Looking for an 18 or 68 plate small to medium sized hatchback for your family? Check our top 5 recommendations with economical running costs and practicality in mind.
- Ford Focus Zetec - 1.0 Ecoboost (125PS) - Manual Transmission
CO2 emissions: 108g/km - Combined Fuel Economy: 60mpg - Insurance Group: 14E
- VW Golf SE Navigation - 1.0 Petrol (100PS) - Manual Transmission
CO2 emissions: 107g/km - Combined Fuel Economy: 59mpg - Insurance Group: 12E :
- Mazda3 SE - 105PS SKYACTIVE D Diesel - Manual Transmission
CO2 emissions: 99g/km - Combined Fuel Economy: 74mpg - Insurance Group: 16E
- Seat Leon SE Dynamic Technology - 1.6 TDi - Manual Transmission
CO2 emissions: 106g/km - Combined Fuel Economy: 70mpg - Insurance Group: 13E
- Vauxhall Astra Tech Line Nav – 1.6CDTi ecoTEC - Manual Transmission
CO2 emissions: 88g/km - Combined Fuel Economy: 85mpg - Insurance Group: 13E
Ford Focus Zetec - 1.0 Ecoboost (125PS)
You’ll see a lot of Ford Focus cars on UK roads, it one of the best selling cars around, in fact only gazumped in new vehicle sales by its little brother the Fiesta.
Our Pick: Skip the entry-level Style model and go for the Zetec trim-level for a few extra bells and whistles, including rear parking sensors, 8 inch touchscreen, navigation system, voice control and front fog lights. Go for the more powerful 125PS version of the 1.0 Ecoboost engines it still offers good running costs but a bit more nip for around town travel. Read on for a quick summary of features…..
Exterior: With so many on the roads it’s easy to take it for granted, the Focus boasts smart exterior looks and we love the chiselled from end. You get 16 inch 10x2 spoke alloy wheels, front fog lights and rear privacy glass,
Interior: Comfort is a big plus in the Focus, the dash is a big improvement with the 8 inch infotainment touchscreen the focal point (standard on the Zetec), there’s also an improved 3 spoke steering wheels with better controls, air con and electric windows.
Drive: Very smooth and comfortable drive, handling is one of strongest points of the Focus, up there with the best in its class and a pleasure to drive!
Tech: The Focus Zetec’s dash in centred by an 8 inch touchscreen display featuring a DAB radio/CD player and Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment platform which includes support for Apple’s CarPlay and Android Auto. There’s also voice control, full Bluetooth support, sat nav and emergency assistance. The Zetec model is also equipped with a speed limiter and cruise and control.
Safety: Plenty of safety features as standard including traction control, emergency brake assist (EBA), hill start assist (HSA), tyre pressure monitoring plus front and side airbags all round. Ford has also introduced something they call ‘Enhanced Transitional Stability System’, which they say can control each brake and the amount of pressure applied independently to control sliding and skidding under heavy/emergency braking conditions.
Economy: We recommend the 1.0 Ecoboost engine, go for more powerful 125PS option with manual transmission. The 100PS only offers marginal savings on running costs and we thing the extra oomph of the 125PS will be welcome around town. It offers a combined fuel economy of 60mpg and CO2 emissions of just 108g/km but still offers a respectable 0-62mph in 11 seconds.
Summary: There are cheaper rival options but they won’t offer the same quality of comfort and drive. If your clocking up a lot of miles and looking for a mid-range hatchback the Focus could be the perfect fit for you.
VW Golf 1.0 Petrol (100PS)
Our Pick: Skip the entry-level model and go for the SE or SE Nav (If you need the built-in navigation system). You’ll benefit from the addition of VW’s Car-Net ‘App-connect’ technology, parking sensors, cruise control and alloy wheels. We like the 1.0 petrol engine (110PS) with manual transmission.
Exterior: Classic good looks, you can’t go wrong, a great mixture of traditional and modern looks, stylish 16 inch alloys on the SE /SE Nav models.
Interior: The Golf feels roomier inside than the Focus and offers a bit more boot space too. As you’d expect with VW build quality inside is excellent and it does have a classy feel for a vehicle in this class. For comfort and convenience you get air con with a pollen filter, front electric windows (3 and 5 door models) and rear electric windows on 5 door models only.
Drive: It’s a pretty smooth drive, the diesels are not as smooth though but the Golf’s ability to shut out exterior noise compensates for this. The Golf is great fun to drive but just falls short of the Ford Focus taking into account comfort, handling and drive.
Tech: The SE Nav model offers an 8 inch colour touchscreen with VW’s Car-Net technology that supports Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and screen mirroring for your mobile phone. There’s also Bluetooth, a CD player and DAB radio and an advanced navigation systems on the Nav models.
Safety: With the SE model you get from and rear parking sensors, ABS (anti-lock braking system), ESC (electronic stability control), airbags all round including drivers knee airbag and something VW call pre-crash preventative occupant protection.
Economy: The 1.0 petrol engines (100PS) offers a combined fuel economy of 59mpg and CO2 emissions of 107g.km. VW say despite the economy it can still take you from 0-62mph in 10 seconds. Bare in mind too that the Golf holds its value better than most rivals.
Summary: The Golf boasts VW’s superior build quality; it’s pretty roomy inside and offers a decent boot size for a medium sized hatch. Like the Focus it may cost more than some rivals but it retains its value well so you should take that into consideration.
Mazda3 SE - 105PS Diesel
Our Pick: The entry-level Mazda3 SE with the extremely frugal 105PS diesel engine is pretty well equipped and if you are on a tight budget and can do without rear parking sensors and the built in sat nav option you should be more than happy with the price tag and exceptionally low running costs.
