Cheap two door sports cars
The 20 Best Hatchbacks Under $25,000
All hail the hatchback, king of fuel-efficient versatility.
Need a little fun with your practicality? Hatchbacks are a perfect way to move cargo and humans, and that large hatch in the back allows easy access to the storage area. Plus, hatchbacks have a penchant for fun. So here are 20 you can buy right now for less than $25,000.
EPA Fuel Economy (city/highway): 27/34
Rear Cargo Volume (cubic feet with seats up): 19.9
The Veloster was redesigned for 2019 but it kept its signature design feature: asymmetric doors. On the driver’s side, there’s a single long door. But the passenger side has two doors—with the rear handle hidden up in the corner of the trim, you consistently see onlookers taken aback when passengers alight from this hidden portal. In the original Veloster, that party trick was the main attraction, as the driving experience never really lived up to the promise of the adventurous design. Now it does, particularly in Turbo R-Spec guise, which is a performance bargain.
Available only with a manual transmission, the R-Spec gives you the 201-hp turbo engine, a B&M short shifter (they’re not just for Monte Carlos!) and 18-inch wheels with Michelin Pilot Sport summer performance tires. At the top of the lineup sits the Veloster N, a startlingly quick 275-hp shot across the bow of the Honda Civic Type R. While lesser Velosters pump synth exhaust noise through the sound system, the N gets a real-deal active exhaust to deliver snarls and crackles. But even a base 2.0-liter car enjoys new multilink rear suspension that drastically upgrades the handling, and all Velosters get automatic emergency braking. In its second generation, Hyundai’s funky hatch is about more than a door.
EPA Fuel Economy (city/highway): 28/38
Rear Cargo Volume (cubic feet with seats up): 8.7
To buy a Mini Cooper is to buy into Mini, the company, and its relentless Mini-ness. You don’t get a Mini because of its specs—although a 7.3-second 0–60 time for the base Cooper is pretty quick. You get it because you dig the iconic goggle-eyed styling, the interior toggle switches, the bountiful Union Jacks and Mini-logo Easter Eggs and general sense of playfulness. If you have a Mini you’ve probably named it, and that name is probably Nigel. BMW owns Mini, and this is clearly where the BMW designers go to have fun. Check the tachometer, for instance: a multicolor LED band wraps around the enormous circular center display on the dash, changing color as you approach redline. And convertible versions have an Openometer, which tracks how much time you’ve spent with the top down. A basic Mini starts in the low $20,000 range, but in true BMW fashion there are plenty of options that can loft the price beyond $30,000, and that’s before you even step to an S model.
Price: $30,895 ($23,385 after federal tax credit)
EPA Fuel Economy (city/highway MPGe): 124/99
Rear Cargo Volume (cubic feet with seats up): 23.6
The new second-generation Leaf is more powerful than the original while offering a much beefier 40-kWh battery. Its 150-mile range is still a long way off a Chevy Bolt, but the Leaf is also less expensive, an upscale commuter rather than a quasi-Tesla. With 236 lb-ft of torque at zero rpm, the Leaf can certainly torment its front tires off the line. And the available DC fast charging makes long trips feasible, as we discovered when we put 250 miles on a Leaf in a single day. In addition to the added range and power, Nissan also spiffed up the Leaf’s interior and gave it the ProPilot Assist driver-assistance package (lane-centering, automatic distance control). An electric drivetrain, with its lack of noise and vibration, naturally makes a car feel refined and expensive. So this time around, Nissan decided to make the Leaf look and feel the way it drives—like a premium vehicle. If you still wish it had more horsepower and a bigger battery, like a Bolt, that model is on the way. As is a system to use your Leaf’s battery as a backup generator for your house.
EPA Fuel Economy (city/highway): 32/42
Rear Cargo Volume (cubic feet with seats up): 17.8
The Corolla Hatchback steps into the void left by the departure of Scion, aiming to recruit at least a few customers with facial piercings. To that end, the Corolla offers a truly booming JBL sound system and a slick rev-matching six-speed manual transmission. Toyota also calls the front end styling “under priority catamaran,” which sounds endearingly mistranslated but is probably just designer-speak for “it looks wide from the front.” To appeal to a less-tatted demographic, the Corolla hatch can also be optioned like a junior Lexus, with leather and full-range dynamic cruise control that can handle stop-and-go traffic. Either way, the Corolla is good fun, especially in XSE trim with the bigger 18-inch wheels. Toyota even worked to make the CVT transmission—normally a certified joy-killing device—entertaining, adding a launch gear to help the car dig hard off the line. And you can start your Corolla Hatchback from your Apple watch. That’s cool.
