Best used hatchbacks
Cars like these are easy to park, spacious, well-equipped and cheap to run. We pick out the best used hatchbacks
Despite increasing SUV sales, humble superminis and family hatchbacks are still the best-selling cars in the UK. They may not have the rugged looks but they do have plenty else to offer, including enough space for four or five people and low running costs. You might find these cars easier to park and manoeuvre than chunky SUVs too.
Because the cars below are some of the most popular models, there’s a huge choice of second-hand hatchbacks. Not only does that mean that prices are reasonable but you should also be able to find a car that meets your exact specification and mileage requirements.
Some hatchbacks are very stylish, like the Mazda3, Renault Megane and SEAT Ibiza, so you don’t have to buy an SUV or a sports car to get admiring glances. Nearly all the used cars on this list come with a sporty trim level with extra design touches and a more athletic feel.
Before you commit to a deal, make sure you read our guide to PCP finance on used cars. Once you’re done reading this article, why not check out our lists of the best used small cars, used family cars and used SUVs?
At the time of writing, the latest Skoda Octavia is still too new to feature on this list but the previous model is still an excellent choice. Don’t let its looks fool you; it’s not a saloon but a hatchback that’s based on the Volkswagen Golf. A used Skoda Octavia costs a lot less than a Golf, and it’s so much bigger inside. It rivals a Ford Mondeo or Volkswagen Passat for space and top-spec versions come with a kit list to match too.
The engine range starts with a 1.0-litre petrol engine, which is more than capable of powering the large Octavia - and not using much fuel either. An impressive 1.5-litre petrol is also available if you’d like a bit more power, and there are two diesels for high-mileage or cost-conscious drivers. The Octavia range also includes sporty vRS and vast estate models but if you don’t need the car’s huge boot, you might want to also consider the Skoda Scala.
It wouldn’t be a list of the best used hatchbacks if it didn’t include the evergreen Ford Fiesta. Britain’s favourite car is a fantastic choice new or used and, at the time of writing, used Ford Fiestas currently start from just £7,500. Most of the cheaper ones have the naturally aspirated 1.1-litre engine, which should give you low insurance premiums, but the turbocharged 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine is our recommendation. It’s punchy and economical, and is probably the reason why only a minute number of Fiestas were sold with a diesel engine.
If you avoid the base-spec Style trim (as most buyers did), you’ll get a large touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth and DAB radio, plus a heated windscreen and LED daytime running lights. Titanium adds more equipment, ST-Line brings a sporty look, Active gives rugged SUV-like styling and Vignale turns the humble Fiesta into a luxury model to take on the MINI and Audi A1. There’s also the Ford Fiesta ST, which is our best used hot hatchback.
Like the Octavia, the new SEAT Leon hasn’t made it to the second-hand market in huge numbers yet. Nevertheless, the last-generation one is well worth a look because you get the quality of a Volkswagen Golf with an injection of style. It’s one of the best family hatchbacks to drive, too, yet none of its engines will cost you a lot in fuel.
The Leon was a huge success for SEAT, perhaps partly because of the equipment on offer. Even SE trim gets cruise control and air conditioning, and many buyers opted for the Tech Pack with LED headlights and sat nav. Ascending the range, there’s SE Dynamic with a bit more kit, sporty FR versions and luxurious Xcellence models. A facelift in 2017 brought a bigger infotainment system and an automatic handbrake. Prices are much better than a similarly specced used Golf, too. You’ll be in esteemed company in a Leon; two of the Carbuyer team drive them.
Ford’s bigger hatchback is also very popular with buyers, so there’s a wide variety of used Ford Focus models. The brand has a dealership in every major town too, making maintenance and servicing straightforward.
The Focus isn’t quite as plush as a Golf but it’s not far off; the quality of materials is good in the most obvious places and there’s a decent array of equipment to play with. With a trim structure matching the Fiesta, all Focus models get Ford’s SYNC 3 infotainment, while Titanium gets heated seats, dual-zone air con and keyless entry. As with the Fiesta, the 1.0-litre petrol engine will suit many buyers but there are more powerful engines available should you want a bit more poke to match the Focus’ sweet handling.
