The hatchback body style is one one of the most practical ways to haul people and their stuff. That large rear-opening hatch allows large objects to slide right in. Fold the rear seats down and there’s more space than some station wagons offer. And hatches have a fun side too. Below are my top 5 2016 model year hatchbacks under $20,000 with great fuel economy and cargo volume.
5) 2016 Subaru Impreza 5-Door
EPA Fuel Economy (city/highway): 25/34
Rear Cargo Volume (cubic feet with seats up): 22.5
Every other car on this list uses a basic front-drive subcompact car chassis. But the Subaru offers not only the roominess of the larger compact car class, but also the company’s famous all-wheel drive system, which drives better in snow than many of its rivals. So if you live up north, selecting a Subaru hatch means less stress during winter driving. The Impreza uses a strong 148-hp 2.0-liter flat-four cylinder engine. The standard five-speed really makes the most of this power plant, but for another $1,000 you can have a CVT for easier commuting. Last year the Impreza received a few styling revisions but the dimensions remain the same. That means there’s lots of room inside, with a cavernous 52.4 cu.-ft. of space with the rear seats folded down. This is the most spacious cargo hauler in this group.
4) 2016 Ford Focus SE Hatch
EPA Fuel Economy (city/highway): 26/36
Rear Cargo Volume (cubic feet with seats up): 23.8
The Ford Focus, like its little brother the Fiesta, offers a level of driving enjoyment not usually found in economy-minded hatchbacks. Credit the fact that these two cars arrived in the U.S. relatively unchanged from their European brethren. Under the hood is a standard 160-hp 2.0-liter with 146 lb.-ft. of torque. For an extra $495, opt for the 1.0-liter which has nearly identical thrust but replaces the 5-speed manual with a 6-speed and returns a hybrid-like 42 mpg on the highway. Last year, Ford gave the Focus an updated look and a redesigned interior with new seat trim, switchgear, and center console. That makes an already hip hatchback even more appealing.
3) 2016 Honda Fit
EPA Fuel Economy (city/highway): 29/37
Rear Cargo Volume (cubic feet with seats up): 16.6
Unlike some of the cars on this list, the Fit only comes as a hatchback. It first launched in 2006. The all-new third-generation of the Fit launched last year with a larger interior (nearly 5 inches more rear seat legroom) and a more potent 130-hp 1.5-liter four-cylinder that returns 33 mpg in the city and a whopping 41 mpg highway for models with the CVT. The latest Fit still drives with an enthusiasm missing from most small cars thanks to its sporty chassis and slick 6-speed manual. The Honda’s “magic” rear seat bottom can be flipped up against the seatback to make room for really tall items.
2) 2016 Mazda3 5-Door
EPA Fuel Economy (city/highway): 29/40
Rear Cargo Volume (cubic feet with seats up): 20.2
Pick any vehicle in Mazda’s lineup and, with few exceptions, it will be the most rewarding car to drive in its class. That’s even true even of the least expensive models, meaning you can get “zoom, zoom” on a budget. The Mazda3 hatchback is one of the best-driving small cars, period, and the best part about the 3 is that you don’t need to add anything to make it better. The standard 155-hp 2.0-liter four cylinder comes paired to slick-shifting six-speed manual. Even with the standard 16-inch tires, this little hatch is a blast to throw into a set of curves. Mazda’s least expensive model also hits 40 mpg highway. For 2016, the automaker has added a standard backup camera via the new 7-inch touchscreen display.
1) 2016 Toyota Prius C
EPA Fuel Economy (city/highway): 53/46
Rear Cargo Volume (cubic feet with seats up): 17.1
If fuel economy is your priority, then the Prius C is the superstar in this class. No other small hatchback comes close to the C’s 53-mpg in city. This is the frugal commuter’s dream car. The hybrid powertrain uses a 1.5-liter four cylinder paired with twin electric motors and a .9-kWh battery pack. It adds up to 99 hp, which isn’t much. It’s one of the slowest cars in this group, and the Prius C isn’t much fun on a good road. During hard cornering, the overly stiff suspension and dull steering don’t really let the driver know when the grip is about to run out. Still, if speed and handling are less important than benchmark fuel economy, the Prius C’s is a great value.
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