Buying your next hatchback

Sometimes eclipsed by the glamour and presence of SUVs, the hatchback is still one of the best types of car you can buy for everyday use. They’re ideal for first-time families, businesses and enthusiastic drivers who don’t want to sacrifice day-to-day usability. 2021’s selection is diverse and impressive, and a budget of around £25,000 is enough to get a great hatchback.

Brilliant hatchbacks are good at more than just one thing. Nearly all have four doors as well as the large boot opening that gives them their name, so they’re great for families. Being relatively small, they have low running costs and are easy to park, despite being able to carry a lot. Finally, as they’re low to the ground and often have a sporty model in the range, they’re secure, safe and satisfying to drive.

Winner of the Parkers ‘Family Car of the Year’ award in 2020, the Ford Focus is the archetypal hatchback for Britain. It’s good looking, and you can get everything from a low-cost economy model to the lavish Vignale and rapid ST, all with the same family-friendly shape. There are many more choices though to suit your personality, lifestyle and budget; being so important to drivers and car manufacturers, they often represent the cutting edge of affordable safety and entertainment technology too.

Because of their popularity, you’ll often find great deals on new ones, but your existing one may be worth more than you thought too. Make sure you’re getting the best price for your part-exchange, and paying the right amount for your next car with a free valuation. Parkers’ car valuation tool seems to be one of the best free options out there, but there are some other alternatives

Here’s a quick guide to your next hatchback, choosing from four of the best on sale now.

The obvious one: Ford Focus

It’s popular and affordable – it’s also very good

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.

Without the large sunroof it can feel quite dark in the back despite the space., but the low cost means that’s an option you don’t have to deny yourself. 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 easy to drive, with straightforward controls across the dashboard, but its sharp, precise steering mean it’s also an excellent choice if you simply enjoy driving, too.

The sensible one: Skoda Octavia

Golf-style quality with common-sense design and more space

The Skoda Octavia is based on the technology that underpins the Volkswagen Golf, but it looks and feels very different on the road. It’s longer and sleeker and more like a traditional family car such as the Ford Mondeo or Vauxhall Insignia.  Yet the Octavia costs a similar amount to the smaller rivals assembled here, making it  excellent value-for-money.

It’s comfortable and roomy, and offered with a wide range of engines. The frugal 1.0-litre hybrid, larger diesels and petrols and an all-new plug-in hybrid (the Octavia iV) cover most needs. There’s also a choice of three vRS performance models up to 245hp.

It’s the pick of the crop for space and long-distance cruising ability.

The quirky one: Citroen C4

Distinctive styling stands out, but you want it for the comfort

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. Though the striking looks get your attention it’s the large, squashy seats and soft suspension that set it apart. For anyone looking for the maximum comfort, the C4 is the pick of the crop.

As well as petrol and diesel options there’s also an all-electric e-C4 version. The interior is roomy, the seats are soft, the engines are quiet, and this is a very likeable hatchback competing for your money.

The posh one: Mercedes A-Class

Sensibly-sized Mercedes has big-car tech and luxury

Mercedes-Benz’s three-pointed star sends the same signal all around the world – this is a high-quality, aspirational car. Yet the family hatchback A-Class is not that much more than mid-range rivals here, and it’s often available with very competitive finance or lease deals. Go for the AMG-Line Premium and your family car becomes a voice-controlled assistant too, so your daily drives feel like they’re in a car costing far more.

There’s a choice of petrol, diesel and hybrid models as well as the devastatingly-fast Mercedes-AMG versions for serious performance. All offer good passenger space, supportive seats and impressive economy for their performance, but the BMW 1 Series has recently been revised enough to challenge the A-Class for practicality. For now, though, the A-Class has the edge – as its popularity in sales charts confirms.

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Love Belfast
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