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Top 10 Hatchbacks

By Russell Bray Published

hatchback | advice | top 10 | Top 10 category guides

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HATCHBACKS were the original city cars - small enough to zip through traffic, but still capable of transforming (hatching!) to carry larger loads. No wonder they've proved  so popular.

On the continent hatchbacks tend to be viewed as basic and saloons as more stylish, but in the UK the potential practicality of a hatch – though you rarely see anyone actually moving a ‘fridge – means they account for a third of sales.

The body shape was first seen in the late 1930s but the usefulness of a big rear tailgate and folding rear seats so more load could be carried really caught on in the 1970s when it is believed the term hatchback was first used.

Here we list the Sun Motors Top 10 hatchbacks. We've included our expert's ratings and reader ratings. We also want to know which of these you think is the best. So get voting, and we'll print the results in Sun Motors in the coming weeks.

More Top 10 guides:  City - Electric - Hatchback - Saloon - MPV - 4x4 - Crossover - Estate Sport - Convertible

Vote for your favourite


Search for and buy a used hatchback car on sunmotors.co.uk


Ford Fiesta

fiesta620
Sun Rating: 5/5
Verdict: It’s a Fiesta, Jim, but not as we know it
THE GOOD
  • Outstanding driving experience
  • Most stylish and sporty supermini
  • Highly economical
THE NOT SO GOOD
  • Lacks brand prestige of some rivals

Read the full Ford Fiesta review


Year in year out, the Fiesta is Britain’s best-selling car and if it is large enough for your lifestyle it is easy to see why, because it is so well suited to UK urban life.

Even Mum’s shopping trolley version is fun to drive so brakes can take a pounding.

Big sales mean plenty of choice used so don’t buy from the first few you see. Be choosy.

Don’t forget wider tyres mean bigger bills when replacement time comes.

Watch out for: problems with engine water pump and unrelated water leaks into front footwells.

Vote for your favourite


Search for and buy a used Ford Fiesta on sunmotors.co.uk


Volkswagen Golf

Volkswagen Golf R
Sun Rating: 5/5
Verdict: It was great before. And it's still great
THE GOOD
  • Brilliant residual value
  • Quality evident inside and out
  • Improved fuel economy
THE NOT SO GOOD
  • Design could be considered a little dull
  • Gear change a little stiff when new

Read the full Volkswagen Golf review


For many, even before the image creating ‘if everything in life was as reliable as a VW’ ad, the sober-suited VW Golf was the hatchback of choice.

It looks fine in any motoring situation and each generation improves on the quality, fit and finish.

There are exciting GTI models but most are quick enough, comfortable enough, quiet enough etc to satisfy most drivers.

It has become the default choice if someone wants a sensible hatchback.

Watch out for: Check timing belts on petrol engines, fuel injectors on 2-litre diesels.

Vote for your favourite


Search for and buy a used Volkswagen Golf on sunmotors.co.uk


Ford Focus

Looks familiar ... Focus owes a lot to Mondeo style
Sun Rating: 4/5
Verdict: Behind the everyday badge lurks a very special car
THE GOOD
  • Classiest and sportiest design
  • Improved range of petrol and diesel engines
  • Brilliant driving package
THE NOT SO GOOD
  • Lacks badge prestige of some rivals
  • They're everywhere

Read the full Ford Focus review


The second generation of Ford’s class-leading medium size hatch was on sale from 2005 to 2011.

The car for the keener driver who likes ‘throwing it about a bit,’ when it comes to corners.

The blue oval badge deserves more respect than it gets for both the quality of the engineering and overall reliability based on German TUV, our equivalent of the MoT, reports.

Higher mileage drivers might try the 1.6TDi turbo-diesel. Best version is 113bhp 1.6 litre Zetec, but if buying older make sure it has air conditioning.

Watch out for: Engine software faults can cause poor starting.

Vote for your favourite


Search for and buy a used Ford Focus on sunmotors.co.uk


Vauxhall Astra

astraaa.620x360
Sun Rating: 4/5
Verdict: The best Vauxhall they’ve built
THE GOOD
  • Spacious inside
  • Diesel engines don't burn your money
  • Huge improvement on older Astras
THE NOT SO GOOD
  • Not quite as fun to drive as rivals

Read the full Vauxhall Astra review


Vauxhall’s Astra, now in its sixth generation, has always been a bit of swish looking car right back to the first models in 1979.

Over the years proven quality, reliability (backed by a 100,000 mile warranty) and, yes, some good discounts have made the Astra a favourite on company car fleets as well as for private buyers.

Overall though, the engineering doesn’t feel as in depth as it might. Interior trim is now chasing VW for quality but the satellite navigation systems are rather clonky.

There’s a model for every need.

Watch out for: Some engine management systems give trouble.

Vote for your favourite


Search for and buy a used Vauxhall Astra on sunmotors.co.uk


Audi A3

audia3620
Sun Rating: 4/5
Verdict: Simply the best A3 yet
THE GOOD
  • Now surprisingly good to drive
  • Decent range of engines
  • Price undercuts premium rivals
THE NOT SO GOOD
  • You can still get more car for your money
  • Limited economy in turbo petrols

Read the full Audi A3 review


Cynics would say it’s only an upmarket version of the Golf, but most owners don’t see it like that and its understated styling means you don’t tend to attract the wrong attention.

There is even more of a substantial feeling about the A3 than a Golf and Audi interiors are just about the best in the business.

S Line suspension makes the car lower but the ride much harder. Double-clutch DSG gearbox, which seems to prefer being driven as a manual rather than in full automatic.

