Hatchbacks aren’t nearly as popular in the U.S. as they are across the pond in Europe. They never have been, but assuming this crossover trend continues stateside, we may get there just yet. While there used to be a much greater divide, things aren’t that gloomy for the good old Mr. and Mrs. Hatchback anymore. Global downsizing in the car industry has provided hatchbacks with ample opportunity, as buyers in demand of more cargo space often have two options to choose from: you either buy a hatch or go for a crossover. Had it not been for the SUV and crossover craze, hatchbacks would probably be even better positioned then they are now. The best hatchbacks 2018 has brought our way stand an even greater chance of being picked over a crossover thanks to sweet new designs, improving safety features, and impressive new options.
But what are the best hatchbacks 2018 has to offer? It’s a complex question to begin with, and the answer isn’t any simpler. For starters, hatchbacks stretch from subcompacts to entry-level luxury car segments. It isn’t easy ranking them effectively considering this fact alone. People buying compacts, for instance, usually do that because they require a budget-friendly option. Hence, the best compact cars are usually well-established affordable models from prominent automakers. The best hatchbacks overall, though? Well, that’s a different matter entirely. This is why we’ll list both the affordable and luxury hatchbacks; both the large and small ones; both the performance and tame ones – in an attempt to provide you with the most satisfactory of answers to the aforementioned question.
If you’re looking for newer rides we’ve now released the Best Hatchbacks of 2020.
#11: Toyota Corolla iM
It’s best to start with the obvious choice. More than 50 years in the market means that the Japanese have sold over 40 million Corollas, and still counting. The best-sold car of all time has earned that status by being one of the most reliable choices in its class for decades. The Toyota Corolla is still the best choice for people that like to play it safe. Ever since the Scion division was engulfed by Toyota after the 2016 model year, Toyota has simply rebadged the Scion iM under its own label – the Corolla iM. Don’t let this confuse you, though. It’s just a fancy name for the Corolla hatchback.
Now, the Corolla might be safe and reliable, but it also has a few shortcomings. Namely, its dull handling and uninspiring engine. The 1.8L 4-cylinder only makes 137 horsepower and unsurprisingly, there are no other engine options. Moreover, the Corolla iM doesn’t offer the same high-end trim levels that the sedan does. The 6-speed manual version costs $18,850, while CVT automatic models cost $19,590. The former is good for 27/35 mpg, while the latter adds another point in both categories. And that’s that. However, the Euro-spec Corolla has a somewhat more refined feel about it overall compared to the sedan, so it does just fine without the upscale trim levels. There’s also a more contemporary suspension underneath as well. Add to that 21 cubic feet of cargo space with the seat raised, and you have yourself one practical hatchback that knows its business. It doesn’t look half-bad either, and comes in some pretty fun colors to boot.
#10: Fiat 500 Abarth
The Fiat 500 really has no business existing in its base form. Cramped interior space, poor build quality, and an underwhelming engine make the perfect recipe for an uninspiring car. Yet, all that disappears in Abarth form. Well, except for the lack of room. But who needs a spacious cabin when the Fiat 500 Abarth offers a screaming 160-horsepower 1.4L turbo four engine and a standard 5-speed stick? An optional $1,000 6-speed auto robs the Abarth of 3 ponies, but raises total torque from 170 to 183 lb-ft. Needless to say, the Fiat 500 Abarth is one of the most enjoyable subcompacts to drive. Especially around the city.
Apart from a stylish design, perky engine and extremely fun driving dynamics, the Fiat 500 Abarth offers a fully customizable experience. All available features can be had across the lineup. Of course, that can easily raise Abarth’s already steep price tag of just under $20,000. Beats audio, interior and exterior cosmetic upgrades, advanced tech – tick all the available boxes and see your city car’s price jump to well over $27,000. Not exactly the best deal considering the Fiat 500 Abarth can barely fit four adults – let alone their cargo. Yet, the 500 Abarth and similar cars will always have their fan base – and rightfully so.
#09: Kia Soul
Seemingly a no-brainer, the Kia Soul should easily be considered to be among some of the best hatchbacks 2018 has delivered. While clever marketing campaigns have been selling this hatchback as a hip and stylish new take on the modern hatchback for years, what sets this car apart from many of its competitors is one key fact: it actually delivers on those promises.
It has some of the best predicted reliability scores in the business, a roomy cabin, 18.8 cubic ft of cargo space with the seats up and 49.5 cubic ft with them down, a highly upgradeable range of features and specifications as well as three engine choices. Not to mention it’s as affordable as they come.
While fuel economy might be just a bit lacking and the base engine could be seen as sluggish, this really could be the perfect city car for getting around tight-nit metropolitan areas. Unfortunately for those of us living outside of said ideal zones, the car might require a larger investment to be considered worthwhile.
