The Unexpected Choice: Compact five-door hatchbacks

You are in the market for a new vehicle.  You need more than a regular four-door sedan, but you are not interested in a minivan, truck, SUV or even a small crossover.  What do you do?  Are you stuck without another choice?  After all, the marketplace has pivoted to crossovers and SUVs in a big way in recent years.  In fact, a number of automakers have even gone as far as discontinued car models in exchange for new and/or an expanded line-up of crossovers and SUVs.  Well not to fret.  Despite the changing appetite in the marketplace, automakers still offer consumers a small but worthy selection of compact five-door hatchbacks.  In fact, one automaker has even gone as far as to add a five-door hatchback to its compact car line-up for the first time for the 2017 model year.

Below, I have assembled a few of the stand-out choices that may be worthy of your consideration.  My filter includes availability (volume), price, and overall cost of ownership. This is NOT an all-inclusive list, but I believe if you are considering this bodystyle as a purchase option, it will be a great start!   Also please note, many of these models currently have or occasionally have additional factory-to-dealer rebates which can lower your purchase price even more!

Kia Rio5 – This is the surprise choice that I found during my research.  Available in LX/EX/SX trim levels, the Rio5 is equipped with a 1.6L four-cylinder engine and mated to a six-speed automatic transmission as standard equipment.  This little Kia boasts an impressive 49.8 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats folded down and EPA Fuel Economy numbers of 27 city/36 highway – and that is for an automatic!  The base MSRP starts at $15,495 for the LX.  Add Kia’s above average new vehicle warranty and you have a real contender here!

Honorable Mention – Kia Forte5 – This 5-door has the most cargo capacity of the group at 56.4 cubic feet, but it costs more than the Rio5 ($18,090 for the LX) with fuel economy that comes in lower for the standard 2.0L four-cylinder/6-speed automatic driveline at 25 city/34 highway.

Hyundai Accent hatchback – Given that the Rio5 was impressive, I should have figured out that its sibling the Accent hatchback would be equally impressive. The advantage here is that if you are willing to shift your own gears, you can save more money at purchase.  The Accent hatchback is available in SE and Sport trim levels with an MSRP of $14,995 for the SE equipped with a 1.6L four-cylinder engine and six-speed manual gearbox.  Fuel economy numbers come in slightly better at 27 city/38 highway and the cargo capacity is a bit less at 47.5 cubic feet.  If you prefer the styling of the Accent over the Rio5 but really want an automatic, be prepared to shell out an additional $1200.   If you need to squeeze out every dollar and don’t mind shifting gears, the Accent hatchback would be the best budget choice.

Honorable Mention – Hyundai Elantra GT – This swoopy hatchback is geared more for performance than for economy, but still offers an impressive 51.0 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats folded.  This hatchback comes in just the one trim level with a base MSRP of $18,800 for the 2.0L four-cylinder/6-speed manual driveline.  Fuel economy numbers are 24 city/32 highway.

Mazda3 hatchback – Stylish, responsive and way fun to drive, the Mazda3 hatchback is available in Sport, Touring, touring 2.5 and Grand Touring trim levels.  With a base MSRP of $19,095, the Mazda3 comes in at the more expensive end of these compact hatchbacks.  The Mazda is powered by a 2.0L four-cylinder engine that is bolted to a six-speed manual gearbox.  Choosing to upgrade to a six-speed automatic transmission adds $1050.  Fuel economy numbers are 27 city/37 highway.  Cargo capacity for the Mazda3 hatchback comes in at 47.1 cubic feet.  If you are leaning more toward performance on a budget, the Mazda3 hatchback is worth considering.

Ford Focus hatchback- As one of the veterans of this group, the Focus hatchback has come into its own over the last five years.  Available in SE, SEL and Titanium trim levels, power for the Ford hatchback is generated by a 2.0L four-cylinder engine and joined to the standard six-speed automatic transmission.  Fuel economy numbers are 26 city/38 highway.  Cargo capacity is toward the low end of the group at 43.9 cubic feet with the rear seats folded.  The base MSRP starts at $19,765.  Since Ford builds a lot of these, expect to make a pretty good deal when purchasing one.

NOTE – Ford offers a smaller hatchback called the Fiesta, but the cargo capacity is roughly half of the Focus at 25.4 cubic feet.  Fuel economy numbers are roughly the same but the base MSRP is considerably less at $14,390.

Chevrolet Cruise hatchback – While the Cruise sedan has been around since 2011, the hatchback is new for 2017.  It also happens to be the most expensive of this group.  Offered in LT and Premier trim levels, the Chevrolet hatchback is equipped with a 1.4L turbocharged four-cylinder engine that is mated to a six-speed manual.  Upgrading to a six-speed automatic will cost an additional $680.  Fuel economy numbers for the manual are 28 city/31 highway.  The cargo capacity with the rear seats down is middle-of-the-pack at 47.2 cubic feet.  The base MSRP for the Cruze hatchback starts at $21,240.

Honorable Mention – Chevrolet Sonic hatchback – This American-made hatchback gets updated styling for 2017.  Available in LS, LT and Premier trim levels, it bests the Cruise hatchback in cargo capacity – 47.7 cubic feet, with a lower base MSRP – $17,580.  The standard powertrain is a 1.4L turbocharged four-cylinder engine bolted to a five-speed manual gearbox.  The upgrade to a six-speed automatic transmission will set you back $1,390. Same goes here with the Chevrolet models as with the Fords – volume inventory, means good deals.  NOTEChevrolet also offers a smaller hatchback than the Cruise or the Sonic called the Spark.  Fuel economy numbers are marginally better with a bit more than half the cargo capacity at 27.2 cubic feet.  The base MSRP starts at a low $13,875.


Ken Chester, Jr. is President & CEO of Motor News Media Corporation – an automotive news service founded in 1989 as The AutoBuyer Plus Corporation. Featured on numerous television and radio programs, viewers, listeners and readers alike relate to Ken's friendly manner and wealth of information about the many vehicles currently for sale in today's complex automotive marketplace.

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