Feature article

Best hatchbacks of 2023 and 2024

The hatchback has remained popular despite the proliferation of the SUV in all its forms.

Last updated: 13 December 2023

The hatch is affordable, practical and the latest models are well specified, equipped with most of the common convenience and safety features. What’s also great about the hatchback segment is the variety of powertrain choice with pure electric, hybrids of all descriptions and good old ICE options.


What’s a good electric hatchback?

New models from China lead the way in terms of value for money. The GWM Ora is one of New Zealand’s most affordable electric vehicles starting at $42,995. This offers up to 310km of driving range (WLTP) along with features like Apple CarPlay and active cruise control. You’ll either love or loathe the styling, and while passenger space is good for a small hatch, the luggage area is on the small side. It drives well though some of the active safety features can be more of a hindrance than a help.




The MG4 can be had from a starting price of $46,990 offering up to 350km of range. There’s also the Long Range model, which can travel up to 530km on a charge, or the XPower, with 320kW and a 0-100km/h time of 3.8sec. The MG4 is a well specified hatch, and with its motor positioned in the rear, it has great driving dynamics. It looks sharp too while offering good passenger accommodation and luggage space. Like the Ora, it has five star safety rating thanks to its full range of safety features.



BYD Dolphin

The other option is the BYD Dolphin. This is more expensive, starting at $49,990 though comes with a more replete specification, and a higher level of quality than the MG and GWM cars. It majors on comfort and refinement and manages to pack a lot of passenger space into its small dimensions. Its Blade Battery technology is claimed to be safer than other lithium-ion packs as well.



What is the best plug-in hybrid hatchback?

Most of the plug-in hybrid hatchback options are European, and therefore on the pricier side. The Peugeot 308 plug-in starts from $60,965 and you can get up to 61km on a charge, meaning most of your daily commuting can be done on battery power alone. Like its mechanically similar cousin, the Opel Astra GSe, it has a 1.6-litre engine and an electric motor, the two working together to give you both good fuel economy and a big range.

A note on plug-in hybrids though. These primarily suit a buyer that does most of their travel in the city, and no more than about 50km a day. You need to recharge these every night as well to make the most of their emissions free running. They can range further than an EV when needed, and can refuel quickly when travelling longer distances.



Peugeot 308 plug in starts from $60,965

Is the Corolla hatchback still a good car?

It sure is. While Toyota no longer offers the Prius as a new car, the same fuel saving hybrid technology can be had in the more conventional looking Corolla hatchback. This was updated recently to include the latest Gen 5 petrol electric powertrain. These hybrids you don’t need to charge via the mains, they ‘self charge’ meaning you just fill them with petrol and enjoy frugal and refined driving.



Toyota Corolla ZR

Another to consider if you are looking for a smaller hatchback, is the Honda Jazz RS. While it’s small it has tardis-like interior space thanks to its flexible rear seating arrangement. And it’s a hybrid too, so running costs are low.



Honda Jazz RS

Any other hatchbacks to consider?

The Cupra Leon is a dynamic hatchback package, with European styling and an affordable price tag. It’s economical thanks to its 1.5-litre mild hybrid turbocharger engine, and is a great car to drive. It’s spacious, well specified and has top safety creds as well. It’s something a little bit different.



Culpra Leon

You could also say the same about Ford’s Focus Active, looking a bit like an SUV. It too handles well, and with a similar type of engine, is frugal but delivers good torque for ease of driving.




Kyle Cassidy
Kyle Cassidy
Editor NZ Autocar magazine - autocar.co.nz

Kyle has been reviewing cars since starting at NZ Autocar magazine in 2003 and has been editor since 2009. In that time he’s become an expert on what makes for a good vehicle while also gaining insights into the local automotive industry.