By on July 12, 2011

The US car market contracted by 23 percent between the 2006 and 2010 model-years according to WardsAuto data [via the Detroit News], but over the same period the total number of hatchbacks sold per year has increased some 63%, from 291,853 to 475,048. That’s right hatchback fans, after decades of underachievement in the US market, your favorite bodystyle is back in a big way.

Hyundai expects a 40% hatchback take rate on its Accent, Ford is currently selling about 50% of its Fiesta subcompacts and 41% of its Focus compact cars in hatchback form, and the DetN notes

Ford initially expected about 40 percent of Fiesta buyers would choose the five-door, but it has been trending as high as 60 percent and could end the year that way, [Robert Parker, Ford's group marketing manager] said. The unexpectedly high demand for the Fiesta hatch, he said, led Ford to adjust its sales projections for the Focus. The expectation now is a 50-50 split between the two body styles.

AutoPacific analyst and all-around sharp cookie Dave Sullivan notes that this data calls GM’s decision not to offer a Cruze hatchback in America into question, estimating that Cruze sales could be as much as 30% higher if the five-door bodystyle were offered. And he points out that, in reality, Americans are driving far more hatchbacks than they realize… they just happen to call them “crossovers.” So the trend here isn’t so much about styling or packaging… but size. First Americans downsized from SUVs to CUVs, and now we’re starting to see sales of cars with CUV-like hatchback bodystyles sell better and better. No wonder we’re starting to see more companies plan Mazda5-style compact MPVs for future model-years, as these offer even more CUV-style practicality with compact-hatch-style efficiency.

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100 Comments on “The Hatch Is Back In America...”


  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    Can station wagons be far behind? Will my ’02 Sable wagon become hipster chic?

    • 0 avatar

      Sable? Don’t count on it. Only the Camry wagon with the 2 little rear wipers is odd enough to become hispster chic.

      • 0 avatar
        Lemmy-powered

        CAMRY wagon with the 2 little rear wipers, chic? BAH!

        Instead, I’ll take a Cressida wagon with the 2 little rear wipers AND rwd AND inline-6, thank you very much.

        Camry wagon …. pfft.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      I’d love to see wagons come back, but market acceptance has been hit or miss. VW seems to be doing well with the TDI Sportswagon, but I don’t see a whole lot of TSX wagons around, and the wagonlike styling is what has been keeping the Flex from being a bigger sales success.

      Certain hatchbacks seem to straddle the line between wagon and hatch though. The Mazda Protege5, Kia Spectra5, and Hyundai Elantra Touring could all be considered almost more wagon than hatch.

      • 0 avatar
        DC Bruce

        My wife must be the exception to the rule: she thinks the Flex is cool. I don’t have a problem with the way it looks, but she and I fundamentally disagree on the need for a vehicle of that size, given that our kids are all grown and out of the house . . . we do have a big dog, but still . . .

        Saw one TSX wagon recently. The question for a buyer of that vehicle is: where’s the value proposition vs. VW, taking a discount for the bizarro styling and a hard-working 4-cylinder as the only powerplant? Other than, of course, that it might not spend a lot of time in the shop.

        Was very positively impressed with a Focus rental recently that I used to make a round trip to Tucson, AZ from Phoenix at speeds over 80. The DSG box is annoying in that it makes the engine seem weaker than it is . . . seems like the software controlling the transmission could use some work. There seem to be two modes: shift below 2K rpm or rev. the piss out of it. Nothing in between. I’m sure this is all about generating impressive fuel economy numbers in the EPA city cycle.

    • 0 avatar
      HoldenSSVSE

      Beldar Conehead: An owner’s manual to a Ford Lincoln Mercury Sable.

      Highmaster: Ford Lincoln Mercury Sable?

      Beldar Conehead: A personal conveyance named after its inventor, an assassinated ruler, a character from Greco-Roman myth and a small furry mammal.

      Highmaster: Ah.

  • avatar
    mikedt

    A lot of the hatchback versatility is missing in the new generations of cars. The 2 pictured for example, the back slopes so far and fast you lose most of the utility a hb should provide.

    • 0 avatar
      Jellodyne

      Slope = hatchback
      Straight up = wagon

      • 0 avatar
        th009

        Typically the wagon version is as long as the sedan, whereas the hatchback is basically the sedan with the trunk lopped off.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        It isn’t the slope of the back that renders many new cars useless, it is the slope of the roof. If you look at the hatchbacks from 30 years ago, the ones that were well received and kept their owners happy had flat tops that extended to the top of the hatchback, providing good visibility and a huge hatch opening for carrying the oversized loads that hatchbacks invite. All these droopy roofed, pinched back clown cars return what in exchange for the weaker structure, higher noise levels, rattles, and lack of security that comes with a hatchback? There are reasons hatchbacks fell out of favor, and they were good ones.

