The traditional family hatchback segment might not be the market's fastest-growing, but it remains one of the most important 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.
Very few make much of a dent in the established power of the blue-chip contenders. 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.
Below 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 stand-out all-rounder in the class - and does so despite a slightly stiffer suspension set-up that would now dissuade us from opting for torsion beam-equipped models. Interior space has been improved too, and an even more high-tech infotainment offering will appeal to many. That said, not everyone will be convinced by its new exterior, and the cabin doesn’t quite promote the levels of material plushness we were used to in previous Golfs.
A GTI version is just around the corner, and an even hotter R model is set to follow soon.
Ford’s new Focus has claimed back its old spot at the top of the Autocar family hatchback pile with its outstanding handling and superbly pliant, well-resolved ride. Having arguably been in slight decline since the death of the Focus mkI, the best-handling family hatchback in history is undoubtedly back to its very best on driver appeal.
There’s plenty of space inside, while a completely new platform and exterior have given the Ford a new lease of life. Its cabin still doesn’t quite offer the same levels of fit-and-finish as a Volkswagen Golf or Seat Leon, though.