Best Hatchback Cars in Canada: Our 10 Top Picks
If cars are becoming rarer and rarer due to the massive popularity of SUVs, hatchback compact cars are even harder to find, especially in 2023, an era in which some carmakers have essentially given up on manufacturing cars altogether on North American soil.
However, if you still favour a good old hatchback over a lifted utility vehicle, fear not, as the current automotive industry still offers a decent amount of models that come with their fair share of great qualities. As a matter of fact, hatchback compact cars have never been so good. Here are our 10 best picks.
If you’re in the process of buying a 5-door hatch now, you can view all the cars on this list in our used hatchback page here. All our vehicles go through a thorough inspection before arriving at your door. You’ve got 7 days to drive it and decide if you really do love it. If not? You get a full refund – it’s really that simple. Now, let’s get on with the list.
10) Kia Rio
2023 Kia Rio | Photo: Kia
Who is this for? Consumers looking for a simple, straight forward sub-compact hatchback car that won’t be expensive to buy nor to run.
Why we like it:
- Cheap, fuel-efficient, and packed with value
- Surprisingly fun to drive
- A lot of practicality in a cute, compact package
In this age of rapid inflation, high interest rates and expensive gasoline, a small, affordable, and straight forward automobile suddenly makes a lot of sense. Kia gets it, which is why it still sells the adorable Rio here in Canada.
With pretty much all subcompact cars now gone, except for the Nissan Sentra sedan, the Rio now has all the room to shine bright. And shine it does. Don’t let its small stature and cheap price tag fool you, because the Rio is a fantastic little car. It’s just as well built as Kia’s more expensive vehicles. It comes loaded with standard features you normally need to pay extra in other cars, things like wireless Android Auto et Apple CarPlay. It’s peppy, fun to drive and while it remains a small car, it offers impressive practicality due to its handy hatchback configuration.
One last thing: the Rio's reliability record is impressive. Ask people who run a fleet of delivery cars for their restaurants. They’ll tell you that the Rio can’t be killed!
9) Kia Forte5
2023 Kia Forte5 | Photo: Kia
Who is this for? Consumers looking for a compact hatchback car, but that favour value and a low price over refinement and technology.
Why we like it:
- A darn good bang for the buck
- GT model is surprisingly sporty
- A Canadian exclusive!
When thinking about a compact hatchback car, it’s easy to forget that the Kia Forte5 still exists. Yet, it does, but only in Canada. That’s right: our US friends don’t get this model, which makes it kind of a neat Canadian exclusive.
Beyond that, the Forte5 has some endearing qualities. Yes, it’s true that from a refinement and technology standpoint, it’s not up there with segment leaders like the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla or Mazda3. And while its hatchback trunk is rather large at 428 litres, it’s considerably smaller than the Golf, the Civic and even the Corolla’s trunk space.
But it’s the overall package that still allows the Forte5 to be worth considering. For starters, it’s affordable, with a starting price of just over $26,000, this compact hatchback comes pretty well equipped. And at $27,655, the 201-horsepower Forte5 GT is a fantastic hot hatchback bargain. In this form, the Forte5 is quick off the line and handles well too.
8) Volvo V60
2022 Volvo V60 | Photo: Volvo
Who is this for? Consumers looking for a compact hatchback that’s a bit more premium, offers Volvo’s legendary comfort, design and safety features, and that can be had with a plug-in hybrid option.
Why we like it:
- One of the last true compact wagons still on sale
- Comes with sexy Scandinavian design
- Available plug-in hybrid powertrain
Yes, we’re aware that the Volvo V60 isn’t exactly a compact hatchback, but rather a compact station wagon. But considering how rare these kinds of cars have become in North America, we felt it was important to put the Volvo on this list.
The V60 also happens to be a fantastic premium car, one that wonderfully conveys all of Volvo’s unique and at times quirky traits. For starters, it looks stunning and properly Swedish. Then there’s the overall build quality and comfort of the darn thing. You’ll never get tired of sitting in these seats.