EPA Fuel Economy (city/highway): 26/31
Rear Cargo Volume (cubic feet with seats up): 24.2
Yes, we’re including the Soul amongst the hatchbacks because that’s what it is—albeit an unusually rectilinear one. But the Soul is not an SUV. For one thing, it doesn’t offer all-wheel-drive. For another, it sports a mere 5.9 inches of ground clearance, exactly the same as a Subaru Legacy sedan. So the Soul is a car, and a charismatic one at that. The 130-hp base model comes with a six-speed manual transmission, but you can also get a 201-hp turbo with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. The optional Harmon-Kardon stereo has multicolor lights in the speakers, for those “DJ’ing the party out of my car down here by the railroad tracks” situations. There’s even an electric version, the Soul EV, which drives just like a Soul that’s extremely smooth and quiet. With the demise of the Nissan Cube, Honda Element and Scion xB, this is the last box standing. And it’s still popular: Kia’s sold more than 300,000 Souls over the past three years.
Price: $23,900 ($16,400 after federal tax credit)
EPA Fuel Economy (city/highway MPGe): 124/94
Rear Cargo Volume (cubic feet with seats up): 8.7
Smart is the first company to completely drop its gas engines in favor of electric power, and for the little two-seater the move makes a lot of sense. For one thing, the old Smart’s single-clutch sequential transmission was a herky-jerky mess. And electric power would seem to sync with the Smart’s likely mission as a short-haul urban runabout. The EQ’s range is only 58 miles, so this is strictly a car for defined local commutes. But in that context, it could work well—affordable, quick enough (0–60 in 11.4 seconds) and, with its 22.8-foot turning radius, legendarily easy to park. Unfortunately, U.S. cities never really got on board with their European counterparts to allow nose-in parking to the curb, which is what really makes Smarts invaluable in congested city centers. But hey, maybe you should give it a try. Better yet, take a Fortwo to a football game. The split hatch’s rear window opens skyward, but the bottom half folds down into a tiny little tailgate.
EPA Fuel Economy (city/highway): 37/43
Rear Cargo Volume (cubic feet with seats up): 17.2
OK, you’re not buying a Mitsubishi Mirage for performance. It’s got three cylinders and 78 furious horsepower. The Mirage exists purely to minimize your transportation costs, which it does with ruthless efficiency. A Mirage doesn’t cost much to buy and it won’t cost much to run, what with its 39-mpg EPA combined rating—the best rating for a gasoline nonhybrid car. Repairs shouldn’t make a big dent in your budget, either, with the powertrain warranty stretching to 10 years or 100,000 miles. The Mirage is a car for people who’d rather spend their money on things other than a car, who delight in minimizing the cost per mile and keep track of that stat on a dedicated spreadsheet.
All that said, the Mirage comes standard with a backup camera, a seven-inch touchscreen and Bluetooth. It has air conditioning and power windows. In plenty of other countries, it’d be considered luxurious. Here, it’s the car you get if you refuse the upgrade at the rental counter. Or if you want a new car that’s priced like a used one.
EPA Fuel Economy (city/highway): 29/48 (diesel)
Rear Cargo Volume (cubic feet with seats up): 22.7
It’s counterintuitive, but the most European-feeling hatchback on the market is a Chevy. That would be a Cruze diesel hatchback, which comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission and makes you feel like you feel like you should be programing your GPS for a run from Paris to Lyon. With Volkswagen banished from the diesel game, the handsome Cruze is now the only option for drivers who want a diesel hatchback. And while the Cruze’s 1.6-liter isn’t quite as smooth and sweet as VW’s naughty old TDIs, it does get 48 mpg on the highway and surges off the line with 240 lb-ft of torque. But if you want a quick Cruze, you’re better off with the 1.4-liter gasoline turbo, which delivers 0-60 in 7.7 seconds. For 2019, all Cruzes got a new front end that may be an acquired taste. Oh, and Chevy doesn’t make a big deal about its semi-autonomous driver assistance, but the Cruze’s lane-keeping system works really well.
