Hatchbacks make perfect sense as economy cars. They do a bang-up job as sporty runabouts too, when pressed. When they're pressed into duty as the planet's defenders, well, that's when we like hatchbacks best.
Our pick for the Best Hatchback To Buy 2018 is the Chevrolet Bolt EV.
Chevy's first mass-market electric car does some fascinating things for the company that once held the future of the electric car in its hands, as the Saturn EV1. The Bolt EV erases that from most memory cards, makes the Nissan Leaf a second-ran in terms of range, and gives shoppers a real alternative to gas-powered cars, with its excellent 238-mile range.
MORE: Read all about our Best Car To Buy 2018 awards
We've now spent many dozens of hours behind the wheel of the Bolt EV, in snow and sun, at the fringes of its battery pack's charge. What remains with us after every drive, is how utterly normal the Bolt EV can feel.
The marvel of technology comes from the Bolt EV's all-electric drivetrain. Those 238 miles of range come in a package priced below $40,000 (before possible federal tax credits of up to $7,500 and state incentives). The Bolt EV can recharge on a 240-volt line in about 9 hours. A quick-charge of 2 hours can get it 50 miles, more than enough to power most daily errands, and a fast-charge port is available.
Acceleration is brisk, handling is economy-car perky, and the Bolt EV rarely belies the fact that its mechanicals are much simpler than those complex, antiquated things we call internal-combustion engines.
MORE: Read Green Car Reports' first drive of the Chevy Bolt EV
The Bolt EV never forgets it's a hatchback first, which we appreciate when we use all the 17 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats. It's wide and flat, thanks to a battery pack that lies under the floor and under the rear seats. Those back benches fold down for 56 cubic feet of storage space, better than Chevy's own Cruze hatchback, with a hidden storage compartment below that floor.
With a touchscreen interface that's smartphone-friendly, brightly styled interior trim that looks a cut above economy-car standards, and above all, its gas-free driving experience, the Bolt EV leaps beyond even the great hatchbacks we'd normally recommend, cars like the Honda Civic. The Civic delivers everything we expect in a hatchback; the Bolt EV delivers the future.
(The 2018 model-year Bolt EV will essentially be carried over from the 2017 model. Stay tuned for our full review.)