Watch out for: Dual-mass flywheel vibrations on diesel versions, especially after 50,000 miles.

Vote for your favourite


Search for and buy a used Audi A3 on sunmotors.co.uk


Vauxhall Corsa

Vauxhall Corsa
Sun Rating: 4/5
Verdict: The supermini supermodel, but lacks the sizzle of Fiesta
THE GOOD
  • Dynamic new exterior styling
  • Comfortable, spacious cabin
  • Improved handling and ride
THE NOT SO GOOD
  • Dull interior design
  • Performance can't match some rivals

Read the full Vauxhall Corsa review


Choosing between a Corsa and a Fiesta is largely down to personal taste, but the Corsa feels bigger and more grown-up.

As with the Fiesta the brakes can be used heavily by younger/ more enthusiastic drivers so check them.

If going petrol you need at least 1.2 litres under the bonnet. The 1.4 litre is better for long motorway journeys, unless you spend all your time in traffic when 1-litre makes sense.

The UK is Europe’s biggest market for the Corsa with sales of around 83,000 a year. A new Corsa will debut by the end of the year. The present car was launched in 2006.

Vote for your favourite


Search for and buy a used Vauxhall Corsa on sunmotors.co.uk


Volkswagen Polo

poloo.28.620x413
Sun Rating: 4/5
Verdict: One of the classiest small VWs ever built - better even than the Golf in areas
THE GOOD
  • Leap forward in interior quality
  • Brilliant fuel economy
  • Great value for money
THE NOT SO GOOD
  • Not the most exciting of drives
  • Lacks head-turning looks of Fiesta
  • Snug in back for adults

Read the full Volkswagen Polo review


Comfortable and well made, the Polo holds its value better than most small cars for those reasons, but more recent versions seem more vulnerable to damaged paintwork from stones and scuffs.

You will pay more than average too for servicing unless you can find a good independent and even then parts prices aren’t low.

Diesel engines tend to be gruff. Versions from 2005 to 2009, then 2009 to present day. About £5,000 will set you up with a good condition 2008, low mileage (sub 20,000) 1.2 litre petrol Match five-door.

Watch out for: Make sure engine timing chains have been changed in accordance with service book.

Vote for your favourite


Search for and buy a used Volkswagen Polo on sunmotors.co.uk


Peugeot 207

2077.28.620x413
Sun Rating: 3/5
Verdict: Not so sexy, but makes sense for the price
THE GOOD
  • Quality interior fittings
  • Spacious cabin can seat 4 adults
  • Smooth, nippy engine
THE NOT SO GOOD
  • Can't match rivals for economy or emissions
  • Underwhelming performance

Read the full Peugeot 207 review


Peugeots of recent years tend to be good lookers and that’s certainly true of the 207, launched in 2006.

Equally Peugeot has been keener on diesel engines than petrol of late – hence the tie up with BMW for some petrol engines – so they tend to drive better than petrol motors.

Front seat space is generous but the rear quite tight. Handling not as nimble as Peugeots of old, something the superior 208 replacement, launched in 2012, has largely corrected.

Gear change a bit sloppy. Bigger than it looks so take care parking.

Watch out for: Get electrics checked, make sure engine properly serviced.

Vote for your favourite


Search for and buy a used Peugeot 207 on sunmotors.co.uk


Toyota Yaris

yaris.28.620x413
Sun Rating: 3/5
Verdict: Not an outstanding supermini, but a clever package
THE GOOD
  • Brilliant reputation for reliability
  • Smart, practical cabin
  • Impressive fuel economy
THE NOT SO GOOD
  • Can't match rivals for styling
  • A fairly boring drive

Read the full Toyota Yaris review


It’s not that quiet, it’s not that smooth and the cabin design is rather depressing, but that doesn’t stop Toyota’s Yaris being a big seller in the UK.

Guaranteed reliability can do that for a car, though in April the Yaris was among 35,000 Toyotas recalled in the UK. Biggest problem was risk of a fault that would stop the driver’s airbag working in a crash.

Equipment levels are high and the cabin spacious.

It's a good choice if you get out of town enough to heat up the diesel particulate filter and clean it out is the 1.4 diesel. If going petrol go bigger than the 1-litre.

Watch out for: Ask a driving instructor!

Vote for your favourite


Search for and buy a used Toyota Yaris on sunmotors.co.uk


Mazda 3

mazda3.28.620x413
Sun Rating: 3/5
Verdict: A much improved and more refined small car but this Mazda3 doesn't stand out from the crowd
THE GOOD
  • Smart looks
  • Quite sporty
  • More refined than before
THE NOT SO GOOD
  • Interior still not up with the best
  • Design is a bit understated
  • New version in 2013

Read the full Mazda 3 review


Replaced in 2008 after a four-year run, the Mazda 3 is a left-field choice that can be a cost effective way to go family motoring.

It is sensible transport and drives well with a good choice of petrol and diesel engines.

Quite a lot of running gear is shared with Ford’s Focus to reduce costs to both manufacturers.

The car has a good reliability reputation but spare parts can be pricey.

Best bet is the 1.6 litre petrol. Avoid 2-litre Sport which uses too much fuel for the extra go provided.

Watch out for: Diesel particulate filter, diesel injectors, check clutch.

Vote for your favourite


Search for and buy a used Mazda 3 on sunmotors.co.uk


Vote for your favourite

More Top 10 guides:  City - Electric - Hatchback - Saloon - MPV - 4x4 - Crossover - Estate Sport - Convertible
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