Stylish, well-equipped and with an engine to suit everyone pretty much sums up the family hatchback segment, but which cars make our top 10?
29 January 2018

The traditional hatchback may be losing significant ground to the crossovers and SUVs of the world, but this segment remains one of the most hotly contested, from the stalwarts reinventing themselves to new entrants trying to take the market by the scruff of the neck.

Either way, the traditional family hatchback has gone from a hauler of people with a sizeable boot to a selection of striking five-doors that offer something for everyone, whether you're looking for a frugal diesel, a peppy small turbocharged petrol engine or a full-blown hot hatchback. Below are our top 10 family hatchbacks currently on sale.

Ford’s new Focus claims its spot at the top of the family hatchback pile by way of its excellent handling and comfortable ride. There’s plenty of space inside, and a completely revised exterior has given the Ford a new lease of life. Its cabin still doesn’t quite offer the same levels of fit and finish as a Volkswagen Golf or Seat Leon, though. 

This fourth-generation model is available with both petrol and diesel engines, while base models make use of a torsion beam rear suspension configuration instead of the multi-link arrangement of the more powerful models. For now, ST-Line represents the sportiest offering in the line-up, although we wouldn’t be surprised if ST and RS models are offered at a later date.

Our Verdict

Seat Leon 5dr hatch

Seat's third-generation Leon is attractive and capable, but it can't quite reach the benchmark set by the imperious Volkswagen Golf

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Still the family hatchback benchmark that all the others aspire to, and the Volkswagen Golf remains a classy option. Supremely well-rounded to drive and, although not the cheapest, it does enough to justify its high price tag.

The Golf is available in various bodystyles, including as a practical estate and small MPV, and in numerous guises such as the ever-present GTI, the all-wheel-drive hot hatch – the R, and even in electric form. It remains the car for the people.

Barcelona’s take on the formidable Volkswagen Golf is a worthy addition, matching its German sibling on many fronts. The Seat Leon looks superb with its angular and edgy styling and handles supremely. There is even a range of bodystyles and engines, like the Golf, including the vivacious Cupra 300 and R.

Ultimately, it misses out on top spot because the interior feels cheaper and dowdier than the Golf's, but that does mean a lower price point. Swings and roundabouts.

Over the course of ten models, the Honda Civic has gone through a multitude of changes from the mundane to the divisive. This new-generation car is equally as striking as its predecessors, but in a more conventional way, and as a result is better executed than before.

The new petrol engines are impressive, even if the triple isn’t quite able to match the 1.0-litre units from Ford and Volkswagen, while the latest-generation Type R is superb.

It’s third time lucky for the South Korean manufacturer, as this third-generation Ceed is the first of its kind to break into our top five. 

The handling and steering have found a greater level of sophistication than ever before, while its cabin offers plenty of room for four adults but still lacks some of the polish of more upmarket contenders such as the Volkswagen Golf. Its diesel engines are smooth and refined and offer impressive economy too. 

It is still some way off the position of class leader, but is nonetheless a worthy competitor in an incredibly competitive segment.

The best premium-badged family hatchback available on the market, which mixes the best from the Volkswagen Group, including a host of peppy TSI and frugal TDI engines and low cost of ownership, with the precision that Audi has to offer.

The A3 Sportback is like every other car to roll out of Ingolstadt, which is to say supremely well-constructed and suave inside, but it is rather soulless to drive and not as involving as its rivals or siblings. 

Luton’s favourite son has returned and in some form. The seventh-generation Vauxhall Astra maintains its core strengths and adds several doses of style, making it more appealing to those who previously snubbed it.

As you would expect of an Astra, it is supremely spacious and fitted with strong, frugal diesel engines. Vauxhall’s finest loses out to those above it because of its firm and unsettled ride, lacklustre interior and numb-feeling controls.

The car that shows Mini is coming of age with a grown-up version of its crossover. This second-generation Countryman is an interesting family car that majors on refinement, comfort and practicality by Mini standards.

It is fairly pricey compared with its closest rivals, and it isn’t quite as classy as you would expect from a Mini. However, it's the closest Oxford has come to nailing the compromise between sweet, well-balanced handling and sophistication. 

The third-generation Mazda 3 is certainly striking and still looks modern and fresh compared with younger rivals. The Japanese hatch marries brisk performance with energetic handling, while offering good value for money.

But where the 3 isn’t so competitive is through its driver engagement, which isn’t quite as encompassing as some of its better rivals, while the interior is a bit mundane next to the hatches higher up this list.

Peugeot is back, and about time, by getting this third-generation 308 firing on more cylinders than the lukewarm efforts that went previously. With a more focused look, new platform and refreshed interior, the 308 is leaner and lighter than before.

The result is a much more appealing hatchback from Peugeot majoring on build quality, comfort and refinement, but there are some familiar niggles, including ergonomic shortcomings, the wisdom of filling the glovebox with fuses and inconsistent steering. A strong effort nonetheless.

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