The hatchback first appeared in Europe during the early sixties, and some examples even date back to the late thirties and pre-WWII. It took them a while and a little bit of good fortune, but they finally migrated to North American markets in the early seventies. Of course, global downsizing in the car industry imposed by the oil crisis of 1973 played a major role in that; suddenly, the practical yet cumbersome station wagon (mostly powered by V8 engines) became a heavy burden on the average car owner’s budget. Hatchbacks were smaller, much more economical and still more practical than the favorite American body style: the sedan. The same philosophy works today as well, more or less, which is why we’ve gone through the trouble of rounding up the best hatchbacks 2019 is bringing our way, which we’ve also already done for MY 2018.
The Blue Oval hatchback hasn’t been fully redesigned since the third generation’s debut in 2012, and that’s more than evident. With competition already freshened up, the Focus has definitely fallen out of…well, focus. It’s aging rapidly and the new model couldn’t have come at a more opportune moment. The 2019 Ford Focus won’t offer that many changes overall, though; the shape remains mostly unchanged as if it’s yet another mid-cycle refresh we’re talking about and not a full makeover. The new car will be slightly longer and wider, and it’ll sport an entirely new interior – something past generations have struggled with. What’s more, the Blue Oval will source the hatchback from their new assembly in China instead of building it in Mexico as was originally intended. The current Ford Focus is still being built in Wayne, Michigan.
The powertrain lineup should remain the same. This means that all Ford Focus hatchbacks will continue offering EcoBoost engines. The sporty ST model should be available straightaway, but the RS might skip MY 2019 altogether. The question that remains unanswered is: will the Blue Oval stick with the 6-speed automatics or will they offer something more complex in that regard? That’s something we’ll have to wait a bit longer to find out. For now it would seem they’ve played it safe, but that doesn’t mean the new model won’t be better than the current Focus.
The current third-generation BN Mazda 3 is hands-down one of the most handsome hatchbacks on the market. It follows the Japanese automaker’s exterior design philosophy that’s become a hallmark feature of all Mazda vehicles in the last few years. The 5-door hatchback Mazda 3 is $1,300 more expensive than its 4-door sedan counterpart, but it provides almost double the cargo space with the rear seats folded. Other than that, there are no real differences between the two body styles. MY 2019 will, however, bring at least one important update to the powertrain department, and likely an entire body revision.
The Japanese manufacturer’s cars are efficient and fun to drive mostly thanks to their revolutionary SkyActiv-G engine technology. Mazda isn’t resting on its laurels, though, and is preparing a whole new generation of SkyActiv-X powerplants. These new engines will be able to use extremely lean fuel mixtures like the homogeneous-charge compression-ignition engines. The HCCI engine doesn’t use spark plugs for ignition since such lean fuel mixtures can’t be ignited by them, but the SkyActiv-X tech does. Mazda’s new engines manage that by using a second dollop of fuel that isn’t as lean as the primary air/fuel mixture. This secondary mixture gets ignited by a spark plug, raises the cylinder pressure and, in turn, combusts the primary mixture. The new engine tech is promising even better efficiency and more power, but it seems that engine noise may need some more fine-tuning.
The subcompact hatchbacks might not offer best-in-class efficiency or the most powerful of engines; it neither wins the cargo room war nor does it sport a class-leading set of features. Yet, it does all of the above more than admirably and offers a well-rounded package of perks that simply can’t be overlooked. It especially excels in the cargo room department where its folding rear seat does wonders. When fully folded down, Honda’s Magic Seat increases the Fit’s starting 16.6 cubic feet of cargo space to a whopping 52.7 cubes. Magic seat indeed.
Despite coming with a single 1.5L 4-cylinder engine that makes 130 horsepower, the Honda Fit still offers two transmission choices. The 6-speed manual arguably utilizes the small 4-cylinder’s potential better than the CVT, but it fails in the efficiency department. 33 mpg combined isn’t as good as the CVT gearbox’s 36 mpg combined, but the latter drones a lot and generally has trouble with acceleration. The 2019 Honda Fit won’t offer any substantial changes, but the small hatch has become much more advanced over the years already. With entry-level models starting from just north of $16,000, the Honda Fit is definitely one of the best buy options currently available.
