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Thursday Throwdown: 2014 Affordable Hatchbacks

In today’s Thursday Throwdown, we have a big list of vehicles to compare in one of the market’s top sectors: affordable hatchbacks. Many of these vehicles have sedan twins that sell just as well or better than the hatchback model, but our goal is to look at five-door cars priced under $25,000. Most on our list have a starting price below $20,000.

Our top picks are the best in cost-effectiveness, efficiency and safety. These 2014 models are beginning to appear as used car and dealer demonstration vehicles now, so be sure to check our Used Car Listings to find one for yourself.

2014 Top Affordable Hatchback Picks

Lowest Entry Price: Chevrolet Spark
Best Fuel Economy: Ford C-Max Hybrid, Toyota Prius c
Quietest Ride: Mazda Mazda3, Toyota Prius c
Most Refined Overall: Subaru Impreza
Most Refined Interior: MINI Cooper Countryman
Most Fun To Drive: MINI Cooper Countryman, Mazda Mazda3

2014 Chevrolet Sonic

2014 Chevrolet Sonic 5DR LT front leftcorner AOA800pxThe Chevrolet Sonic is a five-door hatchback with a four-door sedan brother. The hatchback Sonic is noted for its surprising roominess, despite its small size. The Sonic also offers fun driving dynamics, especially with the optional turbocharged four-cylinder engine.

Base price new: $15,670
EPA mpg (city/highway): 26/35
Crash test ratings: IIHS – G/M/G/G/G, NHTSA – 5-Stars

2014 Chevrolet Spark

The Chevrolet Spark is a very small car, aimed primarily at urban buyers and commuters. There is a battery-electric version (Chevrolet Spark EV) available in some markets as well. Among the lowest-priced of our five-door hatchbacks, the Spark is noted for its extremely low cost of entry and around-town maneuverability.

Base price new: $12,170
EPA mpg (city/highway): 31/39
Crash test ratings: IIHS – TSP, NHTSA – 4/4/5/4

2014 Fiat 500L

2014 Fiat 500L - vista6 - AOA1200pxThe Fiat 500L was new for the 2014 model year. It’s an expansion of the smaller, two-door Fiat 500 that became popular when Fiat re-entered the North American market. The 500L offers sophisticated styling, an open interior and fun quirkiness.

Base price new: $19,195
EPA mpg (city/highway): 25/33
Crash test ratings: IIHS – G/P/G/G/G, NHTSA – N/A

2014 Ford C-Max Hybrid

2014 Ford C-MAX Energi - park 5 - AOA1200pxThe Ford C-Max is a great vehicle and relatively new to the segment. As a five-door hatchback, it is a solid entry offering slightly more ground clearance than similar cars in the category. We chose the Hybrid model to represent the C-Max in our Throwdown because of its high fuel efficiency and good crash test ratings.

Base price new: $24,170
EPA mpg (city/highway): 42/37
Crash test ratings: IIHS – TSP, NHTSA – 4/4/5/4

2014 Ford Fiesta

2014 Ford Fiesta 1The Ford Fiesta was updated to add similarities to the refined styling that’s found on other models in the Ford car lineup. The Fiesta is offered in both a sedan and hatchback body styles. The Fiesta impresses with its maneuverability, price and fuel economy. Some engine options, such as the turbocharged 1.0-liter three-cylinder, provide even better fuel economy.

Base price new: $14,365
EPA mpg (city/highway): 28/36
Crash test ratings: IIHS – G/M/G/G/G, NHTSA – 4,4,2,4

2014 Ford Focus

With one of the highest crash test ratings on our list, the Ford Focus is also one of the more fuel efficient vehicles for its size. The Focus has a sportier feel than the Fiesta, and several engine options for better fuel economy or improved performance. The Focus also has beautiful styling and, like the Fiesta, is offered as a sedan and a five-door hatchback.

Base price new:$17,042
EPA mpg (city/highway): 26/36
Crash test ratings: IIHS – TSP, NHTSA – 5-Stars

2014 Kia Forte

The Kia Forte was redesigned for the 2014 model year to good critical review. It is a very configurable small car with a number of class-exclusive options. The hatchback model is also larger than you might expect in this segment.

Base price new: $15,900
EPA mpg (city/highway): 25/36
Crash test ratings: IIHS – G/P/G/G/G, NHTSA – 4/3/5/4

2014 Kia Soul

Although its looks may be somewhat polarizing, the Kia Soul is a very popular vehicle in the five-door segment thanks to its low cost of entry, high versatility and spacious interior. Offered only as a hatchback, the Soul has lower than average fuel economy, but very high safety scores for the segment.

Base price new: $14,900
EPA mpg (city/highway): 24/30
Crash test ratings: IIHS – G/N/G/G/G, NHTSA – 5-Stars

2014 Mazda Mazda3

2014 Mazda3 - sky4 - AOA1200pxThe Mazda Mazda3 is one of the few on our list to achieve a Top Safety Pick Plus rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Additionally, the Mazda3 is also our choice as the most fun-to-drive model in this roundup.

Base price new: $16,945
EPA mpg (city/highway): 30/41
Crash test ratings: IIHS – TSP+, NHTSA – 5-Stars

2014 Mini Cooper Countryman

The Mini Cooper is a popular British import with a lot of style and appeal. In comparison, the Mini Cooper Countryman is larger, more versatile and usually billed as a crossover. Although expensive, the Countryman has good crash test scores and a fun demeanor that matches its quirky style.

Base price new: $22,100
EPA mpg (city/highway): 28/35
Crash test ratings: IIHS – TSP, NHTSA – N/A

2014 Nissan Juke

2013NissanJukeNISMO - leftside trees AOA800pxOne of the only true crossovers on our list, the Nissan Juke is also a very polarizing vehicle in terms of exterior style. It appeals to a broad audience, however, and has seen sales increasing steadily since its introduction. Available with both front- and all-wheel drive, the Juke has a small interior and is marked for its fun driving dynamics and relatively quick pace.

Base price new: $19,170
EPA mpg (city/highway): 27/32
Crash test ratings: IIHS – G/P/G/G/G, NHTSA – 4/3/5/4

2014 Nissan Versa Note

2014 Nissan Versa Note - graybuilding 2 - AOA1200pxThe Nissan Versa Note accounts for about half the sales of all Nissan Versa models, which makes it the best-selling compact hatchback in the U.S. There is good reason for this as it strikes a good balance between versatility, price and fuel economy.

Base price new: $11,990
EPA mpg (city/highway): 27/36
Crash test ratings: IIHS – G/P/G/G/G, NHTSA – 4/3/4/4

2014 Subaru Impreza

2014 Subaru Impreza Sport - train 1 - AOA1200pxThe Subaru Impreza is the only vehicle on our Throwdown list this week that comes standard with all-wheel drive. In its hatchback form, the Impreza is one of the most versatile, ready-for-anything vehicles you can buy in its size. The Impreza delivers good fuel economy, solid performance and excellent safety scores.

Base price new: $17,895
EPA mpg (city/highway): 25/34
Crash test ratings: IIHS – TSP, NHTSA – 5-Stars

2014 Toyota Prius c

2012Priusc-leftfront-fieldThe Toyota Prius c is the smallest of the Toyota hybrids and here represents both itself and the larger Prius, which most are familiar with as being the best-selling hybrid car of all time. The Prius c brings a low cost of entry, very high fuel economy and a fun nature that belies its practical excellence for everyday use.

Base price new: $19,080
EPA MPG (city/highway): 53/46
Crash Test Rating: IIHS – G/P/G/G/G, NHTSA – 4/4/4/4

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