Why do you not want a hatchback? It’s a question I want to ask millions of Americans who choose a small sedan or even an SUV over possibly the most practical of car configurations.
Hatchbacks do get a bad rap for cheapness, thanks in no small part to all of the Geo Metros and Plymouth Colts people bought a generation ago. But today’s hatchbacks are far nicer and smarter than those ever were, and all of you turning up your noses at their existence are missing out.
If you look around a bit, you’ll realize you don’t have to spend much on a hatchback, either. Here are three examples of hatchbacks for less than $15,000.
Since its 2007 introduction, the Honda Fit has been the prime example of efficiency. Not so much in terms of fuel savings, but how a design can provide so much spaciousness with an extremely simple philosophy. The Fit is small on the outside, huge on the inside and doesn’t cost a lot of money. With several model years to choose from, you should have no trouble finding a Honda Fit for less than $15,000.
This man gets paid to effectively say, “Yes, it fits in a Fit.” Sounds like an easy job, but he looks exhausted.
If I had a Fit, I’d probably be tempted to figure out what it couldn’t, um, fit. The Honda Fit’s Magic Seats fold in various positions to make the most of the Fit’s available cargo space, and they fold down for a totally flat cargo floor. The Fit will double as a moving van if you’re switching apartments or hauling bulky items. But its tall shape also makes the car airy and easy to see out of, while the short dimensions make it a snap to park in tight spaces. It’s not a terribly fun car to drive and it isn’t powerful, but its willingness to please and meet your demands certainly makes it charming.
For those who don’t enjoy being frugal by any means, the Fit will feel far too spartan. So for not much more money, there’s the larger and plusher Hyundai Elantra GT. Think of this as the Volkswagen Golf that happens to be from South Korea.
The Elantra GT is actually very much a Golf rival, since it’s essentially a European-market model called the i30, which takes aim at that best-selling Volkswagen in an area where compact hatchbacks reign supreme. Because of that, the Elantra GT oozes more class than the sedan that’s the most popular in the States. You get a lot of stuff for your money, such as adaptive steering feel settings and options like a panoramic moonroof and power driver’s seat.
But it also nails the basics of the compact hatchback class. There’s good room for four people and their luggage, along with an engine that has enough power and good efficiency. The Elantra GT should be inexpensive to run for years to come, it just has that dollop of refinement many other compacts don’t.
If you want something that’s exceptionally fun to drive, there’s always the Mazda3. And examples of the previous generation model with the fuel-efficent SkyActiv powertrain come in at under $15,000 now.
Some rivals are quieter, more refined or more spacious. But the Mazda3 doesn’t come up terribly bad in any of those areas. What it manages over the compact hatchback norm, however, is a fire in its gut to make everyday driving situations more fun than they should be. Go for the Touring model to get stuff like leather seats and Bluetooth, but all 3s are about fun-to-drive abilities made accessible to the masses. And you have to respect that.
These three are just the tip of the iceberg to all of the good hatches on the used car market today. Before you buy a sedan or think you need an SUV to get something versatile, check out the CARFAX used hatchback listings.