Precious few vehicles can offer what the Chevy Bolt does in terms of money savings on gasoline. This dedicated small electric hatchback is one of the few such vehicles currently available, and it’s making the most of its situation. MY 2019 will spawn a number of new competitors for the Bolt, but GM’s subcompact hatch won’t be changed radically. Some sources are suggesting it’ll receive new semi-autonomous driving technology, but other than that only new colors and possibly trim options will be introduced.
GM’s dedicated electric hatchback currently delivers up to 238 gasoline-free miles according to the EPA. The Bolt EV owes this impressive figure to its 60 kWh lithium-ion battery and a 200-hp permanent magnet electric motor combo. Its starting price currently reads $37,495, but the available $7,500 federal tax credit will cut it down to just under $30,000. The Chevrolet Bolt has obviously taken care of the range and economy, but there’s still one looming issue that makes it a niche vehicle of sorts: the dreaded state of current supercharging station infrastructure.
EV owners would likely agree that General Motors would be better off investing in their supercharger network rather than investing in the Bolt directly. The small hatchback isn’t capable of making interstate trips as things stand right now – not if you’re unwilling to commit to almost a half-day stop for a recharge, in any case. Since its undercutting most of its competitors in terms of price, as soon as GM improves its rapid charging station network, the Chevy Bolt stands a chance of becoming one of the best hatchbacks 2019 will have to offer.
Volkswagen Golf GTI
The Volkswagen Golf GTI has always been and continues to be the definition of a hot hatch. Prior to the upcoming debut of the eighth-generation Golf for MY 2020, the iconic compact will put on the Golf 7 moniker one last time. The 2019 Volkswagen Golf will hence arrive unchanged, but all-time-favorite GTI models have already been updated recently. They all received new, larger touchscreen displays and numerous interior updates that make them more advanced than their predecessors. Trims have been shuffled as well and the Golf GTI now comes in the S, SE, and Autobahn grades with each raising the price tag by between $4,000 and $5,000.
The SE and Autobahn models come with 8-inch screens, larger brakes, and an electronically-actuated torque-sensing limited-slip differential. The latter also throws in adaptive dampers and a Fender premium audio system. Regardless of your choice of trim, all Golf GTIs come with the same 220-horsepower 2.0L turbo four mill. The only way to beat that is to opt for the Golf R, which yields 292 ponies and starts perilously close to the $40,000 mark. As always, the Volkswagen Golf offers better interior quality and overall feel than all of its direct competitors, and GTI models hit the sweet spot in terms of bang for your buck. The GTI has been an exceptional car for decades now, and will again be one of the best hatchbacks 2019 brings our way.
Audi A3 Sportback e-tron
The 5-door compact luxury plug-in hybrid hatchback from Audi doesn’t come cheap. The A3 e-tron Sportback starts from $39,500, while fully stacked models easily surpass the $50,000 mark. Although that’s a lot of money for a compact hatchback, the plug-in hybrid Audi A3 is one of precious few cars in its segment. With the BMW 3 Series undergoing a full redesign next year, and the Grand Turismo hatchback model likely leaving the game by then, the A3 Sportback will remain one of the only German luxury compact hatches on the market.
Thanks to its 1.4L 4-cylinder engine, a 101-horsepower electric motor and an 8.8 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, the A3 e-tron generates up to 201 horsepower. It also allows up to 16 miles of all-electric range and either 34 mpg combined or 83 MPGe. It takes 8 hours to fully charge one, but a 220-volt Bosch charger that comes standard with the A3 cuts that to 2 hours. The 2019 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron won’t bring any substantial changes since the all-new model is likely to arrive in 2020. Regardless, the stylish and luxurious plug-in hybrid should still be one of the best hatchbacks 2019 is bringing our way.
Most of the compact Kia Forte’s sales come from the sedan, but the favorite American body style isn’t all that the Forte has to offer. The Forte5 hatchback is also a major part of the lineup with the price tag $1,500 higher than that of the sedan. It’s generally more powerful than its sedan sibling since neither of the Forte5 trims dabbles with the Atkinson-cycle 147-horsepower version of the 2.0L 4-cylinder engine. The Forte5 hatchback generates either 164 horsepower or 201 ponies in the top SX trim, which benefits from the 1.6L turbo four unit. Similar setup will likely carry over into 2019.
