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.