Family hatchbacks are big sellers in the British new car market, with the likes of the Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf and Vauxhall Astra all common sights on local roads.
It is not difficult to figure out why they are so popular. The best family hatchbacks seemlessly combine practicality, decent handling and a comfortable ride. It’s no surprise that this segment of the new car market is always filled with many competitors.
With all that in mind, here's our picks of the ten best hatchbacks you can buy in the new car market right now. You can find prices for new cars including the hatchbacks mentioned in this guide via the Car Keys service.
The upmarket Audi A3 is available in three-door and five-door hatchback body styles, with the latter referred to as Sportback. It offers everything you’d expect from a premium hatchback. Both size and build quality are top notch and the styling is all round very smart.
There’s ample room in the back for seating adults and boot space is handy at 380 litres as standard.
Engines options for the A3 include a mix of punchy petrol units and low-cost diesels. Running costs are especially low when picking the petrol-electric e-tron hybrid version.
The Audi A3 performs admirably in terms of handling, comfort or performance. All of these strong points do come at a high price though. There's no escaping the fact that the Audi A3 is one of the more costly choices of family hatchback. But this is also one of the most sophisticated and one of the easiest to live with.
The Ford Focus frequently takes lead position among the best selling family hatchbacks in the British car market, and there are plenty of reasons to justify its success.
The latest Focus hatchback boasts class-leading handling, huge interior space and several wallet-friendly engines. The Focus does it all, and it generally does it to a very high standard.
Engines include a 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine which when it first arrived to the Focus range made this car the first ever non-hybrid, petrol-run family car in Europe to emit less than 100g/km of CO2.
Some competitors may have a small edge in terms of practicality or luxury, but that doesn’t stop the Focus from being an outstanding car overall.
An evergreen sight on roads, the latest Volkswagen Golf is one of the strongest yet.
This is one of the most spacious and well-made family hatchbacks around, featuring an interior that's comfortable and filled with modern, logically laid-out controls.
When driven, the Golf offers a huge amount of front-end grip and there’s minimal bodyroll through the corners. While the likes of the Ford Focus and BMW 1 Series feel less artificial, the Golf is still very good to drive. The car is also outstanding in terms of build quality and reliability.
The Golf is pricier than its most popular rivals, but not so much that it feels out of reach to many family car buyers. Its classy interior and generous equipment list helps to make the extra cost feel justified. Standard kit is impressive and includes air conditioning, Bluetooth connectivity and a DAB radio. Furthermore, the Golf’s standard boot capacity of 380 litres beats both the Focus and the Vauxhall Astra.
The current Mazda 3 hatchback boasts a very appealing design and will do everything you require of a hatchback quietly and without fuss.
Whereas it use to be based on the Focus, the current generation Mazda 3 uses Mazda's own in-house chassis and driving technology, which is branded as Skyactiv. This combination of lightweight components from Mazda allows the 3 to deliver potent performance, low running costs, a comfortable ride and sharp handling.
The Mazda3’s space and equipment levels are reasonable, even if they aren't class-leading. The Mazda 3 is overall a very likeable hatchback that should satisfy.
Since it has Volkswagen Golf underpinnings, the Leon should always be a competent car, but it's also fun to drive, comfortable and well-built too. In the right trim, the style of the SEAT Leon looks sufficiently cool and different from the rest of the pack.
While the Leon SC is a three-door model, all Leon hatchback specs are five-door and have a big cabin, so practicality worries are unlikely to ever be an issue.
Allright, so you could consider saving a couple of extra grand for a Volkswagen Golf, but it’s unnecessary to be a badge snob around this car. The Leon has all the tools needed to be a decent family car and it looks the part as well.
The British-built Vauxhall Astra hatchback has been ever-present among the top ten bestselling new cars in Britain for a few decades.
Helping this car keep with up its illustrious rivals is its very competitive price range and the diverse specification line-up. Also welcome is the plentiful head and legroom for passengers both front and rear.
