The Chronicle


Hatchbacks are more fun to drive than softroader­s and cost a lot less money


Small SUVs may be all the rage at the moment, but often the humble hatchback offers better value for money and more driving joy. From the ever-reliable Toyota Corolla to the classy Volkswagen Golf and much-improved Hyundai i30, there are plenty of excellent choices for the astute buyer.

Here are five of the best examples on sale and five more worthy of a closer look.


While the Scala is far from a household name, it delivers much of what makes a Volkswagen Golf great, but for less money. It’s fun to drive, thanks mainly to a sophistica­ted 1.5-litre turbo engine and seven-speed dual-clutch auto.

It’s also a practical choice, as it’s cheaper to buy and run than its German stablemate and has a bigger boot thanks to simpler rear suspension. Priced from a sharp $28,990 driveaway, the Scala is loaded with great surprises such as an umbrella in the driver’s door, a detachable torch in the boot and clever bins in the door pockets.


A polished machine that brings European refinement to the compact segment, Volkswagen’s Golf has been a class leader for more than a decade. It’s not cheap – prices start from about $36,000 drive-away for the auto – but for that money there are lovely digital displays, an array of driver aids and a turbo motor matched to a new and impressive eightspeed auto.

Customers looking for well-equipped models with satnav, wireless charging and other niceties will need to spend $40,000 or more. That used to be GTI money, but that model is closer to $60,000 now. Spacious and refined, the Golf delivers an engaging drive without compromisi­ng comfort. A near-buttonless cabin looks smart but can prove tricky to navigate.


There are good reasons the Corolla is the bestsellin­g passenger car in Australia. Toyota’s badge is a byword for dependabil­ity, the latest model looks sharp and its fuel-efficient hybrid option makes a lot of sense.

There’s a five-year warranty and servicing is seriously good value at less than $200 per year. Priced from about $29,000 to $39,000 driveaway (or $31,000 in hybrid form), the Corolla has strong standard safety gear. It’s important to note that the Corolla hatch and sedan are quite different cars – the hatch feels quite sporty to drive while the sedan is built for comfort, with softer suspension. Strong resale values mean the Corolla is a safe bet for smallcar customers.


The second-best selling car in this class is a great all-rounder. It comes with a choice of manual and auto transmissi­ons, with a standard 2.0-litre engine or a willing 1.6-litre turbo. As with the Corolla, the i30 sedan is more suited to leisurely driving.

Priced from $25,490 drive-away (or $27,490 as an auto) the i30 undercuts its main rivals. At the top of the model range, the acclaimed i30 N is an outstandin­g drive, but if the budget doesn’t stretch to $50,000, the punchy N-Line model is a great pick, loaded with excellent safety and tech features, a turbo engine and snappy dualclutch automatic at a price that won’t break the budget.


Stylish inside and out, the Mazda3 offers more choice than the majority of cars in this class. You can have it as a sedan or hatchback, with an automatic or manual transmissi­on, and a broad choice of engines including 2.0-litre and 2.5litre petrol models, a new mild hybrid and a clever high-compressio­n Skyactiv-X version at the top of the range.

Priced from about $30,000 to $47,000 driveaway, every model is loaded with an impressive array of safety features and all are sweet to steer. Impressive­ly composed on the road and impeccably finished in the cabin, the Mazda3 hatch is let down by noisy engines and compromise­d visibility from the rear seats.

Otherwise it is gorgeous to look at and very easy to recommend.

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