The car market might be growing more and more diverse, with a shift towards SUVs and crossovers and no end of new niches to be discovered, but the traditional family hatchback continues to be a perennial best-seller, accounting for eight out of the top 10 cars for sale in the UK.
It’s a trend that shows no sign of slowing down, either, with some major new launches due in 2018 to add further strength to this already impressive sector.
Here, then, is our run down of the top 10 hatchbacks to watch in 2018, including some brand-new entries and some long-standing favourites.
10. BMW 1 Series
The 1 Series delivers everything that makes BMW such a coveted brand, but in a smaller package. The 1 Series doesn't come cheap but you certainly get what you pay for with interior luxury, class-leading driving dynamics and rear-wheel drive. Nearly two million models have been sold since the introduction of the first generation ten years ago.
This second generation is getting old, despite a recent update, which is why it's only in at number 10. We're eagerly awaiting more details of the third generation, which is expected in 2019.
9. Vauxhall Astra
When it made its debut in 2015, the Vauxhall Astra marked a sea change for the company. Not only was it a huge dynamic improvement over its predecessor, but it was also a massive technological leap forward, bringing in 4G WiFi capability along with a number of advanced driver assistance systems.
It’s neatly finished inside, with intuitive controls and excellent ride quality. It’s also British-built, making it the ideal choice for patriotic buyers.
8. Honda Civic
Another British-built hatchback, the latest Civic is also a fine car. Its looks are futuristic rather than handsome, but it certainly has a distinctive road presence, especially in the sportier trim levels.
It isn’t as practical as previous Civics, but being leaner, lower and wider than its predecessor, it does benefit from exceptional handling, while the turbocharged 1.0-litre petrol engine is one of the best in its class.
7. SEAT Leon
We’re big fans of the Leon, which combines striking, youthful styling with great levels of standard equipment and exceptional value for money.
It can’t quite match its VW Group stablemates, the Volkswagen Golf and Audi A3, for touch and feel quality, but it’s a terrific, efficient and enjoyable car for the outlay, and a great choice for younger drivers.
6. Audi A3
With the original A3, Audi created the premium hatchback, and the fourth-generation model offers more of the same, with striking interior design, high levels of perceived quality and a confusingly vast array of trim levels and options, none of which will disappoint.
Highlights include Audi’s MMI Connect mobile WiFi, along with the popular A3 e-tron, arguably the best plug-in hybrid in its class.
5. Volkswagen Golf
The Golf is so far Britain’s best-selling compact family hatchback in 2017, having overtaken the Ford Focus as the nation’s favourite small family car. And it’s easy to see why – small fuel-efficient and tax-friendly engines, exceptional build quality and competitive pricing give the Golf an aspirational quality that most C-segment hatchbacks can only dream of.
It’s also great to drive, while the plug-in Golf GTE is one of our favourite plug-in hybrids.
4. Hyundai i30 Fastback
2018 promise something a bit different for Hyundai, as it continues to add more niches to its rapidly expanding range.
The new i30 Fastback, previewed at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show, joins the range alongside the traditional five door, but with a sleeker, more coupe-like roofline and distinctively sportier appearance.
The Korean maker is aiming the Fastback at a slightly more premium market, so it will be available in higher trim levels only, all of which promise to be exceptionally well equipped while remaining great value for money.
3. Kia Ceed
Kia says this Ceed (name has now changed from C'eed) will spearhead a new form of design-led models for the company, with an estate version of the C’eed also due in 2018. This is the first Kia to offer ‘level two autonomous driving’ Lane Following Assist technology, with more advanced driver assistance systems available.
We do like the sportier styling and coupled with the seven-year, 100,000 miles warranty it will certainly be tough competition in the hatchback segment this year.
2. Mercedes-Benz A-Class
The next Mercedes-Benz A-Class follows the style set by the previous incarnation, which replaced the boxy original A-Class concept with that of a far more conventional hatchback.
But with Mercedes on something of a role, both in the sales charts and in the styling and quality departments, the newcomer promises to be an exceptional addition to the compact premium hatchback market, and with a plug-in version also on the horizon, it’s a genuine threat to the Audi A3.
Expect a hot AMG version, too.
1. Ford Focus
There’s one major new car on which all eyes will be focused in 2018, and that’s Ford’s new hatchback contender. A new Focus is significant news, especially as it appears in the original model’s 20th birthday year.
It will maintain the existing car’s Global Ford C-car Platform, but will be leaner, lighter and more agile than its predecessor, with a mix of petrol, diesel, plug-in hybrid and pure EV powertrains. A stiffer body and revised suspension bring with them the promise of class-leading handling. We should find out in the spring.