- We picked five hatchbacks that could work well as daily drivers (and style icons) for discerning executives.
- All models in this list come with automatic gearboxes because it makes life easier in stop-start traffic.
- Petrol power only here as compact diesel hatches have disappeared from the segment in our market.
- For motoring news, go to Wheels24
Starting your dream job in 2022 and want to ensure you arrive in style in safe and reliable transport (once we're all office-based, that is) to impress your colleagues? Well, you've come to the right place because, in this list, we're taking a look at five premium hatchbacks that are priced under R450 000 that drip with style, come packed with good features, and are all fitted with automatic transmissions.
We've avoided the big names here: you won't see the Toyota Corolla hatch mentioned, and we'll stay far away from the best-selling Polo because that car seems just to sell itself in South Africa. We're looking at some newcomers, some World Car of the Year winners and, most importantly, alternative models that you don't see too many of on the road, so you'll certainly turn heads at work or outside your local cafe on Sunday mornings.
Here are five premium hatchbacks you can buy in South Africa for less than R450 000:
1. Honda Fit 1.5 Executive - R401 600
Kicking things into gear is the highly underrated Honda Fit that was launched in South Africa in 2021. The Fit replaces the Jazz in Honda's premium line-up, and it's more upmarket than expected. Our pick in this list is the 1.5 Executive that's priced at R401 600 inclusive of a five-year or 200 000km mechanical warranty and a four-year or 60 000km Service Plan.
It's fitted with a CVT automatic gearbox that sends 89kW and 145Nm to the front wheels. According to Honda, it will use 5.5l/100km in a combined cycle. You should be able to squeeze up to 727km per tank as the 1.5-litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine is quite frugal.
More rounded and sculpted than the Jazz it replaces, the new Fit is an attractive vehicle thanks to solid build quality, a premium paint finish and just the right amount of silver and black garnishing on this model to make it look attractive. It's also packed with features on the comfort, and convenience side, including effective air-conditioning, cruise control, keyless entry and engine start, magic seats that let you turn it into a minivan, and a premium audio system that sounds excellent and offers Bluetooth smartphone connectivity.
Honda's legendary when it comes to reliability, so this Fit might be a great buy if you're looking to buy a vehicle, pay it off, and keep it for a few years. There are other models in the line-up, such as the hybrid we're currently testing, which comes in under R500 000 if you want an even more exciting and premium motoring experience.
2 . Opel Corsa 1.2T (96kW) Elegance - R403 900
Like the Honda Fit, which has moved upmarket in terms of how it drives, what it comes with and how it's priced, the new Opel Corsa is a far cry from the Corsas we fell in love with as budget cars in the early 1990s and 2000s. Our choice is the 1.2T Elegance model that's priced at R403 900, which includes a three-year or 120 000km mechanical warranty and a three-year or 45 000km Service Plan.
Fitted with a traditional torque converter six-speed automatic transmission that sends 96kW and 230Nm of torque to the front wheels, this is without a doubt one to sportier models in this list if you enjoy the thrill of acceleration from time to time. Opel claims it will use 6.3l/100m in a combined cycle, which means up to 698km on a tank of 95 unleaded. However, the 1.2-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine will use much more fuel than that if it's driven in a sporty manner, so keep this in mind if filling up will be a pain point.
Styled to turn heads and coming with attractive alloy wheels, the 2022 Opel Corsa looks very good to our eyes and, in fact, is probably only slightly less attractive than the more expensive Peugeot 208 we picked later in this list. Expect it to come with all the bells and whistles you need to make daily commuting a pleasure, including electrically-operated windows and mirrors, good LED headlights, a decent audio system with Apple CarPlay support and a spacious cabin that will easily accommodate up to four adults.
The Opel brand experienced a bit of a rough period as it changed hands, but now that it's part of Stellantis, we're hoping more dealerships open and that aftersales is given priority. The Corsa is an excellent premium hatchback to consider if you want to drive something with solid German engineering, but you don't want to buy something from the big three German carmakers.
3. Mazda Mazda3 hatch 1.5 Dynamic - R427 100
Mazda's Mazda3 1.5 Dynamic cuts this list as we think it's a great alternative to the excellent Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic. This model's priced at R427 100, and it comes with a three-year/unlimited-distance mechanical warranty and a three-year/unlimited-distance Service Plan.
