The best hatchbacks to buy in 2021

  • Which is the best family hatchback of the bunch?
  • They’re a great alternative to SUVs, and often cheaper
  • Check out our favourite small family cars below

Compact family hatchbacks are some of the most versatile and talented cars on sale, suiting a wide range of people from first-time buyers to business users. But the rapid rise in popularity of SUVs means these traditional small family cars really need to impress.

Brilliant family hatchbacks need to excel in their roles as cars for everyone. They should offer low running costs, be easy to drive, practical and reliable. Affordability, whether you’re paying cash or, like the vast majority of new car buyers, via PCP finance, is also paramount. Tough gig.

The Parkers team of seasoned reviewers has rounded up the 10 best of this type of car in order of preference, starting with our favourites.

>> Hatchback not big enough? An estate might just be the ticket. Read our best estate cars article.

Top 10 family hatchbacks for 2021


1. Skoda Octavia

Brilliant family car, just pipping the Golf for class leadership

Skoda Octavia (2021) front view

Pros:
Wide range of petrols, diesels and hybrids
Massive amount of passenger and luggage space

Cons:
Not the sharpest car to drive
Prices have been creeping up

The Skoda Octavia might be based on the technology that underpins the Volkswagen Golf, but it looks and feels very different on the road. For a start, it's longer and sleeker and more like a traditional family car such as the Ford Mondeo or Vauxhall Insignia. But trust us on this – the Octavia costs similar money to its rivals assembled here, making it very much a value-for-money choice.

It's comfortable and roomy, and offered with a wide range of engines – from a frugal 1.0-litre hybrid, via a number of larger diesels and petrols as well as an all-new plug-in hybrid, known as the Octavia iV. There's also a choice of three vRS performance models, ranging between 200-245hp... In other words, there really is an Octavia for just about every one. It's definitely the pick of the crop here if you're looking for space and long-distance cruising ability, and gets the nod – now – for being better value for money than the Golf.

New prices: £21,230 - £35,645
Leasing price: from £257 per month
Used prices: £14,390 - £29,835
Boot capacity: 600 litres

2. Volkswagen Golf 

Great all-rounder, high quality image, lots of variations

2020 VW Golf front three quarters - best hatchbacks

Pros:
Lots of models and engines to choose from
Quality and tech lead the way

Cons:
New interior controls can be fiddly
Looks a little derivative

You can’t go far wrong with a Volkswagen Golf. The Mk8 version builds on the previous car's extensive ranges of engines and trim levels and remains hugely talented in many areas. The interior is the benchmark for the tech on offer and quality of the materials used, it’s impressively comfortable in any seat and in any trim, with plenty of space and practical touches for family use.

Everything is very easy to operate, whether it’s the full-width infotainment screen and driver's display, while the boot is big enough to easily fit a large pushchair. It’s not the most exciting to look at or be in, but it’s better to drive than ever and wouldn’t look out of place at a fancy hotel, either.

New prices: £23,300-£38,345
Leasing price: from £256 per month
Used prices: £16,675-£31,625
Boot capacity: 380 litres

3. Ford Focus 

Popular family Ford, still the best to drive

Blue Ford Focus ST-Line X - best hatchbacks

Pros:
Brilliant steering and handling
Roomy and lots of models

Cons:
Costly top models
Some iffy interior plastics

Crowned the Parkers Best Small Family Car for 2020, the Ford Focus won thanks in large part to its spacious interior and engaging driving experience. Despite its compact exterior dimensions, there’s a vast amount of space inside – even in the rear seats, with plenty of legroom and a barely-intrusive transmission tunnel.

It’s not all perfect – higher-spec trims can be costly and the ride can be fidgety on slightly rough roads, meaning it’s not necessarily the most comfortable. It’s the one to go for if you’re a keen driver because of its sharp steering and handling, but what’s more important is that it’s easy to drive. The controls across the dashboard are also very easy to use.

New prices: £20,530-£34,710
Leasing price: from £333 per month
Used prices: £8,505-£26,420
Boot capacity: 375 litres

4. SEAT Leon 

Stylish hatch, brought up-to date

SEAT Leon FR grey 2020 - best hatchbacks

Pros:
Economical engines
Sharp to drive

Cons:
Firm ride
Touchscreen used too much

SEAT's Leon is perennially popular among buyers within this group of family hatchbacks, and that’s down to its sharp styling, competitive pricing and comfortable cabin. There’s bags of space inside for rear seat passengers, while the minimalist dashboard up front means it hasn't been littered with buttons. It's not all good news though, as it heavily relies on the centre touchscreen for the controls and it's not the easiest to get to grips with..

