By Suzanne Kane

Hatchbacks are a great compromise between a coupe and a sedan, offering more space for people and cargo, plus sportiness, within reason. When it comes to buying a used hatchback, here are three of the top best, using expert sources such as Edmunds (“Used Cars, Best of the Best”), Consumer Reports (“Most Reliable Used Cars”), Motor Trend and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). It should be noted that Edmunds bases their choices on reliability, safety and economy and limits vehicles from 2002 to 2007. Consumer Reports choices cover vehicles with multiple years of above average reliability, plus performance. This list of best three used hatchbacks is determined by combing through all the research and picking models that stand out on multiple lists.

  • Toyota Prius (2004-2009) – The second-generation hybrid’s snub-nosed design, say the editors of Edmunds, provides ample space for passengers and cargo. Edmunds also likes that Prius is easy to park, gets excellent fuel economy and decent performance, listing the hatchback hybrid in its Used Car Best of the Best for the years 2004-2007. Consumer Reports counts Prius among its most reliable family cars, while Motor Trend touts it as the “worlds’ best-selling hybrid… with sales over one million.” The IIHS rates 2004-2009 Prius with Good in Front and Side impact testing.
  • Honda Fit (2007-2009) – Now in its second generation (the first being 2007 and 2008), Motor Trend lauds the 2009 Fit, which gets 27 mpg city/34 mpg highway as “good things come in small packages.” Consumer Reports places the 2007-2008 Fit Sport in the category of best cars that get 30 miles per gallon or more – with an overall mpg of 33. IIHS ranks the 2009 Fit as one of its Top Safety Pcks, and the 2007-2009 gets Good in Front/Side impact testing. Edmunds’ editors say the first generation Fit has “an enviable driving-fun-to-thrift ratio,” but says the engine makes its presence known at highway speeds and lack of telescoping steering wheel might bother some drivers.
  • Ford Focus (2003-2009) – In its review of the 2003 Ford Focus entry-level car, Edmunds hails the hatchback’s 2009_Ford_Focus_Coupe_5“thoughtful ergonomics, large interior, smooth ride, sharp steering…” but comments that the “seats aren’t comfortable for everone.” Consumer Reports lists the Focus in its Most Reliable Used Cars (family) and on its list of cars with best overall mpg of 30 or more (2003-2007). IIHS names Focus as a Top Safety Pick for 2009, and 2008 and 2009 models with standard airbags get Good ratings in Front/Side impact testing.

Of course, there other choices for used hatchbacks. Motor Trend says of the Volkswagen Gti that “no one does sport hatchbacks like VW.” Toyota Yaris, Scion tC and Nissan Versa are on several lists. And Kelley Blue Book lists the 2005 MINI Cooper as one of the best hatchbacks expected to hold its value in the next 5 years. Remember, choosing the best used hatchback for your purposes is purely a personal choice that you base on criteria important to you. Reliability, fuel economy, fun-to-drive character and good performance, plenty of room and eye-catching design may help you decide among what’s out there.

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