EPA Fuel Economy (city/highway): 28/38
Rear Cargo Volume (cubic feet with seats up): 19
One of our longtime favorite hatches, the Chevrolet Sonic, was recently refreshed with a new headlamp, grill, and bumper treatment. Chevy has also widened the color palette for the Sonic, incorporated new wheel designs, and updated the interior with a new seven-inch infotainment system. Chevy says this is the first car in its class with an optional power driver’s seat. And all hatchbacks wear the sporty RS package with a sports exhaust, flat bottom steering wheel.
The Sonic’s mechanicals remain largely the same, meaning you’ll want to spend an additional $750 and have the torquier 1.4-liter turbo motor. When paired to the six-speed manual—it’s really fun. And speaking of fun, a few extra bucks spent will bring sharper handing. Chevy offers two lowered suspension options, which is very cool, and the cheapest way to get one (as long as you don’t mind green paint) is to opt for the Krypton Green package for $595. Of course, that puts the turbo Sonic at $20,880—but that’s still an excellent deal.
EPA Fuel Economy (city/highway): 25/36
Rear Cargo Volume (cubic feet with seats up): 22.8
Okay, yes the Golf is one of the cars involved in VW’s diesel scandal. But the diesel powertrain isn’t essential to the Golf’s goodness. Under the hood of the least expensive one is a 170-hp turbocharged four-cylinder. That’s a lot of horsepower for a car this size. And the full 199 lb-ft of torque available way down at 1,600 rpm really makes the Golf a quick little hatch.
Although it’s surprising that a car in this class would use a five-speed manual instead of a more modern six-speed. Regardless, it is a fun transmission to row through. Those looking for less to do can opt for the six-speed automatic. Unlike some small cars, the Golf feels rich and roomy on the inside with materials that seem to come from the next class up and rear seat that rivals large sedans.
Price: $16,500 (estimated)
EPA Fuel Economy (city/highway): 30/40 (estimated)
Rear Cargo Volume (cubic feet with seats up): 17.4
The new Rio 5 Door, refreshed in 2018, might lack some of the visual punch the last design, but it leads the class with optional technology. Since it rides on a lighter, stiffer all-new platform, it should be a better car to drive, too.
All models still use a 1.6-liter gasoline direct injection four-cylinder, but strangely horsepower and torque have dropped slightly to 130 hp and 119 lb-ft of torque. However, that engine can now be linked to a six-speed manual. A few years ago, Kia made the hatchback models six-speed automatic-only. And we’re excited the stick is back for ’18. The slightly longer wheelbase means there’s more room inside. In fact, rear seat legroom has expanded by almost 2.5-inches and cargo volume is up by 2.4 cu-ft to 17.4. And on a car in this class, that’s significant.
The new Rio 5 Door will come with an available 7-inch infotainment screen with Apple Carplay and Android Auto as well as an optional safety like autonomous emergency braking—a rarity in the class. Pricing and fuel economy haven’t been finalized, but considering the class, the new Rio should occupy space well below our $20,000 ceiling.
EPA Fuel Economy (city/highway): 30/36
Rear Cargo Volume (cubic feet with seats up): 15.6
The Toyota Yaris is a solid value in the subcompact hatchback class. So much so that the higher-level SE model can be had well under $20,000. For that price, actually for the base price of just over $15,000, the Yaris comes with Toyota’s suite of standard safety features that includes a pre-collision system, lane-departure alert, and automatic high beams.
The Yaris got a new look last year that includes the grille and bumpers. And the SE grade wears a blacked-out grille, larger 16-inch wheels, and a leather-trimmed steering wheel. Beneath the metal, the Yaris is the same basic machine it’s been since 2012, and that means it uses a relatively old 1.5-liter four-cylinder with 106 hp paired to a five-speed manual or an old-school four-speed automatic. When was the last time you saw a four-speed automatic in a new car?