Still, fans of the old model will be pleased to know the Leon continues to be one of the sportier alternatives to the Volkswagen Golf and Skoda Octavia. This latest model is far more entertaining to drive than the previous model, especially in FR trim. If you can live with the firm ride on this model down rougher roads, you'll have a family hatchback that runs the Ford Focus close for driving fun. It won't cost you the earth to run either.

New prices: £19,855-£360,115
Leasing price: from £209 per month
Used prices: £14,370-£25,465
Boot capacity: 380 litres

5. Mazda 3 

Great looks, good to drive

Red Mazda Sport Lux - best hatchbacks

Pros:
Stylish looks inside and out
High-quality interior

Cons:
Cramped rear seats
Poor rear visibility

Mazda's latest 3 really looks the part with eye-catching styling that affords it a high sense of desirability. Its talents aren’t just skin-deep though. The 3 is a car that drives well – not only is it enjoyable and fun like many Mazdas, it’s also comfortable and quiet for when you’re on a long journey or bumpy road and want to relax.

Its interior is also one of the best in this class with high-quality materials, a design that’s simple yet elegant and an excellent driving position. The media system is also easy to operate with a large screen and a simple rotary wheel to make selections. The only niggles are restricted rear visibility and cramped rear space due to a low roof and small windows (bear this in mind for baby seats), plus a high loading lip to get to the boot.

New prices:  £21,840-£32,365
Leasing price: from £223 per month
Used prices: £12,205-£23,045
Boot capacity: 358 litres

6. Toyota Corolla 

Old name for striking family hatchback

Black Toyota Corolla Hybrid - best hatchbacks

Pros:
Comfortable ride and seats
Low running costs

Cons:
Cramped rear seats and boot
Infotainment lags behind rivals

The Corolla name is back for the car that’s replaced the Toyota Auris, and what a difference it is. Its striking design is worlds away from the car it replaced, but it’s not all show and no go. The Corolla trumps most other family hatchbacks for running costs, with a choice of two hybrid powertrains that make it relaxing and very easy to drive, not to mention cheap to run.

It also has a comfortable interior – at least in the front – with good quality materials and a generous amount of equipment. The media system lags behind rivals, and isn’t the most spacious hatchback in the rear. And while the boot is a decent size, the opening is high and not especially wide, which is more difficult to load heavy, bulky items into.

New prices: £24,480-£31,430
Leasing price: from £211 per month
Used prices: £11,625-£24,090
Boot capacity: 361 litres (313 litres for 2.0-litre Hybrid)

7. Citroen C4

Quirky, funky styling – a comfortable family hatch with SUV attitude

Citroen C4 (2021)

Pros:
Supremely comfortable, roomy cabin
Excellent engines, very economical

Cons:
Go elsewhere if you want sporty
Marmite styling – you'll love it or hate it

The Citroen C4 is an interesting new addition to the family car market – the company calls it a hatchback, but it has plenty of SUV styling cues, such as a mildly jacked-up ride height and side cladding. Whatever your thoughts, there's no denying that it stands out, and for anyone looking for the maximum comfort, the C4 is definitely the pick of the crop here.

There's a decent range of petrol and diesel engines, all of which are economical and efficient, and there's also an all-electric e-C4 version to choose from. The interior is roomy, the seats are soft, the engines are quiet, and this is a very likeable family hatchback competing for your money

New prices: £21,005 - £28,295
Leasing price: from £181 per month
Used prices: £14,390 - £29,835
Boot capacity: 380 litres

8. Kia Ceed 

Good but not quite outstanding

Red Kia Ceed GT - best hatchbacks

Pros:
Light and easy to drive
Quality build and seven-year warranty

Cons:
Not the roomiest car out there
Lacking in sparkle and character

Kia's Ceed may not be the most interesting of family hatchbacks, but it’s an accomplished one. It’s very easy to drive and the interior is one of the most user-friendly out there. The touchscreen is simple to operate, and large, well-labelled buttons to control pretty much everything else is refreshingly simple. It’s also solid inside, if not quite matching Volkswagen’s quality standards.

