Buying Guides

The 5 Best Used Hatchbacks For Under $10,000

These small urban hoppers are big on savings

Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief

Not everyone can drop $30-$40K on a new car or even a premium used car. The fact remains that although the average new car price is around $36K, many folks need good, practical transportation for way, way less. But that also doesn't mean that shoppers have to buy a piece of crap to save money. There are a handful of very good hatchbacks that offer spacious cabins, decent levels of tech, a solid set of standard features and good safety scores. Here are five hatchbacks that are not just true bargains but very satisfying vehicles, in and of themselves. The fact that you can buy examples with relatively low mileage for way less than the cost of a year of college tuition is sweet news, indeed.

2013 Volkswagen Golf

 
  • PROS: One of the best interiors for the price, great driving dynamics, spacious cargo section, classic exterior styling, solid safety scores.
  • CONS: The 2.0-liter TDI diesel version has been recalled for emissions cheats, gas engine is a bit primitive in terms of efficiency.

The Golf is a car we've always loved for both its practicality and fun spirit. For 2013, it just happens to be one of the best all-around hatchbacks in the business, and it still looks fantastic today. The Golf also nailed crash test scores with "good" all around by the IIHS. The base 2.5-liter engine issues 170 hp, which moves the car in a spritely manner but the 23/33 EPA mpg isn't the greatest. Good thing, though, is the long list of standard features that include 15-inch steel wheels, full power accessories, heated mirrors, keyless entry, cruise control, air-conditioning, a height-adjustable driver seat, front seat adjustable lumbar, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a height-adjustable front center armrest, a trip computer, a cooled glovebox and an eight-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack.

2013 Honda Fit

Best

for the city dweller

  • PROS: Ridiculous interior utility thanks to a highly configurable space, crisp design still looks good, nimble steering and handling, great reliability, handsome and easy to use interior still looks fresh today.
  • CONS: A bit slow with the automatic transmission, noisy at highway speeds, subject to crosswinds, lackluster brakes.

We're not sure who thought up the Fit's interior, but it's brilliant and just about perfect for urban dwellers who need to haul stuff. Fold the rear seat flat, and you get a shocking 57 cubic feet of usable cargo space. It's also zippy to drive (at least with the manual transmission), and visibility is excellent. The base Fit comes standard with 15-inch steel wheels, full power accessories, keyless entry, air-conditioning, cruise control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a 60/40-split backseat (folding seatback, flip-up seat bottom) and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface.

2013 Chevrolet Sonic

 
  • PROS: Potent turbo engine, solid acceleration, good list of standard features, excellent safety scores, comfortable front seats, handles and steers better than most of the competition.
  • CONS: Weird instrument cluster and dated center stack, could use more cargo space for a hatchback, throttle could use a bit more responsiveness.

The Sonic isn't just a great value as a used hatchback, it also still looks great thanks to its clean design and good proportions, and the car is also pretty fun to toss around. If you can get past some of the odd interior controls and displays, it's quite comfortable. The big seller is the long list of standard and optional features. Standard equipment on the base Sonic LS includes amenities like automatic headlights, an integrated blind-spot mirror, power locks, keyless entry, air-conditioning, a height-adjustable driver seat, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, OnStar emergency communications, Bluetooth phone connectivity and a sound system with an auxiliary audio jack and steering wheel controls.

2013 Mazda3

Best

for the driving enthusiast

  • PROS: Excellent driving dynamics, seriously good gas mileage, potent engine choices, well-appointed interior.
  • CONS: Guppy-like fascia, small-ish interior, sometimes jarring suspension.

Mazda cares about owners who enjoy driving, and the 3 is a fine example of good automotive engineering because it's one of the best handling, best driving cars in the segment. The 2.0-liter and 2.5-liter engines offer plenty of power to the front wheels with 155 and 167 hp, respectively. The 3i Touring hatchback comes standard with power mirrors, power windows, air-conditioning, a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player, auxiliary audio jack and steering wheel controls, 16-inch alloy wheels, keyless ignition/entry, dual-zone automatic air-conditioning, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, a rear seat center armrest, Bluetooth (phone and audio streaming) and a six-speaker sound system.

2015 Hyundai Elantra GT

 
  • PROS: Slick exterior design, good driving dynamics, handsome modern cabin, long list of standard features, top-notch safety scores.
  • CONS: Average gas mileage for the segment.

Though the brand new Elantra GT looks a bit more refined, we like the visual drama of the swoopy-bodied last generation car. The GT isn't an Elantra sedan with a big rear door, it's actually a totally different model based on the Euro-spec i30 sold overseas. For 2015, the car gets the upgraded 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that provides more power than the old 1.8-liter version. EPA mileage drops from 37 to 34 mpg highway, but acceleration is noticeably better than before. The long list of standard features includes Standard features include 16-inch alloy wheels, foglights, heated mirrors, air-conditioning, full power accessories, a height-adjustable driver seat, 60/40-split-folding rear seatbacks, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a six-speaker CD player with satellite radio, a USB/iPod input and an auxiliary audio jack.

Why buy a used hatchback?

  • Prices are ridiculously low for this low-demand segment.
  • They offer space and utility in a small, easy-to-use size.
  • Mileage numbers are generally very good.
  • Front-wheel drive configuration is good for all-weather driving.