      • 0 avatar
        Ubermensch

        ” All these droopy roofed, pinched back clown cars return what in exchange for the weaker structure, higher noise levels, rattles, and lack of security that comes with a hatchback? There are reasons hatchbacks fell out of favor, and they were good ones.”

        These issues are hardly true. Few if any hatches suffer from those issues at least in any significant way. CUV/SUVs would also suffer from all of those “issues” and I don’t see those falling out of favor. Also, to claim that a sedan has equal or almost equal utility to a hatch is laughable at best.

    • 0 avatar
      FromaBuick6

      Yep. And how often would you really need the extra utility. If it’s just a grocery getter, sometimes the traditional notchback offers more usable space. And my old Civic sedan has proven surprisingly adept at swallowing stuff time and time again.

      If I were in the market for a small car, my decision for any given model would ultimately come down to which body style looks better. Sometimes its the sedan, sometimes it’s the hatch.

      • 0 avatar
        Bucknasty

        The thing about flat screen TVs is that you really shouldn’t lay them down for transport. http://www.digitalhome.ca/forum/showthread.php?t=64061
        Not that this is the determining factor in the hatch vs. sedan debate (unless you buy TVs much more often than I do). I got a 37″ TV home in the box by standing it up where the rear passengers would put their feet, with the front seat pushed up to accommodate it. This was years ago and the TV had a generously sized box, so I imagine abigger one would work too.

        A hatch version of an otherwise identical sedan can hold more stuff and accommodate larger objects due to the larger opening. That doesn’t make the sedan a poor choice or impractical, just makes the hatch a bit more practical.

        All this said, I bought a hatchback about three months ago and haven’t looked back!

    • 0 avatar
      Bytor

      I think you are confused by the optical illusion of with door sill sloping up. The roof on the focus only has a very small slope. No significant impact on cargo.

      Having owned hatches and small sedans, I will never go back to a small sedan, when you need the utility, it is there. Try putting a bicycle in the tiny trunk of a small sedan. I do this regularly in a hatch with ease. Try buying a new flat-screen and putting that in your Civic trunk.

      A hatch is like a mini-SUV. If you ever intend to put anything bigger than groceries in the back, it is superior.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        I carry my mountain bike in the trunk of my Civic regularly. Seats folded, trunk lid closed. A flat screen of 50 inches ought to fit too. The Focus hatch has less rear seat headroom than the Focus sedan, and the Focus sedan is already pathetic in this area. Just look at the photos above and you can see that the Cruze keeps its roofline a bit higher than the sloping side windows while the Focus does not.

      • 0 avatar
        Bytor

        I have done that too but it is a PITA compared to a hatch, where you just open it, throw it in.

        I have carried two bikes in my hatch with ease. One is a PITA with a trunk.

        With a trunk you need to take off a wheel (or two) and wrestle it through the seat-back openings.

        Forget even buying a 40″ TV with your civic. It would never fit in the trunk (in the box), let alone a 50″, you are dreaming there.

        Hatches are massively more versatile, but stick with trunks if they make you happy.

      • 0 avatar
        NulloModo

        The difference between the Focus Hatch and the Focus Sedan in rear headroom is 1/10th of an inch. The Sedan has 38″ of rear headroom, compared to 37.2″ for the Corolla, 36.2″ for the Civic, and 37.1″ for the Elantra. The Cruze sedan is 37.9″, which is equal to the Focus Hatch.

        I took a couple on a test drive in a 2012 Focus sedan the other day, and I sat in the back. I’m 6′ tall, and I had plenty of space.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Bytor,

        I have four photos of a Sony Bravia EX5 46 inch flat screen TV box sitting flat in the trunk of my Civic sedan with room to spare in every direction. It was as simple as folding the seats forward from the trunk and slipping the box in. My bike goes into the trunk easily too, without the front wheel. I’m dubious about it fitting in any compact hatchback without dropping the front wheel either, as I recently tried putting a beach cruiser in a friend’s hatchback the other day and couldn’t even get close to making it work since the front wheel wasn’t a quick release.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Nullo,

        While Gen-9 Civic may not stand out from the similarly styled Gen 8, it does stand out from its peers, at least in a few key areas. Its back seat feels cavernous and comfortable, and was deemed the best here. It returned the second-best observed fuel economy (29.4 mpg), ranking it tops among gas entries.

        Read more: http://www.motortrend.com/roadtests/sedans/1107_best_selling_compact_sedan_comparison/honda_civic_ex.html#ixzz1RwoZo062

        The Ford’s polarizing style won back a few fans, like Kiino, who lauded the in-your-face design and Vader-esque front end, but also decried the interior, which ranks dimensionally smallest. “It feels tight to me-not sure the packaging is that stellar,” he opined. “A gimmicky car, at least in terms of design.”

