Nine hatchback car comparison

Nine hatchbacks are put to the sword to help ease the burden of the city commute.

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City driving can be such a pain in the backside! And the last thing you want when you spend more than 20 minutes a day in traffic is a big, fuel-guzzler. Small, economical and safe cars are probably more up your alley.

That’s where the hatchback genre plays an important role. It’s a segment brimming with choice, so we had a chat to the guys at Wheels magazine to help us narrow down the field.


Holden Barina CD
Toyota Yaris Ascent
Ford Fiesta Trend
Suzuki Swift GL
Honda Jazz VTi
Peugeot 208 Active
Renault Clio Expression TCe120
Mazda 2 NEO
Volkswagen Polo 66 TSI Trendline

To qualify for this test, the cars needed to be both popular and affordable… and a hatchback, of course.

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The Wheels boys picked nine of 2015’s top hatchbacks, drove them around for a few days, picked them to pieces and told us what they found. This is the light-car class of 2015, where, as Wheels said, “value shines brightly and sophistication has never been more affordable”.

Sophisticated and value? We like the sound of that.

Holden Barina CD
The Holden Barina has plenty going for it, though it’s far from perfect. Sure, it’s priced to sell (aka, cheap), it looks kind-of stylish from the outside and it has plenty of space; you could fit a couple of tallish teens in the back, no worries. It also handles pretty well, particularly on long drives.

From our experience, it enjoys the open road more than it does the city – surprising for a city car, eh? Well, that is until you start relying on cruise control, which chugs on inclines.

Inside, it smells like a kid’s toy store – aka plastic. The use of cheaper plastics ultimately helps bring the price down, so if affordability is more important than luxury then it shouldn’t be a major problem.

It also lacks safety features; no reversing camera and none of the latest tech, which is annoying if you’re going from a car with a lot of gadgets to one without them. Chances are if you’re upgrading from a 1998 Corolla, it’s probably not going to bother you. As for fuel efficiency, it lags behind.

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Toyota Yaris Ascent
The Toyota Yaris has received a bit of a bad rap in reviewing circles. So, if you’ve been doing your research, you’ve probably been a bit put off.

Here’s the thing, though, the Yaris is a reliable and affordable car with the benefit of cheap servicing. Its insides are nothing overly special, but that’s to be expected at a price of $17,755.

It also recently underwent an upgrade, which means you’re getting a whole lot of extra stuff for the same price. It has a reversing camera, plenty of space and storage and the seats are more comfortable than one would expect.

It’s got a bit of tyre and road noise, however, which you get used to after a while. Initially, though, it can be pretty annoying. Also, in this bunch, it’s the least powerful and uses the most fuel.

If you can look past these things – and the poor sound cancellation and average interior design – then the Yaris just might be the car for you.

As Wheels said, “if ease and reliability matter most, then buy a Yaris”.

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Ford Fiesta Trend
Deciding whether the Ford Fiesta is the right car for you heavily relies on what spec level you decide to go with. For the Wheels comparison, the Trend spec level didn’t rate too highly. You’re almost better off opting for the Ambient (the spec level below the Trend). Aside from its steering and handling, there wasn’t a hell of a lot of praise for this hatch.

The centre console looks cheap and the controls are complicated – a mish-mash of buttons. The Fiesta also falls behind the pack when it comes to the interior; one cup holder, no door pockets, tight headroom and mediocre seats let it down. As we said, the Fiesta isn’t a terrible choice, but it’s completely overshadowed by the likes of Mazda and VW.

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Suzuki Swift GL
The compact Swift is the perfect city-street crawler. Simple to park and capable of whizzing through traffic, the Suzuki Swift proves reactive steering isn’t just restricted to sports cars. Adding to the character of the Swift is its lovable styling – both inside and out. The old adage ‘why fix something if it isn’t broken’ comes to mind for the Swift.

Despite seeing very little in the way of a facelift over the last decade, consumers still seem to love the elegance of this feisty city car. This is carried throughout the interior with a neat dashboard, plenty of storage compartments and a steering wheel that feels as good as a new leather bag.