The 2019 Kia Forte sedan has actually already been revealed at this year’s Detroit auto show. The new model is sharp-looking and features a fastback-like rear end with a shortened overhang. It’s 3.2 inches longer and slightly taller and wider than the outgoing model. Similar growth philosophy can be expected in the Forte5 hatchback as well. Whether it’ll receive a new CVT gearbox remains to be seen. The sedan will come with a standard 6-speed manual and, for the first time, an optional CVT for upgraded fuel economy, which should see the new Forte sedan deliver up to 3 mpg more than the current model. The 2019 Kia Forte will also feature 54% more high-strength steel in its frame which should ensure it gets top crash scores.
Buick Regal Sportback
Being one of the most iconic Buick nameplates still around, it’s not surprising that the Tri-Shield badge’s sales revolved heavily around the good old Regal. However, the aging Regal sedan couldn’t keep up with the more advanced competition and its sales took a nosedive in 2017. This had a heavy impact on the brand as a whole, hence they decided to pull a somewhat unorthodox move. The new Buick Regal that goes under the Sportback moniker is now a hatchback. The Euro-styled intermediate will also be available as the TourX wagon, while the good old sedan remains a Chinese market exclusive.
The 2019 Buick Regal Sportback doesn’t only bring new styling to the table. The new car is also larger and up to 500 pounds lighter than the fifth-generation models. It’s powered by a sporty 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine which makes 250 horsepower. It also develops 260 lb-ft or 295 lb-ft of torque if equipped with front- or all-wheel drive respectively. The former is fitted with a 9-speed automatic transmission while the latter comes with an 8-speed auto. The new Buick Regal Sportback is already available for the starting sticker of $25,000. The final step on the performance ladder costs $40,000, on the other hand. It’s the iconic GS, which draws its 310 horses from a 3.6L V6 engine – the first V6 in an intermediate Buick after 13 years. The Buick Regal Sportback GS is currently the most powerful Tri-Shield badge car alongside the new LaCrosse.
Who knows, maybe if this new sales move works for them, they could justify sticking a turbo on the V6 model and we might finally see a comeback from the Grand National trim.
Hyundai Elantra GT
The recently redesigned Hyundai Elantra GT hatchback keeps things nice and simple. It’s available in two trims, each with its own focuses and perks. The conventional Elantra GT comes with a 2.0L 4-cylinder engine delivering 161 hp and 150 lb-ft of torque. The Hyundai Elantra GT Sport, on the other hand, sports a 1.6L turbo four mill capable of producing 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. Both are standard with a 6-speed manual, but offer an optional automatic as well. The former can be ordered with a 6-speed unit while the latter comes with a 7-speed dual-clutch.
Apart from offering a great amount of cargo space and good fuel economy figures, the 2019 Hyundai Elantra might just offer the first all-electric version of the compact car. A zero-noise and zero-emission Elantra has apparently already been caught testing, although in a more popular sedan form. It’ll almost certainly share all of its electric components with the Ioniq and Kona EVs, which promise between 200 and 250 miles of range. Whether the hatchback Elantra GT is going to receive this all-electric powertrain like the sedan apparently will is still open for a debate. Furthermore, the electric Elantra might not even make it to the U.S. market. Regardless, the possibility itself is rather intriguing.
Honda Civic Type R
The Honda Civic Type R is hands-down one of the most exciting hot hatches on the market. As such, it was always in contention for one of the best hatchbacks 2019 will bring our way. The tenth-generation Honda Civic debuted for MY 2016 with hatchbacks following a year later. The coveted Type R arrived later still, but at least it’s not going anywhere, and the Japanese automaker won’t be fixing what ain’t broken anytime soon. In other words, the 2019 Honda Civic Type R won’t be bringing any unnecessary changes. For around $34,000, you’ll be getting a whopping 306 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque courtesy of a turbocharged 2.0L 4-cylinder engine which generates 23.2 psi of boost and redlines at 7,000 rpm.
Not only does the Civic Type R perform and look more aggressively than its conventional siblings, but it also sports a number of upgrades you won’t be able to see with your eyes. One such upgrade is a front-strut suspension Honda calls the Dual Axis, which almost completely eliminates torque steer using a carefully mapped engine computer which allows the Type R to run like a charm. All things considered, the Honda Civic Type R isn’t just your run-of-the-mill hot hatch, but a well-balanced powerful compact which looks good, handles even better, and makes even the best sporty hatchbacks dull in comparison.