The conventional family hatchback segment might not be the market's fastest-growing, but it remains one of the most crucial and hotly contested. WIthin it, class stalwarts are reinventing themselves all the time, while brand-new entrants come along with regularity, each intended to break through and take the market by the scruff of the neck. And now, slowly, we're seeing more viably-priced all-electric options force their way in amongst the combustion-engined cars and hybrids.
The traditional family hatchback as we once knew it no longer really exists. Once humble day-to-day hauler of people and their luggage, these cars have been transformed into often quite striking five-door aspiration machines that offer something for everyone, whether you're looking for a frugal diesel, a peppy small turbocharged petrol engine, bargain transport or something with an upmarket flavour or a sporty lilt.
Here are our top 10 family hatchbacks currently on sale.
With the launch of the Mk8 Golf, Volkswagen has reclaimed what many would consider its rightful spot at the top of the family hatchback class. Mechanically speaking, the updates introduced on the latest Golf are relatively light: it still sits on the same MQB platform as its predecessor and, save for the introduction of 48V mild-hybrid technology, uses largely the same engine line-up.
But the sum of all these minor tweaks is a seriously impressive car. As far as ride refinement, handling balance and performance are all concerned, the Golf maintains its identity as the standout all-rounder in the class - and does so despite a slightly stiffer suspension set-up that would now dissuade us from opting for cheaper, torsion-beam-equipped models. Interior space has been improved, too, and an even more high-tech infotainment offering will appeal to many, although it isn't the most intuitive touchscreen system to use.
Not everyone will be convinced by the Golf's new exterior look, and its cabin doesn’t quite promote the levels of material plushness we were used to in previous Golfs. The latest GTI version has proved to be an effective hot hatch, but with a sharper, more focused set-up than ever before, it has lost some of the effortless everyday usability that so successfully marked out its predecessors, and it isn't the most engaging car in its class either.
The plug-in hybrid GTE version, though, now feels more like a bona fide plug-in hot hatch than ever before; and the range-topping Golf R has both the pace and technical specification to really get your attention - although it comes at a high price. The Golf continues to have almost all hatchback tastes and requirements well covered.