Best New Hatchbacks of 2021

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We here at Car and Driver are huge fans of hatchbacks. Why? When you compare a hatchback versus a sedan, you’ll often find that you get a more useful interior layout and almost always more room for cargo. And when you compare a crossover versus a hatchback, hatchbacks can provide much of the utility of crossovers while often offering better fuel economy and zippier handling to boot. Hatchbacks run the spectrum, from small to fun and funky and everything in between. Here’s our list of the best hatchbacks you can buy for 2021.

Those who are interested in the best hatchbacks from 2020 can refer to last year’s list.

Volkswagen Golf

Few compact hatchbacks are better than the 2021 Volkswagen Golf, but one that is happens to share the same showroom: the sporty GTI (reviewed separately). Apart from the standard Golf’s lower asking price and higher fuel efficiency, it isn’t as desirable as its more powerful, better-equipped sibling. While that’s partly why VW will only offer the next-generation GTI and high-performance Golf R on our shores, it doesn’t diminish that the regular version remains a terrific value in its final year. Despite a small and underpowered turbo-four engine, it boasts an excellent six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmission. It has a great chassis that provides athletic handling and a composed ride. And it offers a surprisingly roomy interior along with a large cargo hold. The boxy Golf isn’t as eye-catching or feature-laden as many compact rivals, but overall it’s much more gratifying than meets the eye.

Review, Pricing, and Specs

Volkswagen Golf GTI

The 2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI is affordable, practical, and—most important to folks like us—a brilliant driving machine. While the current generation is nearing the end of its life cycle, it still continues to impress: It has won our annual 10Best award multiple times, including making the most recent list. With a sprightly 228-hp four-cylinder engine and terrific manual and automatic transmissions, this front-driver is wonderfully speedy. Of course, quickness doesn’t equal engagement. Thankfully, Volkswagen has ensured this hot hatch provides nimble handling and communicative feedback. Those characteristics also apply to its sedan sibling, the Jetta GLI. Although its staid styling and above-average price won’t appeal to everyone, the GTI’s holistic approach to performance and undeniable versatility make it the ultimate sport compact.

Review, Pricing, and Specs

Honda Civic

Once mere basic transportation, the humble Honda Civic has blossomed into a desirable and fun-to-drive compact car. Available as either a sedan or a practical hatchback, the Civic is powered by your choice of a 158-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder or a turbocharged 1.5-liter that makes 174 or 180 horsepower, depending on the model. Honda loads up its smallest car with plenty of standard driver-assistance features, including automated emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and lane-keeping assist. Oddly, modern infotainment features aren’t standard; the base LX model comes with a tiny touchscreen that offers radio tuning and not much else. The base model notwithstanding, the Civic is a compact car that should satisfy most buyers and one we’re happy to recommend. If you’re seeking something with a spicier flavor, we’d suggest the 205-hp Civic Si or the 306-hp Civic Type R (both reviewed separately).

Review, Pricing, and Specs

Honda Civic Type R

Despite its gloriously juvenile bodywork, the 2021 Honda Civic Type R is a hugely entertaining and entirely practical four-door hatchback. With a 306-hp turbocharged four-cylinder and a standard six-speed manual transmission (the only gearbox available) feeding the front wheels, the Type R is not only the quickest Honda Civic, it’s one of the quickest sport compacts. Honda has managed to virtually eliminate the dreaded torque steer that plagues powerful front-drive cars and provide talkative steering, tremendous cornering grip, and a ride that’s surprisingly smooth. Its interior isn’t the fanciest, and its red accents make the cabin look like a crime scene, but the reasonably-sized back seat and ample cargo area give it every-day practicality. Apart from a subdued exhaust note and noisy highway behavior, the 2021 Civic Type R ranks among the most entertaining cars to drive right now.

Review, Pricing, and Specs

Hyundai Veloster N

The 2021 Hyundai Veloster N is a raucous sport compact that provides plenty of driving fun and impressive performance for the money. Its N badge represents Hyundai’s high-performance subbrand, meaning it is the most powerful and aggressive version of the quirky three-door Veloster hatchback. A turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four with 275 horsepower is standard equipment, and the suspension is stiffened for sharper handling. Previously available only with a manual transmission, the Veloster now offers a dual-clutch automatic transmission option to broaden its appeal. The N’s cheeky appearance is a cherry on top of an appealing overall package. It may not be as pedigreed as rivals such as the VW Golf GTI or Honda Civic Type R, but the Veloster is the kind of upstart we like.

