posted on November 13th, 2017

Extra door means extra fun

If you like driving, but also need a car with space and reasonable fuel economy, you can do no better than a hatchback. Hatches offer the best of every world and are the enthusiast’s choice for an all-around daily driver. Behind the wheel of a hot hatch, the heart is filled with joy and the spirit is invigorated.

Hatchbacks are traditionally not as popular over here in the States than in Europe, but hatches really provide the ideal package for most any situation that calls for a car (wagons have fallen out of favor), and they’re experiencing a bit of a boom right now in the US. At least it feels like it, because there’s an excellent selection of three- and five-door vehicles out on the road.

Hatchbacks are so named because the rear liftgate hinges at the roof, not below the rear windshield. Because of this extra door, the hatchback comes bearing gifts of increased cargo space, a much wider opening for the trunk, more visibility, and often better safety than sedan-shaped vehicles. And all of these wonderful things come in cars that are fuel-efficient and affordable — what more do you want?

While hatchbacks are indeed jacks of all trades, some models specialize in certain areas and are better for different tasks. So we’ve compiled some of the best hatchbacks on the marketplace and determined the best use for each car.

For the beanie-wearer

Shawna’s Subaru Impreza (Portland, OR)

The Impreza is Subaru’s smallest non-BRZ model, and it’s perfect for the outdoorsy urban weekend warrior. This Impreza feels right at home exploring the Pacific Northwest and completing successful ski trips to Whistler.

For the Sensible Sally

Corey’s Mazda 3 (Somerville, MA)

The Mazda 3 hatchback is the go-to driver’s car for people looking for a fun driving experience without much compromise. The Mazda 3 is affordable, fuel efficient, and handsome. No wonder it’s been named to Car and Driver’s ‘10 Best’ four years in a row.

For the Swedish House fan

Cyrus’s Volvo C30 (Boston, MA)

This spunky Volvo C30 is a stylish three-door compact to liven up your driving life. The little Swedish hatch is best for zooming around cities like Boston where it slides into tight parking spaces with ease.

For the dog lover

Nick’s Subaru Outback (Denver, CO)

The Outback is Subaru’s bread and butter, and it excels at everything a Subaru should. There’s no better car for cruising high-altitude Colorado highways with your mountain bikes strapped up top and a couple trusty canines in the back. It’s technically an SUV, but the Outback captures much of the hatchback spirit, so we’ll throw it in.

For the conscientious commuter

Nani’s Volkswagen e-Golf (Albany, CA)

For zipping around in the city, the electric Volkswagen e-Golf is the way to go. The Golf is already the classic compact hatchback for the city, but now it comes in electric flavor. This puppy goes 125 miles on a single charge, burns no gas whatsoever, and oh yeah, it’s a Golf!

For the mobile Londoner

Easirent’s Ford Focus (Sipson, UK)

The Ford Focus is consistently one of the UK’s best-selling cars because it ticks every box for the average driver. With a spacious interior, manual transmission, and excellent proportions, the Focus easily conquers English B roads with style and comfort.

For the software engineer

Joel’s Honda Civic (Sterling, VA)

The Honda Civic hatchback is a funky and reliable compact that injects a healthy amount of fun into the Civic. This late model Sport Touring version rocks a 1.5L turbo-four that manages at least a combined 36 mpg, so you won’t have to hit the pumps very often. Plus, Honda reliability and affordability.

Hot hatches, so hot right now

Hot hatches are what you get when you turn a more run-of-the-mill hatchback into a sports car. They’ve been popular in Europe forever because, well, hatchback sports car! They seem to be catching on with us Yanks as automakers are increasingly sending their best hatchback offerings stateside. Which is wonderful because, for the money, this is the best driving experience you can have.

In addition to turning up the power, hot hatches have the control and handling of a low-to-the-ground compact and the usability of a hatchback. Many are slightly less mad, road-going versions of rally cars and have the balance and agility to match. And even the most hardened and fiery hot hatches won’t cost you the farm.

