Best used hatchbacks

Versatile, value-for-money and available in a wide range of sizes: there's a model for you among the best used hatchbacks

John Evans
Jun 7, 2018

Hatchbacks come in all shapes, sizes and abilities from city cars such as the VW up! to luxury sports cars such as the Porsche Panamera. However, the backbone of the hatchback world is the family hatch, a masterful blend of passenger and boot space, reasonable running costs and an engaging driving experience.

Bought used, most hatchbacks are spectacular value for money. And, if they were registered before 1 April 2017, road tax could be as low as £30 a year. When choosing one you should consider precisely what you want it to do, but also fundamental things like the number of Isofix child seat attachment points, the number of doors (five is more convenient than three), and the shape of the boot, not just its volume.

Check whether the back seats fold flat or at an angle, if there’s sufficient room in the back for three adults or two, what the legroom and headroom are like, and if there’s anywhere to put the kind of stuff families like to take on car journeys. Finally, check how refined the car is at speed, how much the body leans in corners and whether the steering feels reassuringly direct and communicative.

Here are 10 hatchbacks that get some or all of these things right:  

Best used hatchback for driving dynamics

Ford Focus

Typical example Ford Focus 1.0 T EcoBoost 125PS 5dr Age 2015 / 20,000 miles
Price £9,500 Representative finance payments £154 per month

The Focus is the definitive family hatchback, the one by which all others are judged. That’s especially true in the way it ride and handles. Grip levels are high and the steering lets you know precisely where the wheels are pointing. As well as being entertaining on back roads it’s composed and settled on motorways. The best engines are the 1.0 125 PS EcoBoost and 2.0 TDCi diesel.

The Focus was revamped in 2014 when it received much-needed styling tweaks, and a classier and better-looking dashboard. However, the changes stopped short at addressing the car’s major weakness: rear cabin and boot space.There’s just not enough of it compared with more modern rivals, although not so little that it’s uncomfortable.  

Regarding trim levels, Zetec is the best value but Titanium is worth having for its extra features. An all-new Focus is expected in spring 2018 so check out deals on pre-registered current models as Ford prepares for its arrival.

Best used hatchback for boot space

Peugeot 308

Typical example Peugeot 308 1.6 BlueHDi Allure Age 2017 / 18,000 miles

Price £11,000 Representative finance payments £177 per month

The Peugeot 308 was billed as a match for the VW Golf when it was launched in 2013, Peugeot claiming to have made great strides in terms of the car’s styling, build quality and overall refinement. It was a bullish claim. Few rivals can match the Golf’s quality and refinement, but the 308 is a great effort nonetheless.

Fit and finish, technology, boot space and the way it rides and handles are all good. Where it falls down is in its rear cabin. There’s not quite enough legroom for adult passengers. The driving position takes a little getting used to as well. The steering wheel is small and you look over it rather than through it to see the instruments.

The car was updated in 2017 with every model now having a sat nav as standard, which is quite something. Our pick of the trims is Allure. The efficient 1.2 PureTech 130PS petrol is ideal for average-mileage drivers but if you regularly venture farther afield, check out the 1.6 BlueHDi 120 diesel.

Best used hatchback for value

Vauxhall Astra

Typical example Vauxhall Astra 1.0T SRi EcoFlex 5dr Age 2015 / 30,000 miles
Price £9,995 Representative finance payments £161 per month

Like the Ford Focus, the Vauxhall Astra is almost the default hatchback for many car buyers. That was a little hard to understand as far as previous versions were concerned but totally understandable in the case of the current model.

Not just good looking, the Astra has lots of space, easily enough for a six-foot rear seat passenger to get comfortable behind an equally tall driver. Unfortunately, to make this possible the boot has had to fall on its sword. It’s only 370 litres but it is very well shaped.

Where the Astra really impresses is in the way it rides, steers and handles. It was developed on UK roads and it shows. It grips well, the steering is quick and light (it could be a little more communicative) and the supple suspension masks broken surfaces extremely well.

There’s a bewildering array of trims and engines to choose from but SRI Nav with either the 1.0T 105PS turbo petrol or 136PS 1.6 diesel gets our vote.

Best used hatchback for all-round ability 

VW Golf

Typical example VW Golf 1.4 TSI Match 5dr Age 2015 / 35,000 miles
Price £11,995 Representative finance payments £192 per month

It’s no accident that as this is written, the VW Golf is the UK’s second-best-selling new car behind the smaller and cheaper Ford Fiesta in the top spot. Granted, its arch rival, the Ford Focus, is not as competitive as it was (2018’s new model may fix that) but even so, it speaks volumes for the VW’s appeal that it should rank so high.

That performance is reflected in the used market where demand for the Golf is equally strong. You’ve only to look at the prices of used ones to see that. What buyers are paying for is the Golf’s solidity and security, the way trim remains firmly anchored and the way the suspension flatters the worst roads.

