The best hatchbacks of 2018

Affordable or luxurious, the best hatchbacks make a case against crossovers

best hatchbacks badgeThe hatchback segment in the United States has historically been small.  You’re much more likely to see one while traveling in Europe, and automakers tend to abandon the segment to focus on crossovers. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t great options to choose from on our side of the pond.

For many buyers, a hatchback is appealing because it’s often more practical than a traditional sedan, sportier to drive than a crossover, and more compact than either, meaning it’s easier to park in tight spaces. Are you ready to say goodbye to your sedan and try something new? Check out the best hatchbacks currently on the market, hand-picked by Digital Trends’ car experts.

Volkswagen Golf

The best

best hatchbacks vw golf lifestyle

Why should you buy this: The Golf ticks every box in the mainstream hatchback segment.

Who’s it for: Anyone who just needs a car.

How much will it cost: $20,910+

Why we picked the Volkswagen Golf:

The Volkswagen Golf hasn’t been the best-selling car in Germany for decades by accident. Now well into its seventh generation, Volkswagen’s most popular nameplate continues to offer one of the best interiors in its class, a generous amount of trunk space, and agile handling at an attractive price point.

The Golf speaks tech, too. All but the lowest trims come with a state-of-the-art infotainment system displayed on a color touch screen, and the list of options includes driving aids such as a lane departure warning system, forward collision warning, and adaptive cruise control. You can even get a digital instrument cluster, which is normally found on much more expensive cars.

Volkswagen offers several variants of the Golf. Buyers in select states can pick up an all-electric model called the e-Golf capable of driving for up to 125 miles on a single charge. At the other end of the spectrum, the iconic GTI is one of the very best hot hatches money can buy. Finally, the Golf R tugs at the heartstrings of speed aficionados with a 300-horsepower turbo four and all-wheel drive.

Mini Hardtop

Best premium hatchback

best hatchbacks mini hardtop

Why should you buy this: Cheap it ain’t, but it’s hard to beat in terms of style and handling.

Who’s it for: Those willing to pay more to get more.

How much will it cost: $21,900+

Why we picked the Mini Hardtop:

The Mini Hardtop embodies the concept of form over function. It wears a retro-chic design inspired by the original Mini introduced in England all the way back in 1959. It’s much bigger than its truly Lilliputian predecessor though, and it uses time-tested mechanical components borrowed from the BMW parts bin.

Don’t let its humble roots fool you, the Mini is far from an economy car. It boasts a surprisingly spacious cabin built using premium materials, and it’s offered with features you’d usually find on cars positioned in the next segment up. Notably, buyers can deck out the Hardtop with a moon roof, parking sensors on both ends, a head-up display, rain-sensing wipers, and adaptive cruise control, however these options do inflate the price significantly.

The lineup includes several variants, including two- and four-door hatchbacks and a range-topping John Cooper Works model tuned to pump out 228 ponies.

Chevrolet Bolt EV

Best electric hatchback

best hatchbacks chevy bolt ev
Alex Kalogianni/Digital Trends
Alex Kalogianni/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this: With the Bolt, you’ll never have to stop for gas again.

Who’s it for: Eco-conscious motorists.

How much will it cost: $37,495+

Why we picked the Chevrolet Bolt EV:

The Bolt is Chevrolet’s first mass-produced electric vehicle. It’s not the only electric hatchback on the market, but it’s one of the few that’s not designed as a compliance car to satisfy California’s draconian clean air regulations. Simply put, it’s better engineered than most.

Sold all across the nation, the Bolt is capable of driving for up to 238 miles on a single charge, which places it well ahead of the Nissan Leaf. Plugging it into a 240-volt charger replenishes about 25 miles of driving per hour, though using a fast charger yields 90 miles of range in about 30 minutes.

Drivetrain aside, the Bolt excels as a hatchback; it’s a good car that just happens to run on a large battery. Its low trunk floor can accommodate a grocery trip’s worth of bags, and even taller drivers can comfortably drive it on a daily basis. An elegant-looking cabin and a whisper-quiet ride remind the passengers that they’re not burning gasoline to get to their destination.