        Read more: http://www.motortrend.com/roadtests/sedans/1107_best_selling_compact_sedan_comparison/ford_focus_titanium.html#ixzz1RwoslvFh

        They publish the specs that Ford and Honda provide, but it doesn’t take a ruler to confirm that the Focus has the least room of any car in its class.

      • 0 avatar
        Sam P

        There’s no way a 50 inch flat screen in a box would fit in the back seat of my wife’s Outback Sedan, which is a much larger car than a Honda Civic sedan. It certainly wouldn’t fit in the back sedan of my BMW E46 sedan.

      • 0 avatar
        NulloModo

        CJ –

        I didn’t post the figures to show that the Honda was the smallest, but that the Ford is in no way lacking in rear headroom.

        Dimensionally smallest could be measured a number of ways. Do they mean the length of the cabin, the width, the height, the total cubic feet of space, or what? The Focus does have a wide center console like a lot of recent Ford designs – some people love it, some people hate it. Still, there is plenty of room in the back seat of the Focus.

        The numbers I had were from Edmunds, though I’m not sure if they measure for themselves or just use manufacturer reported data.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Sam P,

        Any tips on where you’d like me to post the photos that I have now downloaded onto my computer? I think you’ll find that the photos of the 46 inch Sony box show a surplus of extra space.

      • 0 avatar
        Bytor

        There are lots of free image hosting. I use image shack. I picked up a 47″ LG with a friend in an outback wagon and it just fit, so I would would love to see that picture just out of curiosity.

        Samsung must use fairly small boxes if it fits between the those angle pieces in the pass-through(2008 Civic sedan):
        http://images.gtcarlot.com/pictures/38029373.jpg
        Those angle pieces are structural and you can find people complaining how they get in the way when using the civic passthrough:
        http://www.8thcivic.com/forums/inside-out/61733-any-way-widen-car-trunk-pass-through.html

        Even if you did pull this off, it doesn’t make as sedan as versatile as a hatch.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Bytor,

        here are the photos of a 46″ Sony Bravia box in the back of my Civic. I don’t know why you think a hatch is more useful than a sedan when you had trouble getting a 47″ TV into a station wagon while a 46″ TV fit in my car with room to spare. I probably could have fit at least one more similar sized TV with no problem.

        http://assets.backfires.caranddriver.com/user_files/user_images/000/001/728/medium.jpg?1310538073

        http://assets.backfires.caranddriver.com/user_files/user_images/000/001/729/medium.jpg?1310538100

        http://assets.backfires.caranddriver.com/user_files/user_images/000/001/731/medium.jpg?1310538159

        http://assets.backfires.caranddriver.com/user_files/user_images/000/001/730/original.jpg?1310538126

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        I posted the image URLs showing how my less useful sedan handles a 46 inch tv with greater ease than a midsize Subaru wagon, but the post ended up in moderator purgatory. Perhaps if I just include two URLs, it will post:

        http://assets.backfires.caranddriver.com/user_files/user_images/000/001/728/medium.jpg?1310538073

        http://assets.backfires.caranddriver.com/user_files/user_images/000/001/730/original.jpg?1310538126

        Hopefully the complete post will arrive eventually.

      • 0 avatar
        Bytor

        That you somehow think a sedan is more versatile than a hatchback just because you got a TV with a small box in there is incomprehensible. A 47″ LG has a Huge box, it would not have fit in your civic.

        Lots of things won’t fit through a pass through that will fit through a hatch. That is only simple logic.

        It’s grand that you love your sedan, but please try to stay grounded in reality. A small trunk is no match for a hatch.

      • 0 avatar
        bill h.

        And certainly not with today’s style trend of “letter slot” trunk deck lids. Why Nissan even bothers to market the silly looking Versa sedan is beyond me. The same could be said for other cars too, I think. But what do I know, I’ve been driving with hatches for only 30+ years….

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Bytor,

        Are you assuming that it is a small box because it fit in my car with a foot to spare in length, 8 inches in width, and 8 inches in height? It is a 46″ TV box. It looks like every other flat screen box I’ve seen. You said don’t bother trying to carry a flat screen in my sedan. You were wrong, just like you were about the roof of the Focus hatchback. While my small sedan shouldn’t be more useful than an Outback, it just may well be more useful than many of the compact hachbacks on the market. Cars exemplified by the Focus, with their minimal interior space and small, odd hatch openings all compromised by the stupid styling trend with the sloping roof and pinched C-pillars, are no match for well designed sedans. Unless maybe you’re trying to carry a sphere a few inches too big to fit through a trunk lid, I suppose.

      • 0 avatar
        srogers

        Gosh CJ,
        That’s all very interesting about your personal cargo loading experiences. Any stories you’d like to share about your latest haircut?