This doesn’t mean the Suzuki isn’t without its faults, though. There is no steering wheel adjustment, it lacks leg and head space and the boot isn’t as spacious as some of its competitors. Its entry price is also a bit higher than we’d expect.

It’s not perfect, but it’s reliable, has low running costs and it is super fun to drive.

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Honda Jazz VTi
It seems the Honda Jazz has lost its… Jazz. The 2015 model leaves very little to the imagination and is far from the most attractive in this company. It would seem that the Honda’s practicality puts it ahead of the pack, but it misses a spot on the podium due to its styling.

If looks don’t bother you too much and you’re more interested in value for money, than the Jazz makes a pretty good fit. For its price, you get a whole lot of equipment. Reversing camera with wide and birds-eye views, attractive touchscreen, Bluetooth, hill-start assist and a bunch of other features are all included. The Jazz also has oodles of space, and ergonomic and adjustable seating.

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Peugeot 208 Active
Okay, so the Peugeot 208 may not be cheap – it sits in the top three most expensive for this test – but it has a lot to offer. Its stylish French interior with classy trimmed seats, stylish touchscreen and expensive looking features means this puppy looks like it should cost more than its cheaper-looking competitors.

It also comes with capped-price servicing for five years/75,000km, which is always a big tick. It has generous head and legroom, good boot space and unique door grabs.

On the downside, the 208’s backseats are a bit squishy and its fuel consumption is high compared to some of the others, though not high enough to be a deal breaker. Thumbs up? Oui oui.

Peugeot 208 Embedd Jpg

Renault Clio Expression TCe120
When it comes to performance, the Clio takes home the gold for this test. And this Renault Clio is as stylish as it is practical. It may be one of the most expensive in this group, but it’s still packing plenty of value. Not only is this a pick for those who love to drive, but the Clio exudes an air of refinement – both inside and out. It’s difficult to fault the Clio’s styling, but there are some downsides to the gearbox at this spec.

Also, the rattle of the dashboard will be annoying for those who notice it.

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Mazda2 NEO
The Mazda2 ended up in second place for the Wheels comparison. Ironic isn’t it? It’s got performance, fuel economy, efficiency and style on its side. It looks deceptively large from the outside thanks to its long bonnet, but it’s comfortable with bucket seats in the front and more shoulder and leg room than its predecessors in the back. Plus, it’s got a big boot, which we always love.

There are no surprises with the Mazda2, but we’d be remiss of us if we didn’t mention its equipment shortfall. The Neo is missing cruise control and a reversing camera at this spec level. There’s also annoying road noise (which is a common issue across the Mazda range) and limited vision from the back. Not to mention the lack of cup holders! What the?!

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Volkswagen Polo 66 TSI Trendline
The VW Polo is more of an all-rounder than Daley Thompson. It is fuel efficient, drives well, and offers a comfortable and quiet ride.

It mightn’t be as stylish as the Clio – you’d have to up stakes to the Polo 81TSI Comfortline for that – and it doesn’t compete with the Mk7 Golf, but, it still has plenty to offer.

It’s got a 208-litre boot – further improved with the rear seats the folded flat – comfy seats front and rear, and the passengers sit high enough to have good visibility. It also drives pretty well over country roads.

So the VW Polo isn’t as stylish as some of the others and its interior range may be a bit boring, but its goes better than alright and that’s why it sits at the top spot for the Wheels test.

Vw Polo Embedd Jpg

So which car is the best choice for your city commute? Well, it comes down to priorities. The Peugeot has the most style, t­he Renault Clio may be your preference if you’re looking for performance and the Fiesta handles exceptionally well. The Honda Jazz will steal your heart if its space you’re after and the Swift could be the one for its funky styling and low running costs. For those looking to spend less hard-earned, the Barina or Yaris could be your gold star. Or as an all-round package, the VW Polo takes the cake. Whatever your poison, there are a bunch of traffic-dodging options on the market.

This story was originally published in Wheels Magazine March 2015


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