Read our full Chevrolet Bolt EV review

Subaru Impreza

Best all-wheel drive hatchback

best hatchbacks subaru impreza
Jeff Zurschmeide/Digital Trends
Jeff Zurschmeide/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this: Subaru’s time-tested all-wheel drive system make the Impreza more capable than many crossovers.

Who’s it for: Winter warriors.

How much will it cost: $18,495+

Why we picked the Subaru Impreza:

The Impreza is gifted with Subaru’s well-regarded permanent all-wheel drive system. It’s certainly no off-roader, but it tackles harsh winter conditions with the kind of aplomb that many of its rivals can only dream of. To sweeten the deal, all-wheel drive is included in the price on all trim levels.

The Impreza’s cabin is a basic but pleasant place to travel in. It’s spacious, well-built, and its Starlink infotainment system is one of the more straight-forward units on the market. There is virtually no learning curve involved.

The trade-off is that the Impreza’s flat-four engine lacks a bit of oomph. It’s consequently not as brisk as other hatchbacks on the market, and the four-cylinder eagerly makes its presence known in the cabin, especially at higher revs. Still, if you routinely drive on snow or ice, the Impreza should be at the top of your list.

Read our Subaru Impreza first drive impressions

Porsche Panamera

Best luxury hatchback

2018 porsche panamera 4 e hybrid first drive 856

Why should you buy this: It’s a Porsche that lets you hug curves with the whole family.

Who’s it for: Connoisseurs who need four seats.

How much will it cost: $85,000+

Why we picked the Porsche Panamera:

Who says a hatchback needs to be cheap? The Porsche Panamera probably isn’t what comes to mind when the term “hatchback” meanders its way into a conversation, but it certainly qualifies as one. The cargo compartment is accessed via a roof-hinged door, not a lid that flips up.

The Panamera drives like a Porsche, it accelerates like one, and this time around it finally looks like one; it’s almost a four-door 911, minus the rear-mounted engine, of course. The treatment continues inside, where it feels like a coupe until you look back and notice it has rear doors.

Porsche offers numerous variants of the Panamera, including V6-, V8-, and hybrid-powered variants. All offer above-par dynamism and a five-star interior.

Read our Porsche Panamera first drive impressions

Volkswagen Golf R

Best hot hatch

best hatchbacks

Why should you buy this: The hottest Golf perfects the concept of a hot hatch.

Who’s it for: Grown-up enthusiasts seeking performance without compromising versatility.

How much will it cost: $39,785+

Why we picked the Volkswagen Golf R:

With about 300 hp from a 2.0-liter turbo four, the all-wheel drive Golf R is an impressive car on paper. It’s even more so on a twisty back road, where it delights with a responsive engine and scalpel-sharp handling. It packs enough power to let the driver have a blast behind the wheel, but not enough to be intimidating or overwhelming.

We also like that it’s low-key. Volkswagen’s design department refrained from fitting silly wings and ostentatious spoilers. It’s not the kind of car that’s going to draw unwanted attention everywhere it goes. Even the exhaust note is surprisingly restrained.

There are other great hot hatches in the Golf R’s segment; the Ford Focus RS has proven itself a worthy adversary, for example. It feels like it just came out yesterday yet Ford has already announced the end of the production run. The Golf R is available all the time, all over the nation.

Honda Fit

Best subcompact hatchback

best hatchbacks
Bradley Iger/Digital Trends
Bradley Iger/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this: The Honda Fit proves basic transportation doesn’t have to feel like a life sentence.

Who’s it for: Folks who think size matters, and smaller is better.

How much will it cost: $16,190+

Why we picked the Honda Fit:

The Honda Fit is one of the most practical small hatchbacks on the market today. It’s tiny enough to meander through even the narrowest streets, but it hauls lengthy and bulky items with ease thanks to a cleverly-packaged interior.

It defies the label “econobox” with a modern-looking interior built using materials that are nice to touch and look at. It’s surprisingly roomy, too; four adults can ride in the Fit without feeling cramped.

