- Which family hatchbacks would we run?
- All offer low costs and are well-specced
- Many sporty versions available too
Whether we crave for something a little more exotic, a tad sportier, a bit flasher, or something indulgently luxurious, most of us will, at some point in our lives, drive a family hatchback.
On paper there’s little glamorous about them. Typically about 4.2m long, with space inside for five, and a decent-size boot too. It sounds a bit mundane, doesn’t it?
Except, it’s not. Consumers these days are savvier and discerning purchasers have driven manufacturers to offer us ever-better products in this keenly-fought market sector.
No longer are performance and efficiency mutually exclusive. Handling and ride comfort can co-exist in the same car. To cap it all, standard equipment lists now include technology that was the preserve of luxury cars barely a decade ago.
Problem is, there are so many to choose from. That’s why we’ve brought together five family hatches we really like, to save you some legwork and narrow down the choices for your next company car.
We’ve chosen the BMW 1 Series not for reasons of out-and-out practicality but because with its rear-wheel drive set-up, it’s one of the most enjoyable cars to drive money can buy.
There’s a price to pay though; spend a short time in a 1 Series, and you’ll soon discover it’s not as spacious as almost every other car in the class, due to that transmission tunnel taking away space from both the centre rear passenger and the boot.
What it has instead are the appeal of a premium badge, a very well-built, high quality interior, a vast array of equipment (much of it optional though) and an exceptionally strong range of petrol and diesel engines.
Hot hatch fans will marvel at the delight the M135i performance version is to drive, with 316bhp and a 0-62mph time of 4.9 seconds. Those on a tighter budget needn’t fear though, the 116d EfficientDynamics has a claimed average of 74.3mpg, emits just 99g/km yet can manage the same acceleration sprint in a respectable 10.5 seconds.
Our choice? The 120d in M Sport trim offers a great combination of power and economy but it’s an expensive choice, particularly if you go for the excellent automatic gearbox option too. It falls in the 19 percent BIK band, so for a 20 percent rate payer, a monthly bill of £88.51 looms.
Fuel economy range: 35.3-74.3mpg
CO2 emissions range: 99-188g/km
P11D value from: £17,775
Ford’s evergreen Focus always features high among the best-seller lists and it’s not simply because of strong discounts to fleet operators.
Others in the class offer greater levels of space and more adventurous looks – although 2014’s facelift helps make the Focus look more elegant – but few can rival the sheer breadth of model choice and the fact that the mid-sized Ford is such a great car to drive.
There’s something for most people in the range too, with economical diesels, the sporty ST models and even an electric version, although this sells in very small numbers. Many Focuses are packed with technology too with features such as self-parking, traffic sign recognition and even clever in-built door protectors to minimise bodywork damage.
Don’t expect much in the way of fuel efficiency if you plump for one of the turbocharged STs although it’s a lively experience behind the wheel. Similarly the zesty 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine provides ample performance but isn’t as economical as the official figures suggest.
We’d choose the 1.6 TDCi 113bhp Titanium Navigator combining decent real world performance, strong economy and a generous specification. It's in the 17 percent BIK band resulting in a £59.49 monthly bill for a 20 percent rate payer.
Fuel economy range: 39.2-83.1mpg (excluding EV model)
CO2 emissions range: 88-169g/km (excluding EV model)
P11D value from: £13,995
The range of economical petrol and diesel hatches has recently been expanded by the arrival of the potent 198bhp GT version, with a turbocharged 1.6-litre engine. It’s not a class-defining hot hatch but it’s nevertheless a decent first attempt, albeit rather thirsty.
Interior quality is good and the breadth of standard equipment, particularly the higher up the range you go, is extraordinary. Bear in mind though that while Kias are good value, they’re no longer inexpensive.
Our choice would be the mid-range ‘3’ 1.6 CRDi. Good economy, decently-specced without being overly pricy, its 16 percent BIK banding costing a 20 percent payer £53.42 per month.
Fuel economy range: 38.2-76.3mpg
CO2 emissions range: 97-171g/km
P11D value from: £14,400
Peugeot’s new 308 marks the first time the French marque has reused a model name for an all-new car, but compared to the namesake it replaced, the latest one is leagues ahead.
The reigning Car of the Year, Peugeot’s newest mid-sizer looks rather Germanic outside, perhaps no bad thing given the Golf’s popularity. Inside, there’s a spacious cabin, amplified by a minimalist dashboard, with many of the controls that would normally be operated by buttons and levers instead controlled by a touchscreen.
It’s well-built too with good quality plastics used for the majority of mouldings, a large boot and, providing you avoid the base model, it's well-equipped too.
Ride and handling aren’t quite up there with Focus and Golf but they’re not far off – it’s a comfortable and easy car in which to cover long distances.
There are a new range of engines too, with e-THP turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engines sold along clean BlueHDi diesels. Peugeot’s hinted at a performance version but as yet it’s not made it to the market.
We’d choose the Active BlueHDi 120 – it’s got most of the equipment you’d want with a claimed average fuel consumption of 91.1mpg. Its BIK band is 14 percent, meaning a monthly cost to a 20 percent rate payer of £45.49.
Fuel economy range: 48.7-91.1mpg
CO2 emissions range: 82-129g/km
P11D value from: £14,895
For many, the VW Golf is the standard-bearer in this segment. Exemplary fit and finish for the interior, generously equipped if you choose a Match model or higher, an efficient range of petrol and diesel engines recently joined by the electric e-Golf. And that’s before we’ve considered the sporty GTD, GTI, R and the forthcoming hybrid-powered GTE.
Underneath the skin, the Golf’s closely related to Audi’s A3, SEAT's Leon and Skoda’s Octavia, but the Golf arguably combines the best elements of all in a package that’s priced slightly above premium.
Those looking to maximise their economic advantage will do well consider the thrifty BlueMotion, with a claimed average consumption of 88.3mpg although be aware the specification is based on the lowly S trim.
Manual and DSG automatic gearboxes are on offer across the range, and while the Golf focuses on comfort, road holding is nevertheless a strong point.
Our pick? While we’re big fans of the GTI, the additional frugality of the GTD without sacrificing much in the way of performance tips the balance in the sporty diesel’s favour. It'll cost a 20 percent rate payer £74.86 per month due to the GTD's 17 percent BIK band. However, if that’s too expensive, the BlueMotion TDI will cost you less to run at £50.10 each month.
Fuel economy range: 39.8-88.3mpg (excluding EV)
CO2 emissions range: 85-165g/km (excluding EV)
P11D value from: £16,975
All monthly costs are calculated based upon what a 20 percent rate payer would pay.