be more comfortable, better appointed, more tech-savvy, and more fun to drive than the outgoing models. Prices are expected to remain in the same region as compact hatchbacks don’t exactly have too much room for maneuver in that regard.

Engine-wise, it’s still too early to tell what the future will bring. A 1.5L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine which currently makes 174 ponies in conventional and 205 horses in the sporty Si trim should carry over without too many changes. The Japanese company is also looking into a possibility of offering some sort of an electrified engine for the next-gen Civic hatch.

One of the most exciting of all upcoming 2021 hatchbacks out there has to be the Civic Type R, though. Honda is apparently working on two differently priced versions of its hot hatch, but both should be among the best choices in their segment. By the time they arrive, 350 horsepower will have been a given in the segment, so expect a figure in that region.

Honda Civic Type R test mule

03. 2021 Hyundai Veloster

Although technically an oddball 2+1-door kammback coupe, one of the most affordable models in Hyundai’s portfolio certainly doesn’t stray too far from a conventional hatchback design. The second-generation models were introduced for MY 2019 which means that there won’t be too many changes when the 2021 Hyundai Veloster finally arrives.

The second-gen Hyundai Veloster is already a significant improvement over the first generation thanks to, not only much more stylish design, but a more comfortable ride and a much better equipped cabin. A multi-link suspension is standard across the board and it replaces the aging torsion beam setup of the previous generation. Also standard are forward collision warning, lane keep assist, and driver’s blind-spot monitor which is generous from Hyundai considering how the base Veloster starts from under $17,000.

The range-topping Veloster Turbo Ultimate is available for under $27,000, and so is the performance-oriented Veloster N. The latter does come with an optional “Performance Package” which gives the compact hatch additional 25 ponies and raises its price tag to $29,000.

Speaking of performance, the mentioned Veloster N develops either 250 hp or 275 hp depending on a chosen trim. All this thanks to a 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine paired solely with a 6-speed manual gearbox. The rest of the pack uses either a 147-horsepower naturally aspirated 2.0L inline-four or a more potent 1.6L turbo four capable of putting up 201 horsepower. Transmission choices consist of a 6-speed manual, 6-speed auto, or a 7-speed dual-clutch, depending on a chosen trim and engine.

Much like the current models, the 2021 Hyundai Veloster will have everything figured out – from sporting plenty of trims, engines, and transmission choices, to the fact they’re available in both the conventional and performance-oriented variants.

Hyundai Veloster N

02. 2021 Mazda 3

The next-gen Mazda 3 was introduced during MY 2019 with much fanfare. Its revolutionary Skyactiv-X compression-ignition petrol engine was the main reason behind that, but the hype never seemed to be justified.

The fourth-generation Mazda 3 hatchback starts from around $23,500 and works its way towards the $27,500 Premium trim. However, there are more than a few ways of raising that bar even further. An optional all-wheel drive system will add another $1,400 to an already steep price for the segment, and the above mentioned optional Skyactiv-X engine will set you back even more.

The new Mazda 3 does offer an exceptionally beautiful exterior design and almost equally stunning interior. What’s more, the Japanese didn’t resort to the usual price cutting methods customary to the segment – especially in higher grades. Sound insulation has also been improved over the previous generation, but there’s also one downside. The fourth-gen Mazda 3 has reverted back to the torsion beam rear suspension setup instead of previous generation’s multi-link suspension.

The base engine is still a 2.5L Skyactiv-G 4-cylinder with 186 horsepower which can be ordered either with a 6-speed automatic or a corresponding manual transmission. As mentioned above, it can also be had in both the front and all-wheel drive configurations which is a rarity in the segment nowadays.

The exciting optional 2.0L Skyactiv-X 4-cylinder engine, on the other hand, develops 178 horsepower and 165 pound-feet of torque, but returns much better fuel economy figures. While the base engine manages 26/35 mpg at best, the revolutionary petrol mill is expected to be rated at close to 40 mpg when the EPA finally gets a hold of it.

The Mazda 3 is arguably the most beautiful hatchback out there and one of the best 2021 hatchbacks overall for that matter.

Mazda 3

01. 2021 Honda Fit

The third-gen Honda Fit (known as Jazz overseas) has been present since 2013, but the fully-redesigned models are finally arriving in 2020. The 2021 Honda Fit will thus be carried over into 2021 without any substantial changes, but that shouldn’t really matter by then.

The next-gen Honda Fit has been caught testing hiding a fresh design with much more subtle edges under its camo. Interior will be overhauled too, with center console adopting a larger display than the one currently offered. Also, the next-gen Honda Fit is expected to up the ante as far as standard advanced safety systems are concerned as most of them are only available with the CVT transmission upgrade.

At the moment, the subcompact hatch starts from just over $16,000 and that isn’t expected to be changed after the new models arrive. Even the range-topping EX-L trim barely surpasses the $20,000 mark which is one of the better deals you can find on the market. Especially considering how versatile the subcompact hatchback actually is.

There’s still no official info about the next-gen Fit’s powertrains, but Honda is apparently looking into giving its small hatchback a touch of electricity. The Honda Insight’s 1.5L 4-cylinder engine coupled with dual electric motors looks like a safe choice for a vehicle of Fit’s standards. Otherwise, the outgoing Fit uses the same displacement engine without the electric motors bit. This setup is good enough for 128 hp with a CVT gearbox and 130 hp with the standard manual transmission.

There’s also a possibility of an all-electric Fit further down the line, but don’t expect that to happen in time for MY 2021. Regardless, the new Honda Fit will be one of the best hatchbacks 2021 will have to offer.

Honda Fit test mule







Nikola Potrebić
About Nikola Potrebić

Despite driving a piece of junk, Nikola still manages to survive the harrowing experience called "A road trip in a Yugo," day in, day out. On the other hand, precious few things move him as muscle cars do. Especially those from the bygone golden era, which makes him wonder why wasn't he born a few decades earlier? Well, at least he's been given the opportunity to enjoy the likes of the Pontiak Aztek, Chrysler PT Cruiser, Fiat Multipla, and other lovely millennials, right? Come to think of it, I'll stick with my Yugo. Thank you very much!