Top 10 best family hatchbacks 2023

Open gallery Close News by James Disdale 12 mins read 4 May 2023 Share

The relentless rise of the SUV and crossover means the conventional compact hatchback isn’t the sales force it once was. Yet while these family-friendly machines aren’t that fashionable these days, they still make more sense than almost any other class of car when it comes to delivering a Swiss Army Knife-like versatility. Practical and spacious enough for most needs, yet still featuring a footprint that’s compact enough not to feel like you’re taking more than your fair share of road space. They also tend to be good to drive, frugal, well-equipped and affordable. What’s not to like?

Moreover, while many have sounded the death knell for the family hatchback, a host of new, all-electric models proves there’s clearly life in the concept yet. As does the fact that there are so many evergreen mainstays of the class that are now in the eighth, ninth or tenth generation and show no sign of slowing down any time soon. In fact, while the high-riding SUVs steal the headlines, the less extroverted compact hatch simply gets on with doing its job so well that it’s difficult to make a case for its wholesale extinction.

In many ways, the onset of electrification has given buyers more choice than ever before. No matter what their needs or tastes, there is something for everyone – whether it’s something sensible, sporty, classless or classy. Yet the common thread for all these cars is that they’re relatively modest in size and feature a flexible five-door layout complete with versatile hatchback tailgate.

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1. Volkswagen Golf

For the best part of half a century the VW Golf has been in the family car mix, and with the current Mk8 version it claims its place at the top of the hatchback hierarchy. Launched as an ‘all-new’ version in 2020, the German machine is actually an update of the already excellent Mk7, a model that got its own refresh mid-way through its life. Sitting one the now ubiquitous MQB platform, it also uses largely the same petrol and diesel engine line-up, albeit with the addition of 48V mild hybrid tech on some versions

Either way, the sum of all these minor tweaks is a seriously impressive car. As far as ride refinement, handling and performance are all concerned, the Golf’s balanced blend of talents make it the most complete and grown-up offering in the class. That said, a slightly stiffer suspension set-up means we’d ideally steer clear of the cheaper, torsion-beam-equipped models – those versions with a multi-link rear axle feel more pliant and sophisticated. 

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. What’s more, the cabin doesn’t quite retain the levels of material plushness we were used to in previous Golfs, plus some areas of trim lack the indestructible feel we’ve become used too. And the less said about the unilluminated touch sensitive climate control temperature adjusters the better.


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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. By no means the worst GTI ever, but its priorities seem to be a little out of kilter.

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.

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2. Ford Focus

Ford has revealed that the Focus is living on borrowed time with no direct replacement due when production of the current car stops next year. Even so, while the car’s cards are clearly marked, it remains the clear choice of family drivers who like to have fun. With its outstanding handling and pliant, well-resolved ride means it’s still one of the best hatchback’s from behind the wheel. In fact, for engagement and agility, this is arguably the best Focus since the outstanding original turned the class on its head in 1998.

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 quality or material richness as rivals in this list, though.

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