Hatchback vs sedan. It’s a tough choice made by millions of new and used car buyers every year. There are dozens of cars and models to choose from, including many new hatchback sedan models, and buyers in search of a car with the most cargo space and features often have a difficult time deciding which is best for their lifestyle.

To make the hatchback versus sedan decision even more challenging, many models are offered as both a sedan or a hatchback. These models include the extremely popular Toyota Corolla and the Honda Civic. However, many small cars like the Honda Fit are only offered as a hatchback, while others, like the Toyota Yaris, are only offered as a sedan.

Historically, traditional sedans have been much more popular than hatchbacks. And that’s still true, regardless of the price point and class. However, that has begun to change as sales between sedans and hatchbacks have grown closer over the last 10 years as hatchbacks have become much more popular with buyers of new cars and used cars.

Today, hatchback sedans like the Tesla Model S and others have become popular as well, especially with luxury brand buyers. This new body style has gained momentum over the last decade with car buyers, and they continue to sell well. Many automotive brands, including BMW, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Buick, Kia, and Volkswagen now offer hatchback sedans.

But which body style is the best fit for your family and lifestyle? Here we’ll help guide you through the hatchback or sedan decision before you call or go to the dealer and compare the two. For more information on what to look for when considering a car, read our article on the differences between important car features.

We’ll answer these seven important questions:

What is a hatchback versus sedan?

In terms of overall dealer sales, hatchbacks and sedans are the two most popular car body styles in the auto industry. In recent history, hatchbacks and sedans easily out-sell station wagons, convertibles and coupes. And the sales of hatchbacks have been increasing every year, as more people desire their sporty style and considerable cargo space. It’s a sign of the times as young people start their careers and buy their first vehicle.

Here are four things you need to know when comparing hatchbacks versus sedans.

  1. Hatchbacks and sedans are actually very similar in many cases. In fact, are exactly the same from the rear doors forward, sharing designs, engines and interiors and other major parts. This is the case with cars available in either body style, like the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla and Mazda3.
  2. Usually they also feel very similar on the road. For instance, there’s very little difference between the driving experience of a Honda Civic sedan and hatchback. Compare the two from behind the wheel and they’ll feel about the same.
  3. Hatchbacks also usually offer about the same cabin space as a similarly sized sedan. They both fit the same maximum number of people, usually five passengers including the driver.
  4. Major differences between hatchbacks and sedans are in the rear. Instead of a traditional trunk, hatchbacks have SUV style rooflines and lift gates to extend and maximize their cargo space and versatility. Some call a hatchback’s lift gate a third of fifth door. Unlike sedans, every hatchback also offers fold down rear seats, to expand its cargo space even further into its interior.

Hatchback versus sedan, which is better?

Hatchback sales are rapidly on the rise, but today more drivers continue to buy a larger number of sedans than hatchbacks. One of the reasons for this is simple mathematics, hatchbacks generally cost more than sedans. And the price increase for a hatch can be significant.

Comparisons between hatchbacks and sedans are often like comparing apples and oranges, but generally speaking, hatchbacks have a higher MSRP than similarly sized and similarly equipped sedans. That price differences range from about $1,000 to $2,000 in the compact class and jumps to between $4,000 to $14,000 when you’re shopping luxury brands like BMW and Audi.

Corolla Hatchback next to Corolla Sedan

If money is tight and you’re on a strict budget, a sedan is probably the way to go. However, in many cases it’s the similarly sized and more expensive hatchback that actually represents the better value.

Although hatchbacks generally cost more than sedans, we prefer hatchbacks over traditional four-door sedans for these two important reasons:

  1. A hatchback is generally more useful than a sedan with a traditional trunk.
  2. Hatchbacks usually look sportier than most sedans. They often have sleek fastback rooflines to accommodate their larger lift gates or hatches. This usually gives a hatchback considerably more style, often looking lower, longer and wider than a traditional four-door.

Hatchback vs sedan, which has more space?

By comparison, in terms of cargo space, a hatchback will usually have considerably more than the trunk of a comparably sized sedan. Open the hatch of any hatchback, even small models like the Honda Fit, and you’ll be amazed at the amount of cargo space available.

Here are a few cargo space comparisons between a few hatchbacks vs sedans to prove this point.

Honda Civic Sedan—15.1 cubic feet of maximum cargo space

Honda Civic Hatchback—46.2 cubic feet of maximum cargo space

 

Toyota Corolla Sedan—13 cubic feet of maximum cargo space

Toyota Corolla Hatchback—23.3 cubic feet of maximum cargo space

 

BMW 3 Series—17 cubic feet of maximum cargo space

BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe—45.9 cubic feet of maximum cargo space

 

Audi A4 sedan—13 cubic feet of maximum cargo space

Audi A5 Sportback—35 cubic feet of maximum cargo space

In other words, your surfboard or mountain bike might not fit in the sedan, but it’ll probably fit in the hatchback.

Hatchback vs sedan for family?

Throw an active family in the mix and the value of any hatchbacks more expansive cargo space compounds. Suddenly the trunk space of a traditional four-door sedan probably isn’t enough. This need for more space has certainly fueled the sales of SUVs and crossovers year after year.

Truth is, a family of four probably can’t get by with a traditional compact or midsize sedan with a traditional trunk. Although there may be enough cabin space, the cargo space available is just too tight.