      • 0 avatar
        Bytor

        CJ, Your hatch-hate seems to be unhinging you from reality if you think:

        This is the larger, more practical opening(civic trunk/passthrough):
        http://images.gtcarlot.com/pictures/38029373.jpg

        And this is small odd shaped impractical one(focus hatch):
        http://pics.livejournal.com/ffocused/pic/001a3fb5/s640x480

        ?? Seriouly ?? Who do you think you are fooling? No one other than yourself.

      • 0 avatar
        cackalacka

        Ha!

        Don’t go over any speedbumps, CJ. Flatscreens need to be transported on their bases, not on their backs.

        That box looks like it would fit properly in a brand-new Honda Civic hatchback, if such a creature existed.

        I’m just happy to know that CJ’s ricer has a fart-can.

        I knew it!!

  • avatar
    segfault

    “…this data calls GM’s decision not to offer a Cruze hatchback in America into question…”

    GM has never been known for its good judgment or powers of accurate observation. That’s how they ended up selling their (then) profitable finance arm and eventually going bankrupt.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      @segfault: “That’s how they ended up selling their (then) profitable finance arm and eventually going bankrupt.”

      IIRC, they sold GMAC just as the credit default swap disaster was about to unfold. It may have been one of the (few) fortuitous moves at the time and kept the GM disaster from multiplying the GMAC disaster.

      If they were as hapless as you insist, then GM would have ridden GMAC into the ground.

  • avatar
    -Cole-

    It makes sense, really, as we like our truck things, but, come to think of it don’t REALLY need all that height.

    And I think of an Aveo (or a B-class) as a hatchback, those as more wagons.

    E: but they’re not wagons. Or maybe the new wagons.

    And real wagons are Estates

  • avatar
    Toy Maker

    Yay for wagons. Let’s hope more vehicles will sport the double folding rear bench for maximum usable space. Rear seat folds out to the foot well, and the seat-back folds down to the seat area. Ala 1994 Subaru legacy and early Rav 4s.

    • 0 avatar
      Ubermensch

      I absolutely HATED that double folding seat style that our Passat had. Those early cars you mention didn’t have 3 rear headrests that you had to remove first and you also had to slide the front seats forward a little to get the seats to fold all the way. Terrible design. I can fold all the seats flat in our 2006 Legacy from the cargo area with 2 steps as opposed to 9+ steps in the Passat. That wonderful German engineering I keep hearing about.

      • 0 avatar
        NulloModo

        The Escape has a seat that folds in two parts, cushion to footwell, seatback to previous cushion location. Yes, the headrests get in the way, but most owners who fold the rear seat with any regularity just take the rear headrests out and put them in a bag in the garage, never to be seen again until it’s time to trade the car.

        The benefit of a system like that is you get a completely flat extended loadfloor, vs traditional ‘flop over’ rear folding seats where there is still an incline due to the seatback resting on the seat cushion.

      • 0 avatar
        Ubermensch

        My Legacy has little to no incline with the rear seats folded and with the extra space I can recline the front seat all the way to load very long items. There is NO advantage to the double folding rear seats. I know as I have owned both styles and the single folding rear seats of my Legacy are FAR superior to the Passat, it’s no contest. However, my old Explorer had the best flat folding seats that collapsed forward and perfectly flat, something you can’t do in a wagon or sedan. Still isn’t worth it to live the the shortcomings of an SUV

      • 0 avatar
        steeringwithmyknees

        i didnt like that seat folding system in my old focus – except it did make the floor flat with the cargo area, which was nice.

        The Rav4 has a lever that you can pull when standing outside the car knees to back bumper and the seatback just flops down, headrest and all to go flat with the trunk floor in one step.

        I bought the Rav for it’s practicality and my expanding family, but i am finding I like it way more than I should or thought I would.

        That’s the beauty of cars in this day and age – there’s one for everyone.

        and one day, all practicality considerations may wash away and i will find myself in a German car not even knowing if the back seats fold (if there are back seats). We can all dream, right?

  • avatar
    Bytor

    I won’t buy anything that doesn’t have a hatch. So Cruze doesn’t even make the test drive list.

  • avatar
    spyked

    If you wanted a good value (different from CHEAP) yet nice hatch/wagon in the last 20 years, you pretty much had to shop the Euro brands (the horror!) or Subaru. Nice to see other brands catching up, even if they are origami shaped CrossTours and queen family trucker Venzas.

    I’ll stick with the Euro stuff. Why stray from the “tried and true?”

    • 0 avatar
      Trend-Shifter

      Yep, I love the look of my old Audi 5000 wagon/hatch/avant and how it cuts through the air at 90 miles per hour.

      Here it is: http://www.flickr.com/photos/29396384@N05/4721650016/

  • avatar
    Astigmatism

    Salvation! Can a whole lineup of manual-transmission subcompact diesel wagons with active aero and hand-sewn ostrich-leather interiors be too far off? (Note: a more streamlined A3 with nicer leather? I’d totally buy this.)

