Looking at the price of the BMW i3 ($236,800), it seems mad to single it out as the most outstanding hatchback the industry has to offer
ST-Torque Best Buys of 2014 - Hatchback Ford Fiesta ($109,000, above). -- PHOTO: ST FILE

Looking at the price of the BMW i3 ($236,800), it seems mad to single it out as the most outstanding hatchback the industry has to offer. But the electric BMW is unrivalled in so many ways that it is justifiable for once to put the value component in the backseat.

In day-to-day driving, it offers sportscar-like acceleration, Lexus-like silence and unparalleled efficiency. It is futuristic in the way it is styled and in the way it is manufactured. Last but not least, it shows that it is possible to have fun on the road without incurring the penalty of smog and noise - twin evils that plague cities everywhere.

It may have some way to go in range and driving dynamics, but it is attractive enough as it is for those who want to drive something radically different and help reduce urban pollution at the same time. And if you think about it, it is not all that expensive, with a lighter price tag than a 328i sedan's.

At the other end of the price spectrum is the Ford Fiesta ($109,000), a feisty 1-litre three-cylinder car that is also a hoot to drive. Despite its small 998cc engine (the block is no bigger than an A4-size paper), it is cheerful and responsive. And because it is so tiny, nimbleness is second nature. Equipped with a six-speed dual-clutch automatic, it is as efficient as it is entertaining.

Another three-cylinder wonder is the new Mini One ($127,300). Its 1.2-litre turbo squeezes out 102bhp and 180Nm, enabling the rather large Mini to reach the century mark in 10.2 seconds. While that is nowhere as exciting as the Mini Cooper or Mini Cooper S, the One is worth considering because it is significantly more affordable than its more powerful siblings, yet it retains the charm of a Mini. You get an involving drive, with fine road-holding ability and fairly sharp steering responses. It may lose out to livelier hatches along the straights, but it will almost always keep up with the pack around the bends.

Next on the fun-to-drive list is a perennial favourite: the Volkswagen Golf. The 1.4TSI variant ($129,800) has the best combination of value and performance. It is $9,500 pricier than the 1.2TSI, but a lot breezier on the go. At the same time, it consumes the same amount of fuel (5 litres/ 100km in the optimistic European driving cycle). Like all current Golfs, it is very refined, roomy, welldesigned and solidly built - qualities that helped make the Golf one of the most successful cars in history.

Pump prices have fallen significantly of late, but not too long ago, they were at record levels. Hence an economy champ such as the Toyota Prius C ($119,888) made a lot of sense. But even now, it does not hurt to have a car that boasts an urban fuel economy of 3.7 litres/100km. In the local context, we managed 4.7 litres/100km, which is still very impressive.