Open Trunk of 2019 Corolla Hatchback

A similarly sized hatchback or hatchback sedan, however, probably offers the right combination of cabin space and cargo space for an active family of four. And once you’ve lived with the extra cubic feet of trunk area offered by a hatchback, you’ll never want to go back to a sedan.

Families also appreciate how easy it is to load cargo into a hatchback. Unlike traditional sedans, which usually have small trunk openings, loading a hatchback is similar to loading an SUV. Open its lift gate and you can basically just toss your stuff in. 

What’s the best compact hatchback for under $25,000?

Most hatchback models cost well under $25,000 and compete in the sub-compact and compact classes. Today, these models offer more style and features than they ever have before and their fuel economy is among the best in the industry. There’s even a hybrid on our list of the best small hatchbacks, the perennially popular Toyota Prius.

Today, compact hatchbacks also offer more interior space than they used to and they offer more standard features and more comfort. Although they may be compact, every hatchback on our list of favorites will seat five passengers.

Small hatchbacks used to be thought of as boring, but todays best hatchbacks are fun to drive thanks to more powerful engines. And many have been awarded the highest safety ratings.

In alphabetical order, here’s our list of the best small hatchbacks with a base price under $25,000:

  1. Honda Civic–$21,450
  2. Honda Fit–$16,190
  3. Hyundai Elantra GT–$18,950
  4. Kia Forte5–$18,300
  5. Mazda3–$23,600
  6. Mini Cooper–$21,900
  7. Subaru Impreza–$18,595
  8. Toyota Corolla–$20,140
  9. Toyota Prius Hybrid–$23,770
  10. VW Golf–$21,845

Hatchback buyers interested is horsepower and performance should check out some of the “hot hatches” on the market. Our favorites are the Ford Focus ST, the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Golf R, Hyundai Veloster N and the Honda Civic Type R. Chevrolet also offers some quality hatchbacks.

What’s the best sedan for less than $30,000?

There’s a long list of compact and midsize sedans available on the market. With the growing popularity of SUVs, the inventory of nearly any dealer is sure to be stocked with well-equipped sedans packed with options and features. Buyers can also expect low finance rates and other sales incentives.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta

That means it’s a great time to buy a new or certified pre-owned sedan from a local dealer. Buyers should also be aware that two of our favorite midsize sedans, the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, are also available as extremely fuel-efficient hybrids.

The Honda Insight Hybrid is also one of our favorite compact sedans. It’s smooth comfortable and quick and its fuel efficiency is extraordinary with ratings of 49 mpg highway and 55 mpg in the city. That’s one mile per gallon better city fuel economy than you get in the Toyota Prius.

In alphabetical order, here’s our list of the best compact sedans with a base price under $25,000:

  1. Honda Civic–$19,550
  2. Honda Insight–$22,930
  3. Mazda3–$21,000
  4. Toyota Corolla Hybrid–$22,950
  5. VW Jetta–$18,745

In alphabetical order, here’s our list of the top midsize sedans with a base price under $25,000:

  1. Honda Accord–$23,720
  2. Hyundai Sonata–$19,900
  3. Mazda6–$23,800
  4. Nissan Altima–$24,000
  5. Toyota Camry–$24,095

What’s the best hatchback sedan for under $50,000?

Hatchback sedans are hot trend in the auto industry. Fueled by the introduction of the Tesla Model S about 10 years ago and then the introduction of the Audi A7, the body style has become popular with luxury car buyers.

Today there’s a growing number of new hatchback sedans on the market, including a few at lower prices. Certified pre-owned hatchback sedans are also gaining popularity and should be easy to find in local dealer inventory, which you can view online.

Younger buyers seem to be drawn to hatchback sedans. These vehicles deliver sexy style, excellent driving dynamics and luxurious interiors with the latest features along with the versatility and cargo space of some SUVs. They’re fun to drive and have a more youthful and modern image than the traditional four-door sedans available, yet they still seat five passengers.

Many buyers see these new hatchback sedans as the best of all worlds. They’re part sports car, part luxury sedan, part SUV, and they’re all available with all-wheel drive.

In alphabetical order, here’s our list of the top hatchback sedans with a base price under $45,000:

  1. Audi A5 Sportback–$44,200
  2. BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe–$44,750
  3. Buick Regal Sportback–$25,070
  4. Kia Stinger–$32,990
  5. Tesla Model 3–$30,315
  6. VW Arteon–$35,845

As with any new or used car purchase, these two types of vehicles each have advantages and disadvantages. Take the time to shop different models online. Weigh the pros and cons for each as they pertain to your family, your lifestyle and your budget.

Then it’s time to go to a dealer in your area and test drive a few different models in your budget. Compare them. Which one had the most comfortable seats, the most fuel-efficient engine and the most features for the price?

Hatchback versus sedan remains a tough choice for many car buyers. We are hopeful this information has made choosing between the two a little easier for you.

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Hatchback vs. Sedan: Which Trunk Style Fits Your Lifestyle?
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Hatchback vs. Sedan: Which Trunk Style Fits Your Lifestyle?
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Hatchback vs. Sedan is the question to ask when you don't want a larger vehicle, we'll show the real difference when it comes to interior space and design.
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Scott Oldham is an award winning automotive journalist with over 25 years of experience. Based in Los Angeles, Scott has written for Car and Driver, Autoweek, Kelley Blue Book, Edmunds.com, Popular Mechanics and Autoblog. Scott is also a former President of the Motor Press Guild and is currently on the jury of the prestigious North American Car and Truck of the Year Award. He can be found on Twitter: @RealScottOldham

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