But although it’s that feeling of luxury, its stunning designs, and its obsessive goal to build the safest cars on the road that allow Volvo to really distinguish itself from the pack, it’s the fact that it also offers clean drivetrains that all use some form of electrification that really sets it apart.
From the entry-level B5 engine that utilizes mild hybrid technology to lower its emissions and improve its fuel economy, to the top-tier Recharge model that will allow you to drive up to 60 km on pure electricity, no matter which Volvo V60 you choose, you’ll be making an environmentally conscious purchase.
7) Subaru Impreza
2024 Subaru Impreza RS hatchback | Photo: Subaru
Who is this for? Consumers looking for the best possible all-wheel drive system in a compact car, and seeking something affordable and decently fuel efficient.
Why we like it:
- The best all-wheel drive system for Canadian winters
- Tried and tested drivetrain
- Well priced
At the 2022 Los Angeles Auto Show, Subaru pulled the drape off an all-new Impreza scheduled for the 2024 model year. While some argue that from a technical and design standpoint, the car doesn’t change much, this could be precisely what its target buyers are looking for.
Because the Impreza has never been the technology king in the segment, but rather the all-wheel drive underdog that, through a well executed package, decent price, and capable drivetrain, was always a win-win solution for Canadian consumers.
Therefore, we felt the Impreza deserves a spot on this list. Subaru’s renowned symmetrical all-wheel drive system is hands down the one that’s the best suited for our harsh winter conditions. And it’s thanks to Subaru’s renowned Subaru flat-four engine that it’s so good due to a low center of gravity and an evenly distributed weight distribution.
What’s more, the Impreza is the only compact car on this list to come standard with all-wheel drive. It’s not optional. And you can get a decently equipped model for less than $30,000, a rare quality in this day and age – and the reason it made our list of the 10 Best AWD Sedans in Canada.
6) Hyundai Kona N/Hyundai Kona Electric
2022 Hyundai Kona N | Photo: Amee Reehal
Who is this for? Consumers looking for something a little different: a subcompact crossover that can act as a true hot hatchback on a closed race circuit, or that simply be darn good electric car.
Why we like it:
- Hot hatchback performance in a tiny SUV package
- Available as an equally fun and quick EV
- Practical and easy to live with
Yes, we’re aware that the Hyundai Kona isn’t a compact car. It’s a subcompact SUV. But when Hyundai decided to fiddle with it by offering it as a fire-breathing N model, or an all-electric alternative, the humble little Kona suddenly started having compact car attributes.
While we continue to find the idea of a Kona N rather amusing, we must admit that we quickly fell in love with the package when we drove it all-out at the Sonoma race circuit last year. In N form, the Kona has nothing in common with an SUV, but feels more like a true hot hatchback. This allows it to hold its own against cars like the Honda Civic Type R or the Volkswagen Golf R.
If you are considering a VW hot hatch, also read our Volkswagen Golf GTI vs 2022 Hyundai Kona N comparison review.
The Kona N is quick, shifts like a race car, hugs the road in corners, adapts its suspension according to different drive modes, exhibits fantastic chassis tuning and emits some of the most satisfying exhaust noises this side of a Lamborghini. How can we not want to put this odd creation on our list?
Oh, and if lowering your carbon emissions is a priority for you, know that in Electric form, the Kona is just as amusing. Its claimed 400-km driving range is still highly competitive and the available 291 lb-ft of instant torque at the front wheels make it one heck of a fun little runabout. Plus, it’s eligible for federal EV rebates.
5) MINI Cooper
2022 MINI Cooper SE | Photo: Chris Chase
Who is this for? Consumers looking for something a little more eccentric and expressive from their compact hatchback car.
Why we like it:
- MINI’s expected joyful spirit
- A wide range of available versions
- Can be had in a charming fully electric version
MINI may be small, but it’s made big ripples in the automotive industry since it was brought back to life in the early 2000s. May we add that the entire MINI lineup, including its parent company BMW, has greatly improved its reliability record in recent years.
