Best buys family hatchbacks: VW Golf comes out on top (still)

Our choice of the family hatchbacks on the market right now

 

Best One: Volkswagen Golf

Many have pretended, but none have managed to capture the throne for more than a short time. Heaven knows, Volkswagen has had its (self-inflicted) tribulations of late, but the Golf yet manages to rise above that to re-stake its claim for family hatch greatness. Whenever any rival car maker makes a family five-door, this is their aiming point. It starts with classy, yet classless styling. It continues with a cabin that may be a touch dark, but which is well-made out of nice things. Optional big touchscreens and digital instruments really lift the interior ambience, and space is good, if not class-leading.

Standard cars are smooth and sure-footed to drive. GTI is an utter riot, and will shortly be coming with a new 290hp engine. R is an all-weather performance car slayer, eGolf has decent one-charge range, and the Golf Estate is arguably the best all-round family car you can buy. New model arrives next year. It has much to which to live up.

Best model: Comfortline 1.0 TSI 5dr for €25,770. Or GTI. Actually just get a GTI. Price range: €21,095 to €45,350. Finance from €259 per month. Co2 emissions: 0 to 177g/km Sum up: It’s good to be the king.

Worthy Contenders:

Honda Civic

The Civic’s styling is an awful mish-mash, its diesel engine option has only just arrived on the market, there’s no estate option, and it doesn’t even have the cool flip-up rear seats of the old one. None of which matters very much, because Honda’s family hatch sidesteps all of those reservations as soon as you drive it. Once you’ve tried the eager 1.0-litre turbo petrol, or the almost-silent 1.6 iDTEC diesel, and sampled the sweet steering and chassis balance, you’ll be hooked. Masses of rear space and one of the biggest boots around help too. Pricey, but better-equipped as standard than rivals. 320hp Type-R is a performance superstar.

Best model: Smart Plus 1.0 VTEC Turbo for €25,250 Price range: €23,750 to €33,450. Finance from €POA per month. Co2 emissions: 93 to 133g/km Sum up: Civic’s lesson worth learning.

Opel Astra

Per ardua ad astra. A Latin phrase, meaning ‘through hardship to the stars.’ Opel is certainly in mid-hardship at the moment, as it adjusts to new life under Peugeot-Citroen ownership and awaits its Brexit-related fate (the Astra is built in Wales, so could be fiscally undone post-2019). That the Astra remains a terrific family car is testament to the work former owners General Motors did before selling up. Agile and engaging to drive, roomy inside, and with a high-quality cabin, the Astra is a very good option, even if its styling is arguably a bit too quiet. Tiny fuel tank hinders touring range, but roomy estate is a good load-lugger.

Best model: 1.0 Turbo SRI for €24,795 Price range: €21,050 to €32,495. Finance from €243 per month. Co2 emissions: 95 to 130g/km Sum up: Per ardua ad Astra.

Skoda Octavia

The Octavia could be accused of being the dour, sensible choice in this category, but Skoda somehow keeps finding ways to keep it interesting and engaging. The recent four-headlight facelift isn’t perhaps the prettiest, but it’s different. The cabin is plain, but beautifully-made, spacious, and comfortable. The 1.0-litre turbo engine should be an economy special but is actually revvy and joyous. The RS models have poke, poise, and precision aplenty. The Combi estate is massive and useful, while the jacked-up 4x4 Scout model is massively useful. No wonder the Octavia has shot up so high in the Irish sales charts.

Best model: 1.1L Ti-VCT 70hp Zetec for €17,250 Price range: €19,965 to €43,155. Finance from €144 per month. Co2 emissions: 103 to 150g/km Sum up: Ticks every box on the Czech-list.

Wild Card: Citroen C4 Cactus

Now, there’s a lot wrong with the Cactus. It’s slightly too small to be truly competitive in the family hatchback arena. The rear windows don’t open. The interior looks slightly messy, and the decision to group almost all the major controls onto the touchscreen doesn’t really make a lot of sense. And yet, we do rather like it, not least because thanks to revised suspension and seats it now rides as comfortably as Citroens of yore, and it certainly looks distinctive. Not mainstream, by any means, but worth your attention if you’re after something different.

Best model: 1.2 PureTech 110hp Flair for €25,795 Price range: €19,995 to €26,695. Finance from €246 per month. Co2 emissions: 94 to 119g/km Sum up: Pricks your interest.

Incoming: Ford Focus; Toyota Auris; Kia Ceed; Mazda 3