  • avatar
    Marko

    I can’t find a new VW Golf 2.5 on ANY dealer lot. All they seem to have is TDI models, which are all $23-27K. Are they selling that well or has VW stopped importing them?

    2012 Focus (Foci?) are selling extremely well around here in both sedan and hatch versions. They’ve only been out since what, March? I’m glad that Ford offers both.

    I hope Hyundai brings the European i40 “Sonata” wagon over. Whenever the Elantra Touring is redesigned, it will likely sell extremely well given the success of the new Elantra sedan and the relative popularity of hatchbacks these days.

  • avatar
    jonny b

    Hooray! This current Elantra Touring owner, former Protege5 owner welcomes my new brothers and sisters to the 5-door club. Enjoy the extra room.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    There was considerable (and intentional) lag between the Cruze sedan’s launch in Korea and Europe, and its U.S. launch. I’m thinking there eventually will be a Cruze hatch available in the U.S., but since the hatch just went on sale elsewhere in the globe, we’ll just have to be patient. Same deal with the Chevy Spark – already on sale elsewhere, but not here quite yet.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Wagons will never, ever reach their previous popularity here, they were killed by the minivan and later the SUV in a one, two knockout punch

    • 0 avatar
      cackalacka

      I humbly disagree. There will always be a market for a low-profile/drag, 4-5 seaters with modest cargo capabilities.

      The trend towards unibody/CUVs confirms this inherent, rational appeal.

      Check back in in 5 years and see who is TKOed.

      • 0 avatar
        moedaman

        That’s why hatchbacks sales are picking up. The demographic for wagons won’t buy a wagon anymore (at least in large numbers). But people with smaller vehicles that do have a need for more room, will buy hatches.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      I would agree with this. A minivan does what a full-size wagon does, only better. They are the new wagon, except that they add more useful space and easier ingress/egress. SUVs supplanted them largely because SUVs were higher-profit and it behooved the manufacturers to convince people that they were appealing.

      After all, what would you rather sell, a mostly-bespoke unibody minivan that requires a lot of engineering, or a BoF truck that’s essentially the pickup truck you already sell a million units of?

      Now, compact wagons, that’s another story. I don’t think they ever went away, but they’re challenged by the same ease-of-use requirements as fullsize wagons were. People like to sit high and they like to be able to step into a car, rather than crouch down into it. Even in wagon-friendly Europe they’re being challenged by MPVs (wagons with a tall roof/crossovers with a low floor).

  • avatar
    sixt5cuda

    Yeah for hatches. Too bad the selection includes so few 3-doors.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      +100! Our Volvo C30 reminds me of my old Civic 3 door: very versatile and still carry four people in a pinch.

      If the Hyundai Genesis Coupe came in a hatchback configuration I’d be all over that. However instead your stuck with this tiny trunk with an even smaller opening. Folding down the seats helps but the huge expanse of glass in the back just needs to be connected to the trunk. And I’m not buying the chassis flex nonsense either, with modern materials and CAD surely they can make a stiff sports car hatchback.

    • 0 avatar
      moedaman

      Who really wants a non-sports car two or three door vehicle anymore? Putting people in the back seat is a chore that nobody wants to put up with anymore. Hell, I wish my mini-van had six doors (suicide doors for the passenger area would be cool) instead of the two front doors and the two sliding doors. What a pain in the ass sliding or folding those middle seats to get someone in the back.

      “I was hoping that the Genesis Coupe was the reincarnation of my ’97 Camaro; alas, it was not to be.”

      Quality-wise, you should be very happy that your Genesis isn’t like your old Camaro!

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        +1. Million.

        I truly dislike cars with more rows of seats than they have doors for. Too many years getting in and out of them, putting kids into them, cargo, etc, etc.

        The coupe market can whither and die and I wouldn’t shed a tear.

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        “The coupe market can whither and die and I wouldn’t shed a tear.”

        Amen to that, and anyone that is familiar with my posts on why I hate coupes since… – well, they know why, too!

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        Who really wants a non-sports car two or three door vehicle anymore? Putting people in the back seat is a chore that nobody wants to put up with anymore.

        I do.

        I think that I’ve had to drive around with more than one passenger maybe three times in my entire life. Right now, I try to remember to open and lubricate the rear doors on my sedans every so often because I’m afraid they’ll get stuck closed due to lack of use.
        ___________________________

        The coupe market can whither and die and I wouldn’t shed a tear.

        Geez, that’s pretty harsh. Anyway, you pretty much got your wish, personal luxury cars (that don’t cost a fortune) have been gone since 2002.