So, while it’s true that a MINI product will cost you more than something Japanese or South-Korean – it’s a premium brand after all – its vehicles are no longer the reliability nightmare they once were.
At the center of the MINI brand sits the Cooper, the model that encompasses everything that defines the brand. This is why MINI offers this charming little hatchback in a slew of available models. You can have your MINI as a three door, or a five door.
It can be powered by a humble turbocharged 3-cylinder engine, or spit out up to 228 horsepower in the high-performance John Cooper Works version. There’s the “sweet” spot MINI Cooper S with 189 horsepower on tap. There’s a MINI Convertible, and a full electric MINI Cooper SE we took for a spin. You can even equip your MINI with a manual transmission if that’s your thing.
There’s basically a MINI Cooper for everyone, and each model can be entirely customized to your liking. What’s more, no matter which MINI you’ll buy, you can be certain that it’ll be fun to drive. And we’ve got plenty of used ones to choose from – take a quick look here
4) Volkswagen Golf GTI/R
2022 Volkswagen Golf R | Photo: VW
Who is this for? Consumers looking for the quintessential hot hatchback, but that also seek a refined, German driving experience.
Why we like it:
- A darn good hot hatchback
- One of the most practical models in the segment
- Golf R’s Drift Mode is a lot of fun during a tough Canadian blizzard
In the past, the Volkswagen Golf GTI/R would have been at the top of our list. However, many will agree that the current generation models, or the ones that purists like to call the MK8, isn’t exactly as fantastic as the car it replaces, the MK7. We tend to agree.
This is due to two main problems: Volkswagen has considerably rolled back the overall build qualities of its vehicles in recent years. It did it, to increase profitability so it can finance the expensive but necessary switchover to electric vehicles.
There’s also the fact that Volkswagen’s latest infotainment system has been at the root of a lot of controversy. The system is so bad, that Volkswagen itself has announced that, going forward, it will entirely overhaul the way it designs infotainment systems and promises that it aims to greatly improve the general quality of its vehicles.
But behind these flaws, it’s worth noting that the MK8’s bones are still very good. Whether you opt for the front-wheel drive GTI or the all-wheel drive (and more powerful) Golf R we review here, you’ll be at the helm of a delightful hot hatchback. These cars are quick off the line, exhibit fantastic power delivery and their chassis calibration is second to none. It’s also worth noting that the Golf R is now fitted with a clutch pack on its rear axle which grants it a Drift Mode.
And trust us when we say this: after a fresh batch of snow, that gimmick is one of the coolest things to have ever been fitted onto an automobile. We however highly suggest that you try Drift Mode on a closed circuit only and not on public roads.
3) Mazda3 Sport
2020 Mazda3 Sport hatchback | Photo: Mazda
Who is this for? Consumers looking for a value-packed hatchback compact car that’s reliable, well put together and fun to drive.
Why we like it:
- Mazda’s expected build quality and reliability
- Available in a wide range of versions
- Mazda3 Turbo is a stealthy hot hatchback
The Mazda3 is a Canadian favourite. And with good reason. Stories of Mazda3 owners raking up hundreds of thousands of kilometers on their cars with very little mechanical issues are frequent. We’ve even heard stories of Mazda mechanics complaining about the fact that engines fail so rarely, that they’ve become almost obsolete.
It’s true that the Mazda3 is a reliable car, but it’s also one of the best compact cars on sale for very specific reasons. First, it looks very good, arguably one of the best designed compact cars currently on sale. It can also be had in a variety of different configurations: a sedan, a hatchback, with all-wheel drive, front-wheel drive, equipped with a manual transmission, an automatic, or powered by a naturally aspirated engine or a turbocharged one. In any form though, the Mazda3 is just a darn pleasant car to drive.