Exterior: The Mazda3 benefits from a number of tweaks and enhancements in exterior styling including a new, bolder front grill, a more sculpted design and a lower overall profile, The end result is a massive leap forward in styling and it really looks the part and you get smart alloy wheels as standard on ALL models (16 inch alloys on the SE model).
Interior: Inside the Mazda3 has a clean and functional look.. The cabin feels pretty spacious and the boot is adequate albeit a little shallower than some rivals in the same class.
Drive: Whilst not as refined as the Ford Focus drive (which excels) or as quiet as the VW Golf we certainly wouldn’t say that theirs is anything negative about the Mazda3. The Mazda3 engine range offers a bit of nip and adds to the fun and handling is where the Mazda3 really excels we think it’s a contender for class leader in this dept. So whilst maybe not as refined and smooth as the Golf or Focus you’ll find the Mazda3 a very rewarding car to drive.
Tech: The SE model is equipped with a 7 inch colour screen/infotainment system with Mazda’s Aha app and stitcher system which offers amongst other things internet radio plus Facebook and Twitter support. You get DAB radio/CD player, Bluetooth and USB with steering wheel mounted controls too. Electric windows are included, both front and rear (not always the case for rival entry-level models) and air con is on hand for those hot, sunny days.
Safety: You get airbags all round, tyre pressure monitoring, dynamic stability control, traction control and emergency stop signalling system and the overall safety rating is very high.
Economy: The 1.0 SYACTIVE Diesel engine excels in economy CO2 emissions are just 99g/km and combined fuel economy official figures are 74mpg. Despite the excellent economy figures it can still get you from 0-62mph in 11 seconds which is a match for the nipper 1.0 (125PS) Ford Focus Ecoboost.
Summary: You get good levels of equipment on the entry-level model and the SKYACTIVE diesel engine will keep running costs very low.
Seat Leon SE Dynamic Technology - 1.6 TDi
Our Pick: If you’re looking for a car in the medium hatch sector that will give you value for money look at the Seat Leon. Go for the SE Dynamic Technology with the 1.6TDi engine and you’ll get pretty much everything you need in one great price! If you’re worried about the ‘cheap’ label you should know that the Leon is built on a Volkswagen platform.
Exterior: We love the strong looks of the Leon and whilst it may have some immediate appeal to a younger audience there’s plenty on offer here across the model range for a young family who want to keep costs under control.
Interior: The Leon looks very smart inside and Seat have done a great job here, whilst it may not compete with the VW Golf for refinement (few will) it certainly gets our vote over a lot of rivals for interior styling. The Leon fits somewhere in the middle when it comes to cabin and boot space so should meet most expectations for a vehicle in this class.
Drive: In terms of comfort the Leon fits somewhere alongside the Mazda3, its not as refined as the Focus or the Golf and delivers a slightly firmer ride. But it excels in the handling department and delivers a fun drive.
Tech: The SE Dynamic Technology model offers a large 8 inch colour screen/infotainment system with Seat's ‘Media System Plus’, DAB radio/CD player, Bluetooth/voice control, AUX, USB and SDCard slots. You get electric windows, stop/start, air con with pollen filter and a rear parking sensor, the SE Dynamic Technology model is packed with features.
Safety: You get all round airbags, tyre pressure monitoring, anti-lock braking with traction control, a collision mitigation braking system, emergency brake assist, electronic stability control, hill start assist and an electric parking brake.
Economy: The 1.6 TDi diesel engine offers excellent running costs, CO2 emissions are just 106g/km and combine fuel economy is 70mpg this not stop the Leon from having a bit of nip though for around town driving. The price tag is reasonable too and you’ll find it cheaper than a lot of rivals.
Summary: The Seat Leon is a very reasonably priced car in this class, it looks amazing both inside and out and the SE Dynamic Technology trim-level is packed with levels of equipment that will fulfil the vast majority of requirements. Throw in low running costs and it’s a very attractive proposition.
Vauxhall Astra Tech Line Nav – 1.6CDTi ecoTEC
Our Pick: We think the Tech Line Nav 1.6CDTi ecoTEC model offers good value for money with enough equipment and low running costs.
Exterior: We like the styling but not as much as the Seat Leon for example, of course it’s a matter of taste. Vauxhall have continued to tweak the exterior styling with the latest facelift resulting in a wider/stronger looking design which looks good.
Interior: Space is where the Astra excels; for a vehicle in this class is offers generous cabin space even for rear passengers; compare that with many rivals where you’ll find the rear leg room is a little tight for adults. There’s a decent sized boot as well which again out-does most other rivals. The interior build quality is good, it won’t match up to the Golf but few cars will in this class, however there are some nice touches and trims inside that add to the overall impression of quality.
Drive: The Astra offers comfortable seats and a smooth ride cruising on longer journeys but we think it still needs some work to improve the overall handling ‘around town’ to bring it in line with some of its rivals like the Focus.
Tech: The Tech Line Nav model includes Vauxhall’s Navi 900 eight inch colour touchscreen infotainment system with sat nav, DAB radio, Bluetooth for mobile phone operation (with steering wheel mounted controls), music streaming and support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There’s also USB support with iPod control. You also get front and rear electric windows, cruise control and air con.
Safety: You get airbags all round, electronic stability programme (ESP) and anti-locking brakes (ABS) plus a type pressure warning system.
Economy: This is where Vauxhall has trumped its rivals; the 1.6CDTi ecoTEC delivers CO2 emissions of just 88g/km and a combined fuel economy of 85mpg. What’s even more remarkable is Vauxhall have still managed to get enough power and torque into the engine so that it can take you from 0-62mph in a fraction over 10 seconds.
Summary: Very solid all round small/medium family hatch offering smart looks and good levels of equipment. The ecoTEC diesel engine is very impressive.