2018 appears to be the year of the compact crossover, but there’s still room for four fantastic 4-door compact hatchbacks for drivers who put driving pleasure at the top of their wish list.
Since Volkswagen showed up with the GTI here in 1983, hot hatchbacks have been a popular and practical alternative to sports cars for those who need their car to serve double duty as their fun car and also their practical car. We have compiled four of the best on sale today based on BestRide testing. Here are the four best in four separate price categories.
2018 Hyundai Elantra GT Sport – $25K to $29K
The headline of this post implies that the Elantra GT is “bare bones,” but it’s far from it. It may be the lowest priced member of the BestRide fantastic four, but it’s far from stripped, and may well be our favorite overall. The GT Sport version of the Elantra is a four-door hatch, just like every vehicle on this list. That makes it practical and roomy. You may be surprised to find that the Elantra GT Sport is the largest and roomiest vehicle on this list. In fact, the EPA calls this compact car a “large” car due to its 96 cubic feet of interior space and 25 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats. Now that the practical stuff is covered, let’s get right down to why this car made this list. 201 hp, 195 lb-ft of torque, and a six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual clutch automatic. That is good enough for a 0-60 MPH time in the low 6-second range. However, it was the great handling that we fell in love with.
The Elantra GT Sport has all the right moves. Hyundai says it tuned the chassis on a racetrack in Germany. We don’t care how they go it to be this good, we’re just glad they did. Take the Elantra GT Sport for a quick test drive and you will fall in love. That Hyundai makes the interior upscale and includes features like Android Auto that you can’t get in the highest priced vehicle on this list is just icing on the cake. With an EPA-estimated 28 MPG combined on regular fuel, the Elantra GT Sport is also the most efficient car on this list.
2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI – $27K to $37K
The VW Golf GTI is a living legend. We are not the first to put the GTI on a list of fantastic cars and we won’t be the last. Like the Elantra GT Sport, the GTI offers drivers a choice of a six-speed manual or a dual-clutch auto with paddle shifters. We’ve tested both and they both work exceptionally well. With 220 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, the GTI is real-world quick. That power will get you to 60 MPH just a few tenths of a second quicker than the Hyundai Elantra GT. However, it’s not raw power that makes the GTI so special, but the overall package.
Inside, the GTI is “VW cool.” Fans know it well. Plaid is available (and suggested) and the simple dash is perfect for driver-focused operation. The Golf GTI handles superbly. We’ve tracked the GTI back to back with the more expensive Golf Type R in the past and found surprisingly little difference between them in terms of the handling and enjoyment, despite the AWD of the more expensive — and significantly more powerful — Type R.
2018 Ford Focus RS – $42K
Interestingly, the 2018 Ford Focus RS will be the last of its generation. Ford thinks it needs to be faster. Given that the Focus RS is already a sub-5-second car 0-60 MPH, and has 350 hp, we are very interested to see what comes next. When we tested the Focus RS, we were surprised to find that it had an almost identical overall performance to the Mustang GT (2017). From our point of view, it was the more tossable, more enjoyable car for back-roads blasts. No automatic choice here. Just the six-speed manual gearbox for maximum involvement.
Inside, the Focus RS is all business. Microfiber suede seats and thick side bolsters keep you in place during drift mode. The steering wheel is meaty and the shifter is slick. The Focus RS is not the car on this list in which to pick up your boss at the airport. Unless she is the coolest boss ever.
2018 BMW X2 – $39K to $52K
Have you been dying for a hatchback 2 Series? Or a slightly smaller 3 Series compact all-wheel drive wagon? Well, your dream has come true. We don’t really know what the X2 is, but we love it. Like every car on this list, the X2 starts with a front-wheel drive platform and a turbocharged engine. BMW’s X2 makes about 220 HP from its 2-liter turbo, good enough for a low-six-second time from 0-60 MPH. It’s not a rocket like the Focus, but its optional AWD system puts all of the power down, all of the time. Available only with a paddle-shifter-equipped 8-speed automatic, the X2 is the only car on this list without a manual option. We didn’t miss it in our recent full test. The X2 has that special something BMW bakes into its best vehicles. Handling is amazing, and the X2 is the best highway car on this list.
The interior of the X2 is near perfect. BMW even made extra space for taller drivers’ right knee when designing the center console. All the usual BMW features are available, but they don’t come free. This fantastic four-door hatchback is the premium choice on our list.