The car is fitted with a six-speed torque converter automatic transmission that sends 88kW and 153Nm to the front wheels. Mazda claims that this car will use 6.0l/100km in a combined cycle, giving it a theoretical distance to empty of 850km per tank. It does require a bit of revs to get going, and if you rev it to the redline often, you can expect that consumption to climb a bit as there's no turbo to motivate things here.
Styling-wise, the new Mazda3 is arguably the best-looking hatchback Mazda's ever created. Outside, it has this serpent-like look to it, and those sleek LED headlamps look exquisite too. Inside, the car's packed with features, and you'll get all the necessary creature comforts and safety features that should come standard at this price point. We particularly like the minimalist styling of the interior of the Mazda3. There's this Italian sportscar feel in some colour combinations, which is very nice considering the car comes in at an attractive price.
Mazda does well in the compact SUV and crossover segment in South Africa with its CX models, but this traditional five-door hatchback is a real gem in the company's line-up that's often overlooked. If you don't need to pound pavements and you spend most of your time driving on tarred roads, consider this hatchback as your first premium executive buy as it rides well and turns heads too.
4 - Fiat Tipo hatch 1.6 City Life - R430 900
Fiat recently facelifted its Tipo range, and we thought the R430 900, 1.6 City Life model might be an exciting vehicle to throw in here as it's often overlooked in the premium hatchback segment. The car comes with a five-year or 100 000km mechanical warranty and a three-year or 100 000km Service Plan.
It is coming as standard with a six-speed torque converter automatic gearbox that sends drive force (81kW and 152Nm) to the front wheels. Fiat notes that this Tipo model uses a claimed 6.3l/100km in a combined cycle which should be good for up to 714km per tank of unleaded. We drove pre-facelift models a while back and found that it does need a bit of revs to perform spiritedly up here in Johannesburg as it's naturally aspirated.
Fiat has undoubtedly raised the profile of the Tipo as the latest models look good with large alloy wheels and black and silver garnish inside and out. We also like the standard inclusion of LED headlights on this model, which will be very handy if you spend lots of time on the road after late nights at the office. Good comfort and safety features, a decent smartphone-compatible audio system and space for four adults will appeal to you here, too.
Like the Opel Corsa mentioned earlier, the Fiat Tipo comes from Stellantis, which should mean good access to multi-franchise aftersales outlets across the country if you plan on taking long-distance trips. If you like quirky cars with character, you can't go wrong with a Fiat, and while this car might seem expensive on paper, it's really nicely appointed and can treat you well for several years to come.
5 - Peugeot 208 1.2T GT - R443 900
The last car on this list is the World Car of the Year-winning Peugeot 208 hatchback that finally went on sale in South Africa last year under the heat of lockdown. Priced at R443 900, it comes with a five-year or 100 000km mechanical warranty and a three-year or 60 000km Service Plan.
As standard, this model is fitted with a six-speed torque converter automatic transmission that sends 96kW and 230Nm to the front wheels. If this seems familiar, it's because the Peugeot 208 and the Opel Corsa ride on the same compact car platform from Stellantis, and they are crafted using similar ingredients sourced across the group's brands. Expect a claimed 6.3l/100km and up to 698km per tank of unleaded here.
As far as styling goes, the new 208 is arguably one of the best-looking hatchbacks on sale in South Africa and thanks to modern LED technologies for the front and rear lights, it looks premium and feels premium. We like that characteristic sabre-tooth daytime running light particularly, and we love the inside of the car as it's packed with luxury, safety and convenience features, including CarPlay multimedia technology for a connected driving experience.
Some might argue that Peugeots are challenging to live with due to limited aftersales support and that parts prices can be high out of "plan", but thanks to the Stellantis takeover, the brand is much better and healthier and in a better position to assist customers today than ever before. If you want to drive something different and you don't want to go the Audi A1 (not that there's anything wrong with that car) route, this is the car for you.
Of course, there's no shortage of premium compact hatchbacks to consider in South Africa, but we picked these five as we thought they deserve more bums in seats as they're great offerings.
Which of these models do you think you would buy if you were in the market for a vehicle in this segment? Alternatively, if you own one of these models, share your experience with us in the comments section, or please send us an email here.
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