Although trucks and SUVs are still popular despite the rising cost of gas, there’s almost nothing like a good hatchback. A hatchback provides the same sensible means of transportation as a compact sedan does and ups the ante when it comes to practicality. The hatchback shape makes for a larger cargo area, and the hatch door makes it easy for larger items to be loaded.
A manual transmission, preferably matched to a high-horsepower engine, could make any hatchback even better. Not all hatchbacks are created equal, but nearly any of them with a stick shift can be fun to drive. Here are seven prime used examples.
1. 2018 Honda Civic Type R
2018 Honda Civic Type R in white. | Honda
The all-new 2023 Honda Civic Type R just debuted, but we’ll have to wait a little longer until it’s available for sale. For the time being, anyone looking for some front-drive fun can find a used 2018 Honda Civic Type R instead. Its head-turning looks and potent 306-hp engine make it stand out from the rest of the cars on this list.
Also, its six-speed shifter is from the gods. The shift action is buttery smooth, and the automatic downshift rev-matching feature makes anyone look like a professional driver. The only issue is that many of these used Civic Type Rs sell for around $45,000 in the current used market.
2. 2018 Chevrolet Cruze Turbo Diesel
The 2018 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback. | Jeffrey Sauger for Chevrolet
The Chevrolet Cruze hatchback might seem like an odd entry on this list. But what makes it even rarer is that it’s available with a turbo diesel engine and a six-speed manual transmission. Aside from the stick shift action, what makes this version of the Cruze great is its luxurious amenities and ample cargo space.
According to Autobytel, “the Cruze hatchback provides 22.7 cubic feet of cargo capacity behind the rear seat and 47 cubic feet overall.” It also has leather upholstery, heated front seats, and a power driver’s seat. On top of all that, the Cruze turbo diesel hatchback can also achieve up to 29 mpg in the city and 48 mpg on the highway.
3. 2018 Toyota Corolla iM
Do you remember the Toyota iM? If not, we don’t blame you, as it was technically a Scion before a Toyota. To sum it up, Consumer Reports once called it a “better-handling Corolla Hatchback.” Unfortunately, it was only around for two years, but shopping for a used one is easy as there is one trim level to choose from. In terms of options, you can opt for the CVT or the six-speed manual transmission.
As you can imagine, we prefer the latter as it makes the 137-hp, 1.8-liter engine feel a little more lively. Also, there are 20.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats, making this little hatchback practical.
4. 2018 Ford Focus RS
A blue Ford Focus RS. | Jonathan Brady/PA Images via Getty Images
The Ford Focus RS was an all-wheel drive hatchback with a 350-hp, turbocharged 2.3-liter engine mated to a six-speed manual transmission. If that doesn’t look like a tried-and-true recipe for fun, we don’t know what is. Also, two words: drift mode. That about sums it up.
5. 2018 Volkswagen Golf R
2018 Volkswagen Golf R | Volkswagen
The Volkswagen Golf R is essentially the German version of the Ford Focus RS. The Golf R features an all-wheel-drivetrain powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine that delivers 292 hp. On top of that, it gets an EPA-estimated 22 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway.
That being said, the Golf R is fun and fuel-efficient, but it’s also practical. Not only does it have four doors, but it also has a usable cargo hold thanks to its hatchback architecture.
6. 2018 Kia Soul
A red Kia Soul on the side of the road. | Getty Images
The Kia Soul is a quirky, fun-to-drive hatchback that is available with a six-speed manual transmission. Unfortunately, the stick shift is only available on the base model, which has a sparse feature set. However, its strong suit is its 24.2 cubic feet of cargo capacity with the rear seats folded up, which turns into 61.3 cubic feet when folded down.
7. 2018 Mazda3 5-door
2018 Mazda3 hatchback in red. | Getty Images
The Mazda3 is a stunning five-door hatchback that exudes elegance you would normally only find in a luxury car. There are three trim levels to choose from – Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring. The base model Sport comes with a 155-hp 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine, while upper trims come with a 2.5-liter engine. However, no matter which trims you choose, a six-speed manual transmission is an option that ups the fun quotient in this sophisticated hatchback.
Used hatchbacks with manual transmissions
Although a truck or SUV can provide the most practicality for your dollar, a hatchback can do the same on a smaller scale. An added plus is that if you choose one of the aforementioned hatchbacks, you’ll be in for a lot of fun in addition to the added practicality.