The base Kia Soul comes with a 1.6L 130 hp motor for around $18,000, the Soul Plus comes with a beefier 2.0l 160 hp unit for about $20k, and the Soul Exclaim comes in at $22,000 for 201 horses courtesy of a turbocharged 1.6L 4-cylinder; overall, it’s not a bad deal for a car with four doors and one of the longest warranties around.
#08: Chevrolet Bolt
Although the Bolt looks small (and that it is), the bow tie brand’s subcompact electric vehicle is actually bigger than it seems. Thanks to its high roofline, this subcompact’s small footprint simply disappears behind an abundance of available room – both for passengers and their cargo. But that’s not what the Bolt does best – fuel economy is where this city car really shines. That’s not surprising, considering it comes with a powerful electric motor and a 60 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. These are the bread and butter features that enable the Bolt to travel up to 238 miles on a single charge. In other words, this petite Chevy EV sports a fuel efficiency rated at 119 MPGe.
The Chevrolet Bolt doesn’t come without a few issues of its own, though. Subpar plastic interiors ruin the overall picture for those used to more upscale cars. Moreover, charging times aren’t the Bolt’s forte either. It takes more than 9 hours to fully charge one, and of course, rapid charging costs extra. Although it’s a $750 option, the DC fast-charging port is likely the most helpful piece on the Bolt’s optional equipment sheet. Finally, there’s also the issue of the Bolt’s high starting price of $37,500. After the Federal tax return, that figure slides down to a more manageable range. $30,000 is still quite a high sticker for a subcompact, but the Chevrolet Bolt isn’t your average subcompact – now, is it? Just think of all the money you’ll save on gas!
#07: Audi A5 Sportback
The Audi A5 Sportback is basically nothing more than a hatchback version of the A4 sedan. Then again, the A5 Sportback is so much more than that. This entry-level luxury car is mostly there for those that desire extra cargo space from their Audi A4. Unlike the A4 sedans and coupes, which offer only 13 and 12 cubic feet respectively, the A5 Sportback boasts as much as 22 cubes of trunk space with the rear seat up. Fold it down and you’ll receive as much as 35 cubic feet total space.
Yet extra cargo space is only the tip of the iceberg. The Audi A5 Sportback doesn’t dabble with the A4’s base trim level and instead opts for a higher-tier base version right off the bat. The cabin isn’t flashy, but it’s an immense upgrade over most affordable compacts. Especially in the optional $7,600 top tier Prestige trim. However, the A5 Sportback’s price is steep as it is, and the Prestige package will only serve to raise it above the $50,000 mark. Furthermore, most of the advanced tech goodies are a part of one of the available packages, and there are many such features and packages to choose from. Still, for the base price of $42,600, the Audi A5 Sportback at least throws in one of the smoothest and perkiest engines on the market. The Audi’s 2.0L turbo four is good enough for 252 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque and it’s tied to a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic with manual shifting mode.
#06: Mazda 3
As one of the flashiest compact hatchbacks on the market, the Mazda 3 should be a regular on every “best of” shortlist out there. Despite commanding almost a $1,500 premium over an equivalent sedan, the Mazda 3 hatch is still an affordable car. With base models starting from $19,345, and top models ending at $23,895 (add $1,050 more for the automatic), the Mazda 3 is still in pretty much everyone’s price range. What the sedan simply cannot offer, however, is the 47.1 cubic feet of available cargo space with the rear seat folded.
The abundance of cargo space is somewhat countered with cramped rear seat legroom, though. Yet, the Mazda 3’s interior is nicely executed and probably slightly more refined than that of its competitors – especially with the top-tier Grand Touring trim. The Mazda 3 also boasts one of the best-balanced engine lineups in its class. The 155-horsepower 2.0L 4-cylinder and its stronger 184-horsepower 2.5L version won’t bring you any efficiency awards, but they also won’t let you down when you happen to require quick acceleration and reflexes out of them. Moreover, Mazda 3 sports arguably the most athletic handling for its class. When all is said and done, the Mazda 3 5-door stands out as one of the best hatchbacks 2018 has to offer.
#05: Honda Civic
Like Mazda, Honda too demands a premium for their hatchback over the sedan. The Honda Civic hatch costs $1,000 more than its sedan sibling and starts from $19,900. Needless to say, it also offers more in terms of boot space. As much as 46.2 cubic feet to be more precise. The Honda Civic hatchback is relatively new, though – having made its debut for 2017 model year. This makes it one of the most interesting choices among the 2018 hatchbacks. Not to mention the Civic’s well-established rating for reliability and longevity.