  • avatar
    mrhappypants

    If I could get a Cruze Eco with a 5th door, I’d be at the Chevy dealer YESTERDAY with my checkbook. I *want* to buy an American car, that looks good, gets great mileage but most importantly HAS A HATCH. Until then, I’m driving a Mazda 3 (with mediocre mileage). If the Focus got 40+ mpg with a stick, I would consider it, but I’d much rather have the 1.4l turbo/6M in the Cruze.

  • avatar
    SV

    It’s great that the Focus hatch is doing so well, and I think it will make an appearance of the Cruze hatch inevitable (though I’d still prefer the Focus 5-door, a diesel Cruze hatch would be hard to resist)

    I’m not sure how much a hatch would actually raise Cruze sales, though. I get the feeling that with the Focus, a ton of people went in to buy a sedan and ended up with the hatch for various reasons.

  • avatar
    FromaBuick6

    I wouldn’t automatically assume that hatchbacks are automatically more or less desirable based on those numbers. 200k units isn’t even that big of a jump based on the number of new/improved hatches now available to consumers.

    Some people will simply buy whatever’s on the lot. Doesn’t matter what it looks like, as long as it’s there and cheap. And sometimes the hatch or wagon simply looks drastically better than the related sedan (new Fiesta, Volvo 7/8/900 series, ’78-’80 Cutlass/Century “Aerobacks”), so those models grab a much larger percentage of sales.

    Sometimes the manufacturer simply handicaps themselves. Take the Civic hatch, for example. For whatever reason, Honda insisted on making it the strippo model. The 5th gen’s tailgate was silly and the 6th gen’s design simply limited it’s cargo room. Once the Si became a coupe, the car was finished. Meanwhile Mazda offered the first-generation 6 as both a 5 door AND a wagon. But they decided Americans just weren’t interested. Now the bigger, U.S.-specific 2nd-generation 6 sedan is glued to the showroom floor.

    Then look at Ford. They’ve offered a 3 door, 5 door and/or wagon almost continuously since 1971, and didn’t even offer a small sedan until 1992. And they’ve always done relatively well with those models, in spite of generally lousy quality.

    • 0 avatar
      sixt5cuda

      Sadly, Ford stopped selling 3-doors in 2008. In 2010 they stopped making their last 2-door that didn’t say “Mustang” on it.

    • 0 avatar
      ciddyguy

      Fromabuick6,

      I respectfully disagree. The Civic has always been available as a decently featured hatchback for decades as I had the DX grade 83 3 door hatch in the 1990’s and it was competitively equipped with the rest available at the time (when new) but by 1997, I will agree that when compared to the similar trim Golf of the day, the Civic DX was rather barren of things like cupholders and didn’t even offer ABS if I recall right, the Golf did.

      However, that was the LAST standard Civic hatch available in the US until the SI hatch which came out in 2003 as the SI only. Now to get a hatch, you have to get the Accord Crosstour or the Fit these days.

      As to the split tailgate, I loved those, they are SO practical of a design that it’s a wonder more didn’t follow that design idea in the first place. If you combined that with the magic seats of the Fit, then you’d have the best of both worlds in the practical department.

      As for hatches in general, had one and loved it and will be getting back to one soon as when you needed to haul crap, it’ll swallow it up whole with no problems for its size.

      My parents have had sedans and I’ve seen evidence from then and others when trying to carry home bulky items in a sedan, the trunk fails miserably. I know as in 1988, my parents bought a brand new 27″ RCA ColorTrac 2000 color TV and it didn’t really fit in the trunk of their car and had to be bungeed down to hold it in place. Back in 1977 when my parents had a ’76 Honda Accord, they bought a brand new Sears 19″ color TV in the box and was able to flop the seats down, shove it in and STILL cram in 4 kids in around it and have the hatch closed when they came to pick us up from the movie theater.

  • avatar
    dwford

    As pointed out in the article, many drivers are already driving a hatchback crossover, so when they go out to replace the crossover with a more fuel efficient car, they are looking for hatchbacks.

  • avatar
    Z71_Silvy

    God that new Focus is hideous. It ties the Lincoln Flex for the ugliest vehicle on the road.

  • avatar
    PaulVincent

    The 2012 Focus hatchback is the best looking car in its segment.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Miss the Mazda6 5-door

    • 0 avatar
      rudiger

      +1. Better still was the Mazda6 station wagon. Unfortunately, neither sold very well in the US (and why they went away with the new model changeover). I think Mazda must have figured the Mazda5 would replace any 6 wagon or 5-door sales.

      It’s a shame because either the Mazda6 5-door or wagon were pretty darn nice cars that had more carrying ability than the sedans.

  • avatar
    Robbie

    The trend is towards smaller cars. The hatchback car shape then makes more sense because it uses the space better.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Hatches are cool. No reason to not get one over a same model sedan, especially now with sedans being so ugly most of the time.