Although not quite as desirable as some other family hatchbacks, a used Vauxhall Astra is a great buy - in fact, we named it our Best Used Car 2021. Why? You get so much value-for-money with a used Astra. At the time of writing, you can get a top-spec Astra with a 148bhp petrol engine for the same monthly payment as a base-spec Focus on BuyaCar.
You’re not missing out on equipment, either, as Vauxhall tries to attract buyers with generous standard features. All get digital radio, cruise control and electric windows all-round, but there are so many available that you can essentially pick your perfect spec, engine and possibly even colour. There’s an Astra Sports Tourer estate if you need the extra boot space too.
It’s almost the ‘default’ hatchback but there’s a reason why the Volkswagen Golf is so popular. Spacious, high-quality and economical, a Golf is all the car many people need. It has a smart design inside and out, plus great residual values that offset the higher prices you’ll pay for a Golf compared with rivals.
There are more exciting interiors but everything is logically laid out - and we prefer the MK7 Golf’s cabin to the one in the brand-new Golf. Physical buttons make operating all the functions easier and the quality is better in the older car too. Post 2017, even the base ‘S’ spec gets a touchscreen, plus LED daytime running lights, Bluetooth and air con. Higher trims carry much more standard equipment, and there are GTI, GTD, GTE and R hot hatches if you want a bit more performance.
The latest Mercedes A-Class has one of the best interiors you can find in a family hatchback, as most of it looks to have been taken from the opulent Mercedes S-Class. It’s a lot more modern-looking inside than the previous model, which has lots of buttons wherever you look, and the tech has advanced too. All A-Class models get an infotainment touchscreen and a digital instrument cluster.
It’s more spacious in the rear seats and the boot is more accessible now, so the A-Class is slightly better suited to carrying passengers and luggage. Mercedes hasn’t lost sight of comfort, either; the A-Class rides very nicely and is refined at motorway speeds. Plenty are available, so we’d avoid the slightly underpowered entry-level engines and choose Sport trim or higher.
Just imagine where you could go in seven years or 100,000 miles - and then remember that a Kia Ceed would be covered under warranty for the duration. The Kia cements its place on this list because of its class-leading warranty but it’s not the only reason we recommend it. Behind the sharp styling is an accomplished car that’s easily as good as a Focus or Hyundai i30.
Most buyers will be happy with the 1.0-litre petrol, which can return 50mpg - or there’s a more powerful petrol that offers brisk acceleration yet doesn’t use much more fuel. The Ceed is good to drive, has a high-quality interior and is even ever-so-slightly more practical than its direct competitors. Kia tends to excel in our annual Driver Power survey too, and the Ceed range has expanded with the ProCeed, Ceed SW and XCeed.
Not long ago, you might’ve been worried about buying a used electric car but the Nissan Leaf is well worth considering. The range of the standard car should be enough to only need to charge every few days, while the newer e+ version manages over 200 miles between top-ups. You can say goodbye to expensive fuel prices, and you’ll save £150 a year in VED tax too.
Charging from home takes around 7.5 hours, so it’s certainly feasible to plug it in when you get home and enjoy a fully charged battery first thing in the morning. Both versions of the Leaf are quick off the line, and all cars get sat nav and a reversing camera. The Leaf has proved reliable, and got a five-star safety rating.
Like the bigger Golf, the Volkswagen Polo tends to hold its value better than rivals, perhaps because of its desirable badge and quality interior. You could quite easily mistake it for the Golf because it’s only a little less spacious. The Polo may well be cheaper to run, with frugal engines and low insurance costs on less powerful models.
Unless you’re hunting out the lowest possible insurance premiums, the turbocharged 1.0-litre TSI petrol is the pick of the range - offering sprightly performance and over 50mpg. SE seems to be the most common spec online, and even this model comes with parking sensors, digital radio and a touchscreen with smartphone mirroring. If you’re looking at the Polo, the mechanically identical SEAT Ibiza should also be on your shortlist.
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