Hatchbacks under $30k
Hatchbacks are popular for being bargain buys and this is true even when spending beyond $25,000, where features-packed upper-spec variants represent great value compared to similarly-equipped larger vehicles such as mid-sized cars and SUVs. This is also the price range where you’ll often find improved performance over the entry-level hatches
While the latest Focus’ engine has one-less cylinder than the previous generation’s, it’s still one of the most rewarding small cars to drive with excellent accelerator response, responsive steering and great handling. Also available in wagon shape, the Focus range includes the athletic-looking ST-Line and SUV-inspired Active. All Focus variants come standard with autonomous emergency braking and an eight-speed automatic transmission.
If considering a Mazda 3, we reckon the smart money is on the GP20 Evolve auto, which is powered by the 2.0-litre engine everything you need plus paddle shifters, dual-zone climate control, centre fold-down armrest on the back seat, leather-bound steering wheel and bigger and sportier 18-inch alloy wheels. If you want more power you can have all that with the GP25 Evolve.
The Golf 110TSI is the only variant of the Volkswagen’s benchmark hatchback to fall below the $30k mark, but it’s a tidy package with a gutsy but economical turbocharged petrol engine and a heap of standard features including autonomous emergency braking. Option packs allow you to add more advanced features within your $30,000 budget.
Hyundai’s stylish i30 hatchback is loaded with equipment, including a broad active-safety suite that includes autonomous emergency braking. The i30 N-Line warm hatch is our pick of the range. You get a powerful 1.6-litre turbocharged engine, multi-link rear suspension and a lot of other additional features including autonomous emergency braking.
The 12th-generation Corolla brings all the necessary ingredients that have long made it the world’s most popular car. Available with a punchy 2.0-litre petrol engine, and hybrid powertrain, the Corolla comes standard with autonomous emergency braking and active cruise control. The 2.0-litre petrol SX is our pick of the range in terms of performance, value and features.
The Holden Astra is an easy to drive small hatchback that ranks well among its peers. Its handling, safety and support network are all high-points of this well-finished hatchback. The mid-spec Astra RS gains a more powerful 1.6-litre turbocharged engine plus keyless entry/start, front parking sensors, park assist that automatically steers you into a parking spot, and blind spot monitoring.
The new-generation Suzuki Swift packs a lot of driver appeal into a short, lightweight hatchback, bringing some fun to your commute and handling country drives capably. The Swift Sport takes that driving pleasure another step, with genuine, but affordable hot hatch performance.
You get a lot for your money with any Impreza, but arguably the best value comes at the top of the price scale with the 2.0i-S. The leather trim, advanced headlights and rearward safety monitors are nice to have, and the improved grip and torque vectoring make it even more fun to drive. Hatch or sedan is up to you.
Also available as a sedan, the Honda Civic is unusually big and roomy for a small car and offers a comfortable ride and responsive handling. The mid-spec VTi-L gains a more powerful 1.5-litre turbocharged engine plus a host of other extras including autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist and dual-zone climate control.