Hatchbacks are a very unique style of car. You don’t see very many of them on the road, but there are plenty of exceptional options. In this piece, we’ll talk about what hatchbacks are and some of our favorites on the market for under $35k.
What is a Hatchback?
A hatchback looks a lot like a standard sedan until you go to pop the trunk. Rather than a typical trunk, it opens more like an SUV trunk. That’s to say there’s a larger door that swings open from the top of the car, not an elongated trunk area like you might expect.
You might hear a hatchback called a “5-door” or “3-door” car, because people tend to count the trunk as another door. In most of these cases, the hatch opens at the roofline.
A “hot hatchback” is a term that people use that describes hatches that are built for the track. They are high-performance cars that happen to have a hatchback.
This term exploded after the Mini started crushing competitors in different rally races. Since then, hot hatches have been a craze.
To be honest, hatchbacks are much more common overseas. It means that owning and driving one in the States immediately sets you apart.
Who is a Hatchback Right For?
The hatchback itself is as good as any sedan, but it has extra room in the rear. You don’t sacrifice space in the back seat and still get plenty of storage.
With that said, a hatchback is right for anyone who would buy a compact car. It’s the perfect daily driver and gives ample trunk space for running errands.
Hottest Hatchbacks Under $35k
Without further ado, let’s talk about your best picks. We targeted a value of $35k but most of our cars are on the lower end of that range. In our opinion, anything in the 20s and 30s is an excellent choice for most buyers.
We’ve talked about the Stinger in a few of our other lists, and it’s one of those cars that you can’t stop talking about. The Kia badge gets a bad rap across the board, but this is one of the shining examples that people tend to overlook or not even know about.
This is the second most expensive car on the list, but it’s also the most fun to drive. It has an over-powered twin-turbo V6. In other words, this puppy flies.
If you can get over how hideous the fender is, you’ll fall in love with this car. The good news? You won’t see the fender when you’re driving, you’ll just see cars in your rearview mirror.
- Really sporty feel
- Punchy and energetic ride
- Great performance
- Surprisingly inexpensive for what you get
Honda Civic Sport Touring Hatchback
When the Civic started putting a hatch on the rear of their cars, people started paying attention. You see Civics everywhere you turn, for good reason.
The Civic is dependable, easy to maintain, and one of the most reliable options on the market. Throw a hatch on the back and some extra juice under the hood and you have the recipe for a fun hot hatch.
A few years ago, they revamped the body of the Civic, and it makes it look so much better. If you go up a few trim levels, you can get a pretty fierce car with plenty of thrust. The incredible part? All of this comes with a tiny price tag.
We can’t stop talking about the Civic, and we won’t apologize about it.
- Reliable, easy to maintain, and trustworthy car
- Fun to drive
- Plenty of tech and comfort upgrades
- Very low price
Take a sleek body, throw in tech upgrades, make it impossibly fun to drive, and put a hatch on the rear. What are you left with? A Mazda3.
It comes with 7 trim levels, and we want to talk about one of the higher ones. It has an insanely fast 2.5L turbo and AWD. Inside you’ll find all the creature comforts you need.
It has great fuel economy, a gorgeous exterior, and a responsive gas pedal. All that’s missing is a driver with a hunger for some fun.
- Very dynamic driving experience
- One of the best exterior looks (in our opinion)
- Handles well and offers a responsive feel
The Arteon by VW is another one of those gems that people don’t know about. We discussed it further in our roundup of AWD cars that are worth every penny Difference Between FWD, RWD, AWD, and 4WD, and it pops up again here.
It barely squeezed under the $35k limit, so you’ll find things here that you won’t in other options. It has a 2.0L turbocharged engine in its lightweight body.
The gas mileage is good, and the exterior is sharp. Inside, you’ll find styling and convenience that made VW famous over the decades. There are plenty of Driver Assistance features that result in an incredible driving experience.
- Great performance
- Beautiful interior
- Exterior is snazzy
- Good gas mileage
The Yaris is currently the smallest car that Toyota has to offer. The engine is small, but the curb weight is smaller.
Don’t expect to beat anyone in a drag race, here. However, this car does lend itself to having a lot of fun. You can zip around since it’s so lightweight. All the while, you can get up to 40mpg on the highway. The only problem with avoiding the gas pump is you can’t get any compliments on your car while you fuel up.
This car is a really inexpensive way to get your foot in the door of hatchbacks. It delivers a sporty feel in a small package.
- Lightweight and fun to drive
- Great gas mileage
- Aesthetics are surprisingly good
The Veloster might be one of the more common hatches you’ll see on the road. It looks a lot like a Mazda3, but it’s a lot less expensive.
As far as the feel, the Veloster is really nimble. It’s sportier than an average car on the road. The looks are great on this car, especially from the back. It has a powerful turbocharged engine, and it’s really fun to drive.
- Fun to drive
- Affordable option
- Interior is great
Kia Forte5 SX
Another sleeper on this list comes to us from Kia. This one is called the Forte5 SX, and it’s very different than your typical Forte. For one, it looks sick. More importantly, you’ll find it at a higher price point and with a great hatch on the rear.
It’s got a turbocharged engine that spits out just over 200 horsepower. That’s great news for a car this light. It results in a zippy ride as you make your way through the highway.
The little details are what make the Forte5 SX so special. Alloy pedals, giant 18-inch wheels, impressive rims, and all the creature comforts you could ask for.
- Really fun to drive
- Responsive and quick car
- Exterior looks amazing
Volkswagen Golf GTI
You can’t talk about hatches without throwing the Golf on the list. The GTI is a highly versatile, well-made driving machine.
It has a timeless look that will definitely turn heads. The car itself is lightweight and impossibly nimble. It can turn on a dime and has plenty of power under the hood.
There are a ton of added features in the GTI that all come standard. At the end of the day, VW wants you to experience German engineering by driving this incredible car.
- Really strong performance
- Lightweight and nimble
- Easy and enjoyable to drive
Ford Focus ST
The other hatch that needs to be on any list is the Ford Focus. This is one of the cars that hatch lovers can’t stop talking about.
It comes in a lot of different trims. When you get to the higher tiers, you’ll pay more than $35k but you’ll get the closest commercial option to a rally car.
On the lower-end, you still get 252 horses squeezed into the small car. The stance is really tough and the front of the car looks really tough.
This is an age-old hatchback that is always improving. You’ll find a great balance between a sports car and a casual daily driver. This is also a highly-moddable car, so have some fun with it!
- Really fun to drive
- Classic look and head-turning exterior
- Powerful engine
- Smooth ride
Finding the right hatch for your garage doesn’t have to be so hard. We hope this list helps you find the perfect driving machine. After all, we need people like you to revitalize the hatchback community in America.