    Just wish they’d give these cars some performance motors. When the hell is that Focus ST coming? I hope they make it AWD too.

    • 0 avatar
      Ubermensch

      Not to mention the mail slot trunk openings on most compact sedans. The Mazda3 trunk opening is TINY.

      • 0 avatar
        shaker

        Bingo! That’s why the Fiesta and Focus hatches are selling more than Ford expected – the extremely short trunk lids of the sedans make them suitable for several small items, but the occasional large, boxy items are a no-go.

  • avatar
    Sam P

    The death of Mr. Euro has been greatly exaggerated in the new car market.

  • avatar
    threeer

    As the owner of (now two hatches/small wagons), I was overjoyed when my wife crossed over to the sunny side of hatchback ownership! I drive a 2004 Lancer Sportback Ralliart and she just picked up a 2011 Scion tC…oh, the joys of hatches and small, sporty wagons! Actually looking forward to seeing the new Rio5 soon…

    • 0 avatar
      Ubermensch

      Both the wife and I will drive nothing but a wagon or hatch. She is now pressuring me to buy a new GTI after we test drove one.

      Hint: The key to not wanting a new car every few years is to never drive anything else, especially a car that is much better than your current ride performance wise.

  • avatar

    I remember when I looked at the Mazda3 5 years ago, the sedan looked so different from the hatch and I could not understand why, only after I got the hatch I have noticed that the hood and front fenders are different on the hatch, that’s what gave it a much better look.
    For me, sedan makes no sense, when the SUV’s become so popular, I was wondering why is America hooked on 5 door SUV but when it comes to a car, it’s mostly sedan, I’m glad that the hatch is back, it looks much better on almost any car, let alone all these new Passat CC, Mercedes CLS and the like, to me it lokes like a hatch more than a sedan.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      The proportions of SUVs and cars are completely different, a sedan-link SUV would just be beyond goofy. Of course, that didn’t stop Subaru from trying to market the Outback Sport Utility Sedan…

      Though in retrospect, the Outback SUS was sort of cool in a bizarre quirky kind of way.

      • 0 avatar
        cdotson

        I have one of those, my wife alternated between calling it Subie and SUSie. It’s in my driveway behind my house with the radiator and engine accessories in the back seat awaiting head gaskets.

        When it ran it was a rather fun car (especially in snow) despite being an auto and desperately short of low-end torque. It always reminded me of my grandfather’s AMC Eagle 4×4 sedan. The Outback wagons just looked better.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    I’ve always liked the versatility of the hatchback or small wagon, especially the taller wagons of yore, such as the Tercel and the Civic wagons from 1984-1992.

    That said, I’ve always liked the extra boxiness of the small hatches so popular in the 1980’s-90’s with their kamback tail ends that gave SO much room inside, but even the more traditional mildly slanted rear glass hatchbacks which are more common do well too.

    The ’83 3 door Civic I once had was very accommodating when it came to hauling crap despite its size, just fold the seatback down and were good to go. But even with the seatback UP, it did well even then.

    I remember when in the US back in about 1988,the hatchback began to die out in many marquees, like Chevy, the Tercel began to drop its hatchback design, the Dodge/Plymouth Colts and other outside of the Civic, the Golf and a very few others such as the Geo Metro and they were IT for a long time.

    Glad to see hatchback coming back and yes, I see BOTH the new Fiesta and Focus in hatchback body styles more and more regularly these days and even the older Foci were quite common in the 3 and 5 door hatchback body.

    I won’t be surprised if I can find a decent Focus hatchback if I end up replacing my aging Ranger truck with a used car instead of a new one.

  • avatar
    dhanson865

    50+ replies and I’m the first to mention the Prius, Versa hatchback, or Leaf?

    I don’t like trucks and SUVs due to gas mileage. I want to be able to go to buy a big TV, monitor, or home supplies without renting a truck. Yes, I actually put large bulky items in my Prius. Things I’ve put in include a refrigerator, 72″ and 60″ aluminum window screen frame pieces (the 72″ aluminum had to go between the front seats partially and lay on the armrest), or a 2 stroke weed eater (long enough that I had to lay a seat down).

    I’m willing to drive a station wagon or hatchback. Either is fine so long as I can fold a seat and get a long item in the car. But in the early 2000s you didn’t have a lot of choices for hatchbacks/wagons with good gas efficiency.

    For all the yuk yuk about people buying the Prius to look different; I say it wouldn’t look so different to you if hatchbacks were common when the gen 2 Prius came around in 2003-2005 (early previews on to sales of 2004 model and 2005 model).

    If every car company took a serious stab at that market the Prius wouldn’t have seemed so darn different. You’d be so used to seeing mid sized cars with a hatch that you’d stop comparing the Prius to cars without hatches and start comparing it to something that has similar utility.