Review, Pricing, and Specs

Mazda 3

If a 2021 Mazda 3 shows up when you call your next Uber, we’d forgive you for confusing it with a far more expensive Audi or BMW as you settle into the passenger’s seat. Mazda often straddles the line between mainstream and luxury, and it pays off in its bread-and-butter hatchback, particularly in the swanky Premium and Premium Plus trims. A trio of four-cylinder engines are on the menu, as is all-wheel drive. The 3 continues to be one of the most refined and athletic compact cars on sale today, with high-tech infotainment and driver-assistance features that provide a class-above experience. That said, adding those features may drive the 3’s price beyond what buyers in this segment are willing to pay, giving mainstream stalwarts like the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic an edge.

Review, Pricing, and Specs

Kia Rio

The 2021 Kia Rio sedan and hatchback are classified as economical subcompact cars—we used to call such cars “econoboxes”—but they’re surprisingly more sophisticated than that. The Kia couple share a cabin design that exudes an elegant simplicity thanks to a smart layout and pleasing materials. On the flip side, both of the Rios’ back seats suffer from limited passenger space and neither body style has a particularly accommodating cargo area or trunk. Still, we appreciate that they’re one of the few subcompact cars to offer standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. We’re even willing to forgive their dearth of common driver assists because the Chevy Spark and Nissan Versa are the only rivals that offer more advanced safety features. The 2021 Rios shine with their refined ride quality and composed handling, which help squash any stereotypes about cheap transportation.

Review, Pricing, and Specs

Chevy Bolt EV

The 2021 Chevy Bolt EV isn’t as interesting as the Hyundai Kona Electric or as sexy as the Tesla Model 3, but its smooth ride, roomy cabin, and popular standard features make it an appealing option to mainstream-brand shoppers. The Chevy has an EPA driving range of 259 miles, which is nothing to sneeze at, and its fast-charging capability allows it to replenish up to 100 miles of range in 30 minutes. Sure, the Bolt’s design borders on dorky, and its interior quality doesn’t qualify as premium despite a starting price close to $40,000 (before federal tax credits), but its electric motor sends 266 pound-feet of torque to the front wheels, providing zippy acceleration. We also appreciate its one-pedal driving and satisfying-to-use hand-brake function.

Review, Pricing, and Specs

Kia Stinger

Despite its mainstream brand name, the 2021 Kia Stinger offers the performance, features, and desirability to go up against the German sports-sedan status quo. This four-door cleverly disguises its hatchback and large trunk with a layout similar to that of the sleek Audi A5 Sportback and BMW 4-series Gran Coupe. Inside, the Stinger offers near-luxury accommodations and a host of connectivity features such as touchscreen infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. You can order a Stinger with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder but we’d recommend the more powerful twin-turbo V-6 engine that’s offered in the GT models. On the road, the Stinger is an athletic sedan with communicative steering—and one we enjoyed for a 40,000 mile long term test—making it a great choice for driving enthusiasts.

Review, Pricing, and Specs

Audi A5 Sportback

No one ever said sexy can’t also be practical, and the 2021 Audi A5 Sportback blends the best of what we love about the A4 sedan and the A5 coupe and adds a voluminous hatchback cargo hold hidden under its stylish fastback roofline. This athletic four-door competes with other similarly-styled sedans such as the BMW 4-series Gran Coupe and the Kia Stinger, and brings Audi’s tech-forward approach and simple-yet-chic interior design. Rear-seat headroom isn’t as generous as in the more traditional A4 sedan, but the A5’s cargo volume makes up for that deficiency and then some.

Review, Pricing, and Specs

Audi A7

The 2021 Audi A7 blurs a beautiful line between sedan and hatchback with its sleek profile and refined nature. Its turbocharged V-6 powertrain and standard all-wheel drive provide quick acceleration and four-season traction. The Audi also treats passengers to a quiet cabin space that boasts cutting-edge technology and countless luxuries. While most of this content is found on the A6 sedan too, the A7’s fastback profile and extra cargo space make it both more visually distinct and more practical. Like the A6, the fastback A7 offers sophisticated road manners and is capable of delighting drivers when the road ahead starts to spiral. The 2021 A7 has an unintuitive infotainment system and costs more than the A6, but otherwise, it’s a handsome machine that promotes Audi’s high-class image.

Review, Pricing, and Specs

Audi RS7

The 2021 Audi RS7 is a wide-bodied, heart-pounding four-door sports car that features a usable back seat and practical hatchback. This all-new RS7 represents the mightiest version of the comparably subdued Audi A7. The RS model wears more aggressive-looking bodywork and has exclusive high-performance equipment that helps it compete with raucous rivals such as the Mercedes-AMG GT63s and Porsche Panamera Turbos.

Review, Pricing, and Specs

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