In terms of powertrain prowess, the Yaris has definitely been eclipsed by its competitors. The bright spot in the lineup is the SE, which does come with a sportier suspension and makes the most of the car’s light (2,300 pound) weight.
EPA Fuel Economy (city/highway): 28/37
Rear Cargo Volume (cubic feet with seats up): 20.8
Subaru is a hatchback and wagon specialist. Buyers of the somewhat quirky brand are drawn to the more practical body style in every model Subaru makes. Almost three-quarters of Impreza sales will come from the five-door hatch. So, when Subaru engineers develop an all-new one—it better be good.
The durable all-wheel-drive Impreza rides on a fresh global platform, meaning it’s tuned with an excellent blend of ride and handling. Testers are particularly pleased with the quick steering which helps around town and its hustle in the canyons. A revised version of Subaru’s 2.0-liter flat-four cylinder now has direct fuel injection and makes 152 hp—up four over last year. The only manual transmission is old five-speed. A CVT automatic with manual shift controls is $1,000 more. The best driving of all Imprezas will be the Sport at just over $22,000, featuring unique suspension tuning and big 18-inch wheels.
EPA Fuel Economy (city/highway): 27/37
Rear Cargo Volume (cubic feet with seats up): 20.2
Pick any vehicle in Mazda’s lineup, and with few exceptions, it will be the most rewarding to drive in its >need to add anything to make it better. Mazda has given the Mazda3 a new front facial that brings it in line with the larger Mazda6. There’s also a fresh design for the interior.
The standard 155-hp 2.0-liter four cylinder comes paired to a slick-shifting six-speed manual and it easily moves this feathery 2,875-pound machine. Of course, an automatic is available, but it runs $1,050 more and puts this hatchback over $20,000. The 184-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder makes the Mazda3 even more fun, but you’ll need to drop over $23,000 to get there. Even with the standard 16-inch tires, this little hatch is a blast to throw into a set of curves. Mazda’s least expensive model also hits 37 mpg highway.
So is there anything that annoys us about this Mazda? Well, yes, it’s frustrating that Mazda’s iActivesense suite of safety features are only optional on the most expensive models. Why not allow the cheaper cars to have the tech, too?
EPA Fuel Economy (city/highway): 29/36
Rear Cargo Volume (cubic feet with seats up): 16.6
The Fit celebrated its tenth anniversary in the U.S. last year. Since the very first one launched here in 2006 as a 2007 model, the Fit has been a favorite among our editors for its sporty persona and benchmark levels of practicality. Unlike some of the cars on this list, the Fit only comes one way—as a hatchback. The all-new third-generation of the Fit launched two years with a larger interior (nearly 5 inches more rear-seat legroom) and a more potent 130-hp 1.5-liter four-cylinder that returns 33 mpg in the city and a whopping 40-mpg highway for models with the CVT. Yes, the latest Fit still drives with an enthusiasm missing from most small cars thanks to its sporty chassis and slick six-speed manual.
The Fit’s “magic” rear-seat bottom can be flipped up against the seatback to make room for really tall items. Fold those seats all the way down and there’s 52.7 cu-ft of cargo space. That’s better than some station wagons and it’s wonderfully handy for those unplanned trips to Ikea.
EPA Fuel Economy (city/highway): 26/38
Rear Cargo Volume (cubic feet with seats up): 23.8
The Ford Focus, like its little brother the Fiesta, offers a level of driving enjoyment not usually found in economy-minded hatchbacks. Credit the fact that these two arrived in the U.S. relatively unchanged from their European brethren. Of course, the hottest hatchback Focus is the all-wheel-drive 315-hp RS. It’s the high-performance Focus of our dreams. But no, you can’t have that one for $20,000.
Still, even the basic Focus feels great on a twisty road. Sedans have a choice of a thrifty 1.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and manual transmission, but every Focus hatchback now uses one powertrain. Under the hood is a standard 160-hp 2.0-liter with 146 lb-ft of torque paired to a six-speed automatic. Two years ago, Ford gave the Focus an updated look and a redesigned interior with new seat trim, switchgear and center console. That certainly makes an already hip hatchback even more appealing. But if we’re honest, after six model years, it’s time for an all-new Focus.