If you’re into all that, I have good news! You can rent a hot hatch to suit your own desires, whatever your heat tolerance. The current generation of the venerable Subaru WRX doesn’t come in hatchback form, which is a shame, but there are plenty of real driver’s cars to be had with a back door. Ranging from lukewarm to searing inferno, Turo’s best hot hatches are so hot right now.

For the pesky millennial

Daniel’s Hyundai Veloster Turbo (Westminster, CA)

This Hyundai Veloster makes the cut because it sports a turbo and a manual transmission. An interesting quirk with the Veloster is that it has one door on the driver’s side and two on the passenger side. So, including the rear hatch, the asymmetrical Veloster Turbo is technically a four-door car. Pair the offbeat styling with a cool name and you have a hatch that will definitely be popular with the kids.

For the vengeful gold thief

Harrison’s Mini Cooper S (Delray Beach, FL)

The Mini Cooper S is no fire-breathing dragon, but it’ll zip you around town nicely without spilling your coffee. As we learned in “The Italian Job,” the Mini S is the ideal car for on-the-go gold heists through Los Angeles. The six-speed manual and classic Mini stripes create a perfect package for looking great while jumping ditches in the LA River.*

For the fiesta freak

Eric’s Ford Fiesta ST (Wheeling, IL)

This spicy blue Ford Fiesta ST really brings the salsa to the party. Its 1.6L inline-four makes 197 horsepower and only pairs with a six-speed manual. Throw in sport-tuned suspension and a torque vectoring system, and you’ve got a daily driver that’s both muy picante and buttery in the corners.

For the fun aunt

James’s Fiat 500 Abarth (San Diego, CA)

Turbo-four, stick shift, and sport suspension. Smells like a hot hatch. This zesty Fiat 500 carries on the legendary Abarth name with admirable spirit, and is the best little hatchback for harmless fun around town.

For the secret racer

Thorsten’s Mazda Mazdaspeed3 (San Francisco, CA)

The Mazdaspeed3 is a stealthy beast of a car. With a five-door layout, six-speed manual, and turbocharged I4, this fired-up version of the Mazda 3 is the ultimate in affordable everyday sports cars. Thanks to its 263 horses, the Mazdaspeed3 can comfortably hit 60 mph in under six seconds, so it’ll smoke bigger and louder sports cars without breaking a sweat.

For the reasonable gearhead

Miguel’s Volkswagen Golf GTI (Dallas, TX)

VW’s Golf GTI has long set the standard for fun and functional vehicles that satisfy enthusiasts’ need for go-fast stuff. This five-door GTI has a roof rack and the Autobahn Performance Package, which means it has a limited-slip front differential, larger brakes, and 10 more horsepower to bring the total power to 220 hp. The GTI punches way above its weight class and offers an incredible amount of car for the price.

For the covert hoonigan

Paul’s Volkswagen Golf R (Phoenix, AZ)

If the GTI is the whole enchilada, then the Golf R pours a rash amount of ghost pepper sauce onto the plate. Its turbo-four puts out nearly 300 horsepower through all four wheels to make it one of the most athletic and stealthy machines available. The Golf R will handle as much hooning as you throw at it and is perhaps the best sleeper made in a factory — it looks just like a Golf! Plus, it comes default with a six-speed manual for some old-fashioned gear rowing.

For the unapologetic hoonigan

Sean’s Ford Focus RS (Los Angeles, CA)

The scalding hot Focus RS was developed with input from Ken Block and has wannabe rally drivers everywhere rejoicing because it’s now here in the States. Its angry 2.3L turbo-four sends 350 hp and 350 lb-ft to all four corners of the car for truly magnificent handling. This beast hits 60 mph in in 4.6 seconds, grips like a vice in the corners, and achieves all this lunacy while still making a combined 22 mpg. And yes, three pedals and a stick in the middle. Hot hatches are so hot right now.

*Gold heists and off-road driving are prohibited uses for cars rented through Turo

Steven is an avid car guy and content maker at Turo. Between Golden State Warriors games he can be found getting lost somewhere in California.