Best Car To Buy 2014: The Hatchback Nominees

November 7, 2013
It's safe to say that hatchbacks are back, and a growing part of the market. With a number of bold, practical small hatches like the Fiat 500 and the MINI Cooper, as well as sleek, long fastbacks with hatches like the Audi A7 and Tesla Model S, there are plenty of ways that American shoppers are letting go of any associations that hatches might be inferior, or frumpy.

And let's not forget that all crossovers are essentially hatchbacks (or wagons).

Whichever term you'd prefer, hatchbacks offer more cargo space, as well as more versatility when it's time to carry either large pieces of cargo, or a mix of passengers and stuff—all while delivering, in many cases, that superior style statement.

Our Best Car To Buy 2014 nominees in this category, the Kia Soul and Mazda 3, are both small, economical (and generally very affordable) cars, but they couldn't be more different in some respects. Choice like this is great, and excellence takes very different forms.

Each of these models earn an Overall Score of at least 8.0 in our full reviews; we rate every vehicle for Styling, Performance, Safety, and Features, and while that's all figured in, you can browse those individual sections on every vehicle based on your own priorities.

Browse the following pages to see a more details on our hatchback 2014 Best Car To Buy Nominees, and check back for more leading up to our big November 12 announcement.


2014 Kia Soul

2014 Kia Soul

Kia Soul

Overall Rating: 8.4
Bottom Line: The 2014 Kia Soul doesn’t stray from its iconic profile, but it dons more sophistication inside and underneath—with fewer compromises and all in the name of city-friendly, tall-wagon goodness.

Over the past several years, the Kia Soul has shown that there's room in the market for a quirky, boxy small hatchback—plenty of room, actually, as the Soul has become a hit with frugal yet fashionable types of all ages, who want hatchback practicality with a little bit more. With the all-new 2014 Soul, Kia was careful to keep all that goodness intact—including the verve of the original design—but the brand put new attention into ride, handling, and cabin appointments. The packaging is again near-perfect; a new infotainment system works without lagginess; and there are lots of features packed into the $15,495 base model. The only real disappointment is that Kia didn't pay more attention to engine noise. All said, the Soul is just a little less of an outlier this time, but that's a good thing.

2014 Mazda 3 5-door i Touring

2014 Mazda 3 5-door i Touring

Mazda 3

Overall Rating: 8.0
Bottom Line: The 2014 Mazda 3 is no longer a niche compact; this year's redesign makes it a mainstream player that doesn't lose its sporty edge.

The Mazda 3 has long been one of the top small-car picks for those who appreciate a sporty driving experience but need an affordable, practical car with low running costs. As a hatchback, the Mazda 3 is once again at its best, as the five-door model makes the most of the curvy new 'Kodo' design theme shared with the Mazda 6. Mazda could have done a bit better with its interfaces, and in reconciling the racy exterior lines with back-seat and cargo practicality, but there's a lot to love here. The all-new 2014 Mazda 3 is not just quieter, more refined, and more fuel-efficient, but in 3s versions, it's sportier as well—and that's quite an achievement.

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