The Fit uses a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 130 hp. That’s decent for the segment, but more impressive is its fuel economy, which checks in at up to 41 mpg on the highway. As an all-arounder, the Fit is hard to beat.

Read our full 2018 Honda Fit review

How We Test

The Digital Trends automotive team tests vehicles through a comprehensive scrutinizing process. We examine the qualities of the exterior and interior and judge them based on our expertise and experience in the context of the vehicle’s category and price range. Entertainment technology is thoroughly tested as well as most safety features that can be tested in controlled environments.

Test drivers spend extensive time behind the wheel of the vehicles, conducting real-world testing, driving them on highways, back roads, as well as off-road and race tracks when applicable.


Volvo wants to build a future in which you can’t wait to commute to work

Volvo's futuristic 360c concept embodies the changes sweeping across the automotive industry. It's electric, fully autonomous, and connected. The firm wants to start a conversation about the role self-driving cars will play in the future.

Volkswagen built a 210-mph Jetta, and broke a land-speed record with it

A modified 2019 Volkswagen Jetta just set a land-speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats in the G/BGC class. Boasting a 600-horsepower engine, the Jetta hit 210 mph on the salt.
Home Theater

Set your ears free with the best completely wireless earbuds

If you can't stand the tangle of cords, or you're just excited about completely wireless earbuds, you're going to need some help separating the wheat from the chaff. Our list serves up the best wireless earbuds around.

What's the best laptop? We've reviewed a lot of them, and this is our answer

The best laptop should be one that checks all the boxes: Great battery life, beautiful design, and top-notch performance. The laptops we've chosen for our best laptops you can buy do all that — and throw in some extra features while…
Home Theater

Get the most boom for your buck with the best headphones under $100

Everybody wants a bargain, and this list has a bunch. For those looking for a solid set of headphones without spending a big stack of cash, this list is is your starting point. Check out our picks for the best headphones under $100.

Volkswagen finally squashes the Beetle with 2019 Final Edition

2019 Volkswagen Beetle Final Edition marks the end of the line for VW's most iconic nameplate. Volkswagen has no immediate plans to replace the Beetle after production ends next year.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Self-balancing skates, tiny tripods, and more

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the Web this week. You can't buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

Lexus digitizes side-view mirrors with cameras for Japan’s 2019 ES sedan

It seems Lexus is fed up with having to look at a piece of reflective glass and plastic to know what’s in your side rearview. So the company decided to introduce a new way to look behind you in Japan.

Photos of the BMW Vision iNEXT Concept leak onto the web despite embargo

Earlier this week, Digital Trends was invited to preview BMW’s all-new Vision iNEXT Concept. Although we were all under an embargo, somehow the photos of the concept leaked onto the web before the embargo lifted.

An elevator in your garage? Boring Company gets OK to test Loop Lift from tunnel

The Hawthorne (California) City Council gave Elon Musk's Boring Company the go-ahead to construct a Loop Lift prototype. The lift will connect the company's existing underground hyperloop to a residential garage.

Uber has decided to leave its broadly derided current logo ‘behind’

Rideshare giant Uber has a new brand image. The new wordmark logo replaces Uber's previous brand icon, a circular graphic that was derided as an "asshole" symbol that walked away from a clear brand identifier.

Startup inks ‘world’s largest deal’ for driverless grocery deliveries

An increasing number of companies are testing delivery services using autonomous vehicles. Startup Udelv already has experience of running a trial in San Francisco, with Oklahoma City, Oklahoma set to become its next destination.

We get up close with the Vision iNext concept to learn about BMW’s future

Through a massive worldwide campaign that visits various major cities around the world, we get our exclusive opportunity to get up close and personal with BMW’s latest Vision iNEXT Concept to learn about automaker’s future plans.
Product Review

Alfa Romeo delivers the quintessential Italian high-performance SUV

Alfa’s Romeo’s Ferrari-powered sport utility delivers hair-raising straight-line performance, admirable capability in the corners, and head-turning style, but comes up a bit short in a few key areas.