EPA Fuel Economy (city/highway): 27/35
Rear Cargo Volume (cubic feet with seats up): 14.9
The Fiesta is appealing not only for its crisp exterior design but also its sweet driving dynamics. It also helps that it’s really inexpensive. The unboosted 120-hp 1.6-liter engine is standard. Move up to the SE model and the torquier 1.0-liter turbocharged Ecoboost becomes a worthwhile option for $995. As an added bonus the tiny turbocharged motor improves fuel economy to 31 mpg city and 43 mpg highway, and when you opt for the manual transmission with either engine, the featherweight hatch is a real blast to run up a canyon road. Sync 3 voice-recognition system is optional and comes bundled with a 6.5 touchscreen with “swipe” and “pinch to zoom” navigation.
The top Fiesta, the ST, is a real hot hatch packing nearly 200 horsepower for just over $20,000. Though it’s technically over our $20,000. It would be tough not to stretch our car budget by a grand to afford the ST.
EPA Fuel Economy (city/highway): 28/33
Rear Cargo Volume (cubic feet with seats up): 9.5
It’s rare that cars actually get cheaper from one year to the next. But that’s exactly what’s happened with Fiat’s 500 lineup. Last year, the top Fiat 500 Abarth model was almost $23,000. But the company has lowered the price of all its 500 models, including the awesome Abarth. So, the hottest 500 now squeaks underneath our $20,000 limit.
The Abarth is a high-performance sub-compact hatch packing a 160-hp 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, a sportier suspension (which is really firm), bigger brakes and a totally rowdy exhaust note. It’s really loud and really fun to row through the gears of that five-speed manual. This has be one of the most entertaining cars under $20,000. Period.
An automatic runs another $995 but saps quite a few giggles. Cool-looking stripes add $295 and are worth the money to add some visual separation from the pedestrian 500s. And speaking of options, the Abarth has quite a few and they can get pricey. But the real problem with the Fiat 500—it’s tiny inside. There’s only 9.5 cu-ft of trunk volume. That’s less room than a Porsche Boxster.
EPA Fuel Economy (city/highway): 31/39
Rear Cargo Volume (cubic feet with seats up): 18.8
Since its launch in 2014, the Nissan Versa Note has long been one of the cleanest designs in the company’s lineup. Well, this year the Note gets a more distinctive grille and headlamp treatment to bring it in line with other Nissans. The Note is powered by Nissan’s 1.6-liter four-cylinder and mates solely to a CVT transmission.
Early in the Note’s life span, a five-speed manual was available on the least expensive models. But that’s unfortunately no longer the case. However, the company has re-tuned that CVT this year to make the experience feel a little sportier. To help boost fuel economy, Nissan has added active grill shutters that limit the air entering the engine room at certain speeds and conditions, boosting aerodynamics. The Versa Note is reasonably roomy on the inside with a solid 38.3-inches of legroom available for rear-seat passengers. And a strong spec there makes a difference for those who need to install cumbersome rear-facing child seats.
EPA Fuel Economy (city/highway): 30/39
Rear Cargo Volume (cubic feet with seats up): 25.7
Honda’s incredibly popular Civic was the sixth-best-selling car in the U.S. last year with more than 335,000 of them finding homes, and there are plenty of great reasons why. Its chassis is athletic, the steering is accurate, and the Civic is large enough to haul a family just as well as an Accord.
Honda hadn’t had a Civic hatch since the fun-living Si hatchback of 2002 to 2005. This new one isn’t just a Civic sedan with a liftback. The hatchback model is shorter by over four inches, and it’s engineered in England with firmer dampers and recalibrated steering for even more liveliness. This Civic hatch can swallow ten cu-ft of more stuff in the cargo hold, too. The base LX model barely sneaks under our $20,000 price cap. But if there’s an extra $1600 in the coffers, the Sport trim is worth the money.
The stance is more aggressive, there’s a neat center-mount exhaust system and the Civic’s 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder produces 180 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque—six more horsepower and fifteen lb-ft of torque more than the LX. And for those looking to maximize efficiency, CVT transmission models return a solid 40 mpg highway.