The Ceed manages to blend an easy drive with one that still feels nicely balanced, meaning it doesn’t feel wayward in corners thanks to good body control and a fine ride. The steering and other controls are quite light, and the interior will have enough room for most – just not as much as in a VW Golf or Ford Focus, but the boot is of a decent size, despite a slightly high loading lip.

New prices: £18,855-£27,935
Leasing price: from £193 per month
Used prices: £9,745-£19,205
Boot capacity: 395 litres

9. Hyundai i30 

Excellent all-rounder, lacking in sexiness

Blue Hyundai i30 N Line - best hatchbacks

Pros:
Good range of petrol and diesel engines
Comfortable to drive and ride in

Cons:
Lacks interior space compared with the best
No longer bargain priced

Hyundai's i30 uses the same mechanical parts as the Kia Ceed, so it comes with the same wide range of engines, but adds the appeal of an exciting hot version called the i30 N. The regular model gets lots of standard equipment across the range, an interior that’s solid and very easy to use, plus one of the biggest boots in any compact family hatchback.

The drive is focused more on ease of use and comfort than sportiness, but that’s no bad thing as it’s refined and relaxing with good visibility, while the 1.0-litre T-GDi and 1.4 T-GDi petrols are both impressive. It falls behind on interior space though, with more limited rear seat space than other models, while some will find the bland design a bit uninspiring.

New prices: £20,705 - £26,745
Leasing price: from £230 per month
Used prices: £7,015 - £24,520
Boot capacity: 395 litres

10. Honda Civic 

Bigger than most rivals, soon to be replaced

Blue Honda Civic 2020 - best hatchbacks

Pros:
Lots of interior room
Good to drive

Cons:
Could you live with the looks?
Type R version is brilliant

Whether you like the look of it or not, the Honda Civic is one of the best family hatchbacks for practicality. Interior space is second only to the Skoda Octavia, with enough room for two adults to properly stretch out in the rear (there’s almost a flat floor in the back) and a large and flexible boot. It’s also very good to drive – feeling similar to the Mazda 3 in terms of ease and balance – with an excellent manual gearbox and an excellent ride, boosting comfort.

Interior quality is fine – if not as plush as others – but it feels solid and interior storage is also up there with the best. Just avoid those with CVT automatic transmissions and stick with the excellent manual. If you want the most fun, the Honda Civic Type R is brilliant and still probably the fastest hatchback in the real world.

New prices: £20,530 - £39,995 
Leasing price: from £303 per month
Used prices: £7,235 - £33,990 
Boot capacity: 478 litres (420 litres for 1.5 and Type R)

Verdict

The fact that Volkswagen Group products occupy three out of the top four positions tells you that it's the German firm that owns this market sector. Despite the fact the SEAT Leon, Skoda Octavia and Volkswagen Golf are based on the same technology, they have very different characters - which means that you, the buyer, gets a genuine choice.

We've chosen the Skoda Octavia as the best car in this group based on its value, practicality and all-round user-friendliness, but equally the Golf could get the nod if you don't like the Skoda's larger footprint and prefer your car to wear the VW roundel. Equally, the Golf is slightly more refined than the Skoda, and the GTI is still the king of the hot hatchbacks - but it really is that close between these two cars, making it very hard to split them.

Of the rest, the Citroen gets the nod if comfort is your primary focus - it really is great at separating you from the road. The Mazda also gets a worthy mention for its sharp styling and lovely interior, while no list like this would be complete without us praising the Ford Focus for its keen dynamics and lovely steering.

Finally, if you're wondering why the Audi A3, Mercedes-Benz A-Class and BMW 1 Series are missing, they have their own Best Small Premium Hatchbacks page...

Why we've chosen this Top 10

The Parkers team tests hundreds of cars throughout the course of a year, and this list has been created to reflect the expert views of team members. Our regularly updated list of best hatchbacks has been compiled from the reviews section as well as the highly recommended models, reflecting what growing families need from their cars.

Further reading:

>> Best small cars to buy in 2021
>> Best first cars for young drivers

>> Best small SUVs to buy now
>> Best used hatchbacks