Used Car of the Year Awards 2023: Hatchbacks

With living costs on the rise, getting a good deal on your next car is more important than ever. That's where our Used Car Awards come in. These are our favourite hatchbacks...

Used Hatchback of the Year

Audi A3 Sportback

What Car? Used Car of the Year Awards 2023 logo

Prices from £6500 Our pick 1.5 TFSI 150 Sport

Imagine being told that luxury ice cream and Belgian chocolate are good for you. Done that? Good. Now you’re ready to hear that this aspirational premium family car is the best used hatchback you can buy.

Like the latest model, the previous-generation Audi A3 Sportback offers something for everyone. Want an economical engine? Thanks to its clever cylinder deactivation tech, our favourite 1.5-litre petrol engine (available from 2017) officially uses less fuel than even a 1.0-litre Ford Focus. Or are you looking for a comfortable long-distance companion? Well, the A3 does a fine job of insulating you from the outside world, and our preferred Sport trim gives you stacks of driver’s seat adjustment, including extendable under-thigh support – rare in this class.

The A3 scores highly on driver appeal, too. Its steering is accurate and almost perfectly weighted, and its exceptional body control and huge reserves of grip help you to scythe through bends with confidence.

Audi A3 Sportback (2013-present) - interior

In five-door Sportback form (there’s also a three-door in this generation, but it wasn’t popular), the A3 shines when it comes to practicality, accommodating four adults much more comfortably than the previous-generation BMW 1 Series with which it competes, plus it has a bigger boot. Sure, the Skoda Octavia is even roomier, but that car can’t hold a candle to the A3 for comfort and driving pleasure, let alone desirability.

Although a newer generation of the A3 is now available, in some ways we actually prefer this previous model. It certainly has the edge on interior quality; in fact, it’s classy enough to embarrass plenty of newer, pricier alternatives. What’s more, the dial between the front seats that controls this car’s infotainment system is much more intuitive to use on the move than the current model’s touchscreen set-up.

The A3’s premium badge is good for more than just driveway credibility, too. Yes, you might find a slightly newer Kia Ceed or Hyundai i30 for a similar outlay, but neither of those models will put anything like as much cash back in your pocket when it comes time to sell.

Also consider...

Best for tight budgets

Suzuki Celerio (2016-2019)

Suzuki Celerio

Prices from £4000 Our pick 1.0 Dualjet SZ3

If the best things in life are free, it follows that a very modest outlay can still give you a very good time. The Suzuki Celerio is one such bargain that’s sure to put a smile on your face.

You’ll find a relatively young Celerio with a respectably low mileage for what you might pay for an older Kia Picanto, Skoda Citigo or Volkswagen Up, and you get a lot for your cash.

The sole engine option – a 67bhp 1.0-litre petrol – is perky, and the Celerio feels quite grown up on the road, with secure handling and a supple ride.

Inside, there’s plenty of room for four, and you can connect your phone via Bluetooth. No, the interior plastics aren’t the poshest, but everything is well screwed together.

Indeed, Suzuki has regularly come near the top in the What Car? Reliability Survey, and it finished fifth out of 32 brands this year. With few problems reported, the Celerio’s running costs should reflect its bargain price.

Read our full used Suzuki Celerio review >>

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Best nearly new buy

Seat Leon (2020-present)

Seat Leon 2022 front cornering

Price from £15,000 Our pick 1.5 TSI 130 FR

Brand new cars have been in short supply of late (due to the semiconductor chip shortage), and the demand for nearly new cars has gone through the roof as a result. Naturally, this increased demand means sky-high prices – bad news for bargain hunters. However, the brilliant Seat Leon somehow manages to buck that trend.

In fact, you can buy a lightly used example of the current Leon – our favourite new family car – and pocket a saving of several thousand pounds. Prices start at around £15,000, and our preferred 1.5 TSI 130 FR can be bagged for as little as £17,000.

For the same money, an equivalent used Skoda Octavia or used Volkswagen Golf will inevitably be older. You could buy a nearly new Vauxhall Astra instead, but the Leon is much better to drive and roomier in the rear seats. However, strong contender though it is, the Leon can’t quite match the Audi A3’s blend of class, practicality and value.

Read our full used Seat Leon review >>

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Best for practicality

Skoda Octavia (2013-2020)

Skoda Octavia front - 67-plate car

Price from £5000 Our pick 1.5 150 TSI SE

Your utility room, where the washing machine probably is, is the least exciting room in your house, but it’s such a godsend that family life would be that bit more miserable without it.

A used Skoda Octavia has the same energy. It’s spacious enough that parking your kids in the back is like walking them into a cave, and its boot will swallow 10 carry-on suitcases (the Audi A3 loses its appetite after five).

The Octavia’s well-designed interior is child’s play to use, as well as being childproof in construction, and thanks to its comfy motorway ride and excellent range of punchy yet economical engines, long trips are pain-free. Yes, the A3 is more nimble, but the Octavia is far from a chore through corners.

On top of all this, the 2013- 2020 Octavia is incredibly good value. And when you decide that it’s time for a change, the Octavia’s sheer usefulness means buyers will be lining up in droves to give it a new home.

Read our full used Skoda Octavia review >>

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