We particularly like the Turbo version because it’s a stealthy hot hatchback. Nobody will expect your Mazda3 to take off this quickly at the stoplight. That’s because it packs a healthy 250 horsepower and a whopping 320 lb-ft of torque when running on 93-octane gas and it’s fitted with all-wheel drive. This translates to a 0-100 km/h time that’s in the mid 5 second range. These are proper hot hatchback numbers.
2) Toyota Corolla Hatchback
2023 Toyota GR Corolla Circuit Edition | Photo: Amee Reehal
Who is this for? Consumers looking for a sensible compact car that’ll be both reliable and fuel efficient, or consumers looking for a fire-breathing turbocharged and all-wheel drive hot hatchback.
Why we like it:
- The expected reliability and resale value from this nameplate
- Affordable and highly fuel efficient
- Available GR Corolla with 300 horsepower
The Toyota Corolla needs no introduction. Over the past four decades, it’s solidified itself as one of the best compact cars on the market thanks to a remarkable reliability record, low running costs and superior resale value. It’s just a darn good purchase.
But if past Corolla’s were all about rationality, the current Corolla hatchback is interesting to look at, fun to drive and, dare we say it, exciting?
When re-introducing the Corolla hatchback in 2019, Toyota made it a big deal to reinstate the manual transmission as the enthusiast-friendly option. It even created an entire marketing campaign through the #savethemanuals hashtag. That’s how serious Toyota was at reinjecting vigour into this nameplate.
But perhaps where the Corolla truly sheds off its “boring” reputation, is in its high-performance GR version. With 300-horsepower on tap, this turbocharged three-cylinder engine is a marvel of engineering. Paired to Toyota’s GR-Four all-wheel drive system and a six-speed manual transmission, it’s a feisty pocket rocket that’ll give a Subaru WRX STI a serious run for its money.
Here’s our full review with track driving impressions of the first-ever 2023 Toyota GR Corolla hatchback.
If that’s not your thing, rest assured that the humble Corolla hatchback can still be had with a CVT at just $26,069. Oh, and there’s now even a crossover version with the 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid.
1) Honda Civic Hatchback
2022 Honda Civic hatchback | Photo: Honda
Who is this for? Consumers looking for the best hatchback compact car currently on sale, or that simply want the most capable front-wheel drive sports car around a race circuit.
Why we like it:
- Largest cargo hold in its class
- Proven reliability, high resale value
- Available Civic Type R with over 300 horsepower
Just like the Corolla, the Honda Civic is a staple of a compact car here in Canada. As a matter of fact, not only is it built in Canada, it’s also the most sold automobile in the country. The simple reason why we placed the Civic before the Corolla, is due to its more generous rear legroom and larger cargo space.
At just under 700 litres of available cargo when the rear seats are in place, the Civic hatchback is downright the most practical in its class. The rear seating area is also spacious, with plenty of leg and head clearance for tall passengers.
Then there are the available Civic engines, both of which have proven themselves from a reliability standpoint. The base, naturally aspirated 2.0-litre unit, is old, but rock-solid and well-known from mechanics across the country, while the turbocharged 1.5-litre unit is both powerful and highly fuel-efficient.
But perhaps where the Honda Civic truly flexes its strongest muscles, is in the high-performance Type R version. Yes, it’s front-wheel drive, but the Type R is hands down the best handling front-wheel drive machine currently on sale. Its 315-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine pulls strong all the way to the redline and shifting its six-speed manual transmission is a delight. Its racing seats are both ultra comfortable and supportive all while looking like a million bucks.
Did we mention that the Civic hybrid is returning to the lineup in 2023? Here’s to hoping it’ll be available in the hatchback.
Ready to buy a used 5-door hatchback?
You can view all our pre-owned hatchback cars here. Or if you’re considering a car from this Best Hatchback list, here’s what we have in stock right now. All our vehicles go through a thorough inspection before arriving at your door. You’ve got 7 days to drive it and decide if you really do love it. If not? You get a full refund – it’s really that simple.