Unlike most affordable hatchbacks, the Honda Civic doesn’t play it safe with a naturally aspirated 4-cylinder engine – this baby comes with a turbo. the 174-horsepower mill isn’t going to win you many races, but it’s spot-on for both city and highway cruising. Transmission choices consist of a 6-speed manual and a CVT – the latter of which returns a healthy 32/42 mpg. What’s more, the Honda Civic offers advanced active safety gear like adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, and forward-collision warning with all available trims including the base LX. However, they’re only standard with the top tier Sport-Touring models.
#04: Toyota Prius
Regardless of what’s been going on in the green cars’ world for these past couple of decades or so, the Toyota Prius is still the king of its segment. This segment-defining hybrid is the best-sold car in its class, and deservedly so. It’s extremely efficient – which was always its main purpose – it’s safe and reliable, and it’s now also more refined. A feat which previous generations weren’t able to boast with. In fact, poor interior quality was one of their biggest disadvantages, truth be told. Well, not anymore.
Apart from upgrading the interior, Toyota designers and engineers have also upgraded the Prius’ range over the years. For 2018, the Toyota Prius sports fuel economy scores of 54/50 mpg in conventional form, and 58/53 with the Eco models. All of them, however, still sport the good old 1.8L 4-cylinder engine with 95 horsepower with an additional 71-horsepower electric motor tied to either a Ni-MH or a lithium-ion battery pack for a combined system output of 121 horsepower. Despite its numerous strong points, people will likely continue to find issues in Prius’, well… different ride and awkward-looking rear end. Good luck finding another car capable of returning north of 50 mpg combined for $23,500 if you’re among them, though.
#03: Ford Focus ST
The Ford Focus would be struggling to earn itself a spot among the best hatchbacks on the market, but Ford’s vast resources allow the company to offer its compact in more forms than the affordable one. The hot hatch Focus RS is somewhat of a niche car and it doesn’t really come cheap, so it all falls down to another respectable performer – the Ford Focus ST. The Focus ST can’t compete with RS’ 350 horsepower, but its 2.0L EcoBoost four still manages to churn out a more than respectable 252 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque. Plus it’s mated to a proper 6-speed manual trans. It also adds 23.3 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seat and 43.9 cubes with the seat folded.
All that comes at a price, however. The Ford Focus ST starts from $25,000 which is considerably higher than the conventional compact hatchback’s median price tag. The Blue Oval’s mid-range performance Focus does include a number of standard tech goodies in its base package, though. Still, most of the advanced options are offered at an extra cost. These include the SYNC 3 infotainment system with 8-inch touchscreen display, Recaro seats, automatic climate control, power moonroof, and more. Overall, the Ford Focus ST stands out as one of the best affordable hot hatch performers in its segment.
#02: BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo
Not counting the iconic M3 sedan, the Gran Turismo is arguably the best-looking of all the BMW 3 Series models. The sporty hatchback, codenamed F34, is based on the long-wheelbase F35 sedan chassis, making it 8 inches longer than conventional sedans and coupes. Needless to say, all that extra length comes in handy at the back where the Gran Turismo sports more cargo space than its siblings. Although not more than the 5-door sports wagon.
The BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo starts from $45,000 with the 248-horsepower 2.0L turbo four mill (330i model). Upgrade to the 340i with its 320-horsepower straight-six and watch the price tag soar to a whopping $51,000. For that kind of money, one would expect much more out of the entry-level luxury performer. Leather isn’t standard, most of the available features are optional, and interior materials’ quality just doesn’t seem to justify the asking price. They are, however, definitely more upscale than the materials in affordable family hatchbacks. This practically means that the BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo is all about performance. Unfortunately, that isn’t exactly the case, though it’s not far off. It still manages to score just fine in pretty much every category, and since most other premium automakers don’t offer entry-level hatchbacks, the BMW Gran Turismo 330i and 340i are some of the best hatchbacks there are – whether you like it or not.
#01: Volkswagen Golf GTI
Much like Ford does with the Focus, Volkswagen also offers its hallmark hatchback in all manner of tunes. Yet again, conventional models are overrated, while the top performer Golf R simply costs way too much (close to $40,000) despite offering a whopping 300 horsepower. So it falls to the more affordable Volkswagen Golf GTI to save the iconic hatchback’s face. Again.
The Golf GTI starts from a much more manageable $25,500, but more upscale models like the Autobahn edition will still break the bank at around $34,000. New for 2018 is a power increase straight from last year’s European models. Instead of the 210 ponies it made in 2017, the 2018 Golf GTI generates 227. At least, the base model does. All remaining trim levels were making 220 ponies prior to 2018, but now they’ll be yielding up to 245 horses. Maybe the Golf GTI is overpriced, but you just can’t put enough emphasis on all the advantages it brings over its rivals. Apart from the obvious, it offers much more athletic handling, a more comfortable ride, and better overall build quality. It’s rightfully there among the best hatchbacks 2018 has to offer.