Cabin space front and rear is good. Only the boot lets it down. It’s 380 litres and can barely accept a week’s shopping. The model was revamped in 2017 but pre-facelift models are better value and just as well built as any current model. Match trim has most things including air con and adaptive cruise control but lacks a sat nav. It’s our pick.

Best used hatchback for space 

Vauxhall Insignia

Typical example Vauxhall Insignia 2.0 CDTI SRI Nav 5dr Age 2016 / 45,000 miles
Price £9,995 Representative finance payments £163 per month

It’s no longer available as a new car, but the market is still awash with used Insignias and if you’re looking for a large, inexpensive family hatch you won't go wrong with the big Vauxhall.

It’s a business car, designed to carry sales people and their products over long distances, reliably and comfortably. In this role it excels. Its motorway ride especially is good.

Its rival, the Ford Mondeo, is better to drive (quicker, more communicative steering and tauter body control in corners) but for hauling a family of five and their luggage from A to B, little can beat the Insignia at the price.

The 2.0-litre diesel engine is the star of the range. The 1.8 petrol is a little flat. SRI trim adds a pleasingly sporty alloy wheels.

Best used hatchback for covering long distances

Skoda Octavia

Typical example Skoda Octavia 1.6 TDI Elegance 5dr Age 2015 / 30,000 miles
Price £11,500 Representative finance payments £174 per month

The Octavia may be based on the VW Golf but you’d never know it from the size of its boot. Where the Golf’s measures 380 litres, the Octavia’s measures a massive 590 litres.

So that’s holiday luggage sorted. Plus there’s enough room inside for the holiday makers. The driving experience is not quite as polished as the Golf’s and refinement levels are not as high. Interior trim is a little hard and plasticky in places, too. But it’s all perfectly well anchored.

Choose upmarket Elegance trim and the economical but strong 1.6 diesel and the Octavia makes a convincing case for itself. Only its price looks a little steep given its less than starry image. It was revamped in 2017, highlights being a sharper exterior styling but underneath it all, it’s business as usual.

Best used hatchback for French Flair

Renault Megane

Typical example Renault Megane 1.5 dCi Dynamique S Nav Age 2016 / 5,000 miles

Price £12,000 Representative finance payments £180 per month

We’re talking about the latest Megane here, launched in 2016.

Highlights are much improved build quality, better styling, an improved driving experience and a much better interior. Its boot is bigger than the Astra’s (434 litres compared with 370 litres) but it’s an achievement that has come at the expense of rear cabin space.

Go for the economical 1.5 diesel in Dynamique S Nav trim with, as the name suggests, a sat nav.

Best used hatchback for driving fun

BMW 1 Series

Typical example BMW 116d ED Plus 5dr Age 2016 / 17,000 miles
Price £13,000 Representative finance payments £167 per month

If it’s a sporty drive you’re looking for, you’ve come to the right place. The BMW 1 Series is a traditional rear-wheel-drive BMW which means it’s more entertaining to drive than the VW Golf.

Rear-wheel-drive also means the rear cabin is a little cramped, owing to the fact that the transmission tunnel reduces footwell space.

Interior quality is almost without equal. BMW makes terrific diesel engines: smooth, refined, punchy and economical. The 1 series’ 1.6 diesel is no exception.

Best used hatchback for character

BMW 3 Series GT

Typical example BMW 320d GT M Sport auto Age 2015 / 35,000 miles
Price £18,750 Representative finance payments £249 per month

The 3 Series GT addresses an issue that has long plagued the sister car the 3 Series saloon: a lack of hatchback flexibility. You might think that giving one of the world’s best sports saloon a big rear load area complete with tailgate might fundamentally change its character, but it doesn’t. The 3 Series GT is every bit as fun to drive as the saloon only a little more comfortable thanks to its more supple suspension.

The boot is 520 litres and that’s before you fold down the rear seats to make 1,600 litres of load space. There’s as much legroom in the back as in a BMW 5 Series, although the GT’s flowing roofline eats into headroom.

Best used hatchback for coupe looks

Audi A5 Sportback

Typical example Audi A5 Sportback 2.0 TDI SE Age 2015 / 48,000 miles
Price £15,500 Representative finance payments £223 per month

The Audi A5 Sportback may be based on the Audi A4 saloon but it transforms that car into a more practical proposition. That said, like the BMW 3 Series GT, it’s a sporty, almost coupé-like car.

It’s most at home on the motorway and is fun on twisty roads, but lacks the BMW’s sharpness. Many versions are fitted with Audi’s famous quattro four-wheel drive system that boosts grip levels on slippery roads.   

It’s a shame it’s not just a bit bigger. The 480-litre boot is the same size as an A4’s but of course you can drop the rear seats to create a much more usable load area. The rear cabin is cramped, too. Really, there’s space here only for children.

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