Compact yet roomy, convenient yet zippy and even sporty, hatchbacks are a hugely popular choice for those who want a smaller car that is still comfortable to sit in and cleverly designed for interior storage and space.
What's in this guide?
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What features come with a hatchback?
All hatchbacks are typically small, light, practical and affordable, although the range of makes and models is vast, ranging from tiny city cars to larger, luxury performance variants.
Across the range, hatchbacks usually have the following features:
- Space. Although normally quite small, hatches are cleverly designed with a surprising amount of space for passengers and cargo. For the latter, the seats can be folded down to reveal a huge amount of rear space that’s perfect for shopping, prams, bikes and even a trip to Ikea.
- Practical design. While a sedan means the boot and the cabin are basically separate, the rear of a hatchback is accessible from within the car via the hatch.
- Three or five doors. A four door is the typical way to describe a standard family car, but a hatch normally has three or five doors. The three-door variant has two passenger doors, while the five-door includes separate doors for the front and rear passengers – with the handy lifting hatch being counted as a door on both occasions.
Benefits and drawbacks of hatchbacks
Those in the market for a hatchback enjoy a large, hugely popular range, which means there are plenty of options available with highly competitive prices.
Hatch buyers typically want a smaller, versatile car that can be easily parked and is safe, comfortable and fuel efficient, but with these pros, are there any cons?
Let’s weigh them up:
- The perfect compromise. Hatch buyers are looking for the “goldilocks” of cars. They want a zippy city slicker that's also stable and safe at speed when carrying a family with a pram and a load of shopping on board.
- Big boot. And if that family wants to fit an Ikea flat pack in and doesn't have a trailer, the rear seats can be folded down to reveal an ample cargo tray.
- Popularity. The small car market is booming, and that's great news if you invest in a hatchback because quality hatches actually hold their value better than bigger cars.
- Parking. With its compact size, hatchbacks are easy for everyone to drive, including learners and those lacking confidence when it comes to parking in tight confines.
- Economy. Hatchbacks are typically not only affordable to buy, but fuel efficient as well due to their smaller size.
- Visibility. The big clear hatch is great for rearward visibility, even when it rains thanks to the rear windscreen wiper.
- Grunt. Although some hatchbacks are actually pretty sporty and powerful with an impressive power-to-weight ratio, they will still be beaten by many bigger cars when it comes to sheer engine grunt.
- The ride. Similarly, while most hatch drivers will rave about the smooth ride, there is an argument that a heavier car will still feel better at speed and be less noisy in the cabin.
- Space. As we said earlier, it's the compromise between the clever use of space and a compact size that makes hatchbacks so popular, but it's still true that a big car is even roomier, particularly for those with long legs who have to sit in the back seat.
- Looks Everyone has their preferences, but some definitely think a sedan is a better look than a hatch that your mum or dad might buy!
How to compare hatchback models?
SUVs may be popular these days, but hatchbacks are still the tried and tested option for many car buyers, which means there are plenty on the market to choose from.
To find the best hatchback that meets your needs and desires, here are some of the questions you should ask:
How much do I want to spend?
A great thing about the hatchback market is that no matter what your budget is, you'll find a great quality option. The cheapest new hatch options are little more than $10,000, while luxury and sporty “hot hatches” can be five times that much and luxurious indeed.
How much boot space does it have?
Many hatch buyers are really buying one for the convenient, flexible, roomy boot, so make sure you look into how much space you're actually getting. That's because the smallest boots are around 200 litres, while the biggest are almost double that figure or more.
How long will my hatchback last?
Whether cheap or expensive, reliability is a big concern for car buyers. One way to protect yourself is by looking at the warranty since some manufacturers will have your back for many more years than others.
Is my hatchback safe enough?
Hatchbacks may be practical, but is it still true that small cars are generally less safe? The good news is that injury rates for smaller cars and hatchbacks have plummeted in recent years, but you can still look at how ANCAP rates each car for occupant and pedestrian protection.
What on-road costs should I expect?
As well as the basic entry and average prices of hatchbacks being lower than most larger cars, another great thing about owning a hatchback is the running costs. In fact, the cheapest car in Australia to run is a micro hatchback, at less than an amazing $95 overall per week. Hatchback tyres are also generally cheaper than larger ones, the top hatch models hold their value well, and smaller cars can be cheaper to register.
Are hatchbacks worth it?
If you're thinking about buying a hatchback, chances are you've already been convinced by its practical, flexible, jack-of-all-trades nature. You may even love the sporty, ever-popular look of these well-liked cars as well. And you wouldn't be alone: hatches are now more popular than Australia’s once unbeatable Falcon/Commodore-sized class. The fuel efficiency makes it a smart choice for both environmentally minded people and those counting pennies, and a hatch is almost as comfortable stretching its legs on a highway or a country road as it is reverse parking into a tight city space.
To make the right choice, compare all the best options on the market to match your needs and wants with the perfect hatchback for you.
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