There are many specifications to pick in the Astra hatchback range to suit different priorities, whether its speed or running costs.
The driving experience of the Astra is safe and very well refined. These qualities along with its low entry price and smart, spacious design has allowed the British-built Astra to keep in touch with the market for decades.
The latest Renault Megane hatchback has bold, stylish looks which fit in with this car's leftfield option status. While the Megane name has been around for a while, it has always felt like a quirkier choice next to the likes of the Golf, Astra and Focus, but quite simply it's an all-round really good family car nowadays.
Fitted with fancy tech and loads of other standard kit, the latest Megane hatch also has a diverse range of engines to suit all sorts of drivers, whether you want a feisty petrol or a very frugal diesel which can still move the car at a reasonable pace.
Some of the styling may not be for everybody, but if your keen on the looks then you'll find plenty else to be pleased about beyond just the design.
BMW 1 Series
The BMW 1 Series hatchback, available with three or five doors, features powerful and fun petrol engines and some very efficient diesels as well.
Particularly impressive in the range are the EfficientDynamics models, which can offer sub-100g/km CO2 emissions. At the other end of the spectrum there are some potent petrol units available if you prefere a feisty driving expeirence.
BMW's 1 Series is generally fun to drive and there's one particular reason this is the case. Unlike with other family hatchbacks, the 1 Series utilises rear-wheel drive instead of front-wheel drive. There’s equal weight distribution across the car and it feels well-poised through corners.
The 1 Series also has a luxurious interior with loads of equipment as standard. Included is air conditioning, a radio and CD player, a leather steering wheel and stop-start engine technology. Sat-nav is also standard on new BMW 1 Series models.
In a similar vain to the rivalling Audi A3, you’ll need a larger budget then with most other family hatchbacks in order to get a 1 Series. If it is in your price range though, the BMW should feel like a worthwhile investment.
The Skoda Octavia hatchback is a very competent family car which benefits extensively from Volkswagen’s high-quality engineering.
All specifications offer low running costs, particularly those that use a diesel engine. The drive and ride of the Octavia hatchback is not the most spectacular, but the car always feels easy-going behind the wheel. The latter point will probably matter more if your a family car buyer anyway.
Skoda's greatest accomplishment with the Octavia hatchback, however, is its practicality. The cabin feels all-round spacious and well-designed. Air conditioning, a DAB radio and Bluetooth connectivity are all welcome standard features.
The styling and badge appeal of the Octavia is admittedly not as strong as other hatchback alternatives. But there's absolutely nothing shameful from picking a new car from this company nowadays, and family hatchback drivers should find themselves very satisfied with the Octavia.
The previous-generation 308 had an unenviable reputation for mediocrity and dullness but the current generation hatchback is a huge step forward in comparison.
While it’s priced similarly to the likes of the Focus and Astra, its sophisticated looks are arguably on par with entries from German premium brands. From the outside the prominent front grille pleases the eye, while inside the Peugeot has a minimalist, easy-going layout.
What’s also eye-catching about the latest 308 is the diverse engine range. If strong pace is a priority, then you have a meaty 1.6-litre petrol unit to consider. If running costs are more of a concern, however, then there’s options like the 1.6-litre BlueHDi diesel. The latest 308 has some of the most frugal and least polluting diesels in the family hatchback market.
The standard boot capacity of 470 litres is also huge and beats nearly every direct rival. Once you get use to the noticeably small steering wheel, the 308’s drive feels lively too. Overall, the Peugeot 308 is very close to matching the class leaders and represents great value for money.
Frequently asked questions
The term hatchback can be used for any car which is designed with a door across the full width at the back end that opens upwards – this is typically called the boot door.
Out of all the new family hatchbacks currently on sale in the UK, the Skoda Octavia offers the biggest standard boot capacity. With all the seats up, the Octavia’s boot measures at 590 litres, which is more than even what some saloons offer. With the rear seats down, the Octavia’s total load capacity goes up to 1,580 litres.