    Oh, and the Matrix wouldn’t be so darned overpriced as someone would have made better competition for it. I wouldn’t consider the corolla and friends because they didn’t have a hatch/wagon config. And the Matrix was $5K over the price of a corolla new and basically non existent on the used market back then (dunno about now). For all of the complaints about decontenting, that is one car that could use a lower price point.

    Oh, and the Nissan Versa hatchback has way more cargo space than the Yaris liftback. Why hasn’t anybody spoken up for that yet? Are Versas unreliable or just not flashy enough? Looking at their specs the only thing keeping me from looking for one to test drive is the list price to MPG ratio. If I got one cheap or if it got 45+ MPG on the highway with the Automatic transmission I’d be happy to use it. But right now it’s only $4K below the price of a Prius and the only spec it really wins on is ground clearance. The Prius has more horse power, range, way better MPG, bigger cargo area, etc. Enough to make me want a steeper discount for the Versa.

    Next down the list of hatchback sizes is the Nissan Leaf. I’m willing to deal with the range issues of the Leaf and it has enough cargo area per the specs for me to look at it closer. The kicker there is the MSRP which is way out of my price range. Electricity is way cheap where I live so the operating costs would be close to nil vs gasoline and I’m not worried about the charger situation (my house has AC in the garage so I can charge easily). But I just don’t drive enough miles to pay double the initial purchase price. Again if I got one cheap enough I’d drive it and laugh all the way to the bank. But I’m not paying the premium for it any time soon.

    • 0 avatar
      Bytor

      I agree. The Prius is a good Hatch design. It has huge accessible cargo area with the seats folded.

      Versa? Other than being larger than much of the class, this car is not that great at anything, handling, fuel econ, looks, all very middling.

      Leaf? That is a very specialized vehicle obviously. It is much more about being EV, than being a Hatchback.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        The Versa is cheap — IIRC, it starts around $12k, or about about half the cost of the Prius. It looks like a sensible and useful car for the price with good cargo and seating areas — kind of like a Prius without all of that fuel-saving technology. The Versa hatchback is certainly on my list of vehicles to look at when someone I know needs a cheap sensible little car.

        One of my friends drives one. She hasn’t complained about it, or even mentioned anything about it. I’ll have to ask her how she likes it. Knowing her, though, I expect she’ll probably say “It’s a car and it does what I need a car to do.” When someone who’s looking for that out of a car is looking for advice on a car purchase, we can go test drive one together.

        P.S. I’m a Prius driver. I wouldn’t drive anything else at the moment, but the Prius is what it is — a sensible little hatchback that’s a little ways up-market because of the technology under the hood and (to some extent) the halo effect.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      +1

      • 0 avatar
        dhanson865

        don’t let the low teens pricing fool you on the Versa

        Closer weasel numbers are

        Sedan starts at $10K
        next trim at $11,4K
        next trim at $14,1K
        Hatchback starts at $14,4K
        next trim at $16,5K sedan and $17,4 hatchback

        You have to take the highest trim to get traction control, power door locks, remote keyless entry, and such to get near the trim level of the cheapest Prius.

        It’s another $1000 for the package that gets the trim comparable to the cheapest Prius

        Then the “delivery fee” or whatever their dealers call it that turns the $17,4K price into $18,2K after fees with out that last package or $20,4K with the options evened out.

        The cheapest 2011 Prius is $24K

        So yes the Versa is $4K to $6K cheaper than the cheapest Prius if you give up features but it’s no where near “about half the cost of the Prius”. It’s more like three quarters the cost for 3/4 the car.

        Maybe an OK price but it’d take a discount below that to make me want to seriously consider downsizing from a Prius.

  • avatar

    Americans have always purchased hatches in large numbers. The only difference was 10 years ago with $1 gas they bought them on BOF chassis with 10″ ground clearance.

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    The reason I bought a Focus hatchback, is because the sedan had a mailslot opening. When the trunk is opened completely, the ability to reach into the trunk and grab anything that rolled forward is extremely limited.

    While the hatch cost more, it was by far the more practical design. Appearance was not the deciding factor. If the trunk was accessible, then I could have very well ended up with a Focus sedan.

    Hatches are not the optimal rear design in a vehicle. We have merely grown accustomed to them and no longer see their shortcomings. The optimal rear design is a gate door with disappearing rear window. This was the standard design of station wagons throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s. Gate doors with a rolling or disappearing rear window allow for cargo to be carried in a vehicle that is longer than the luggage compartment. Hatches cannot be left hanging open. The rear windows do not roll down.

    Auto buyers have not suddenly rediscovered hatches.

  • avatar
    Junebug

    I have a GTI, we bought our daughter a 2010 madza 3 – sedan, getting groceries in either is no problem. I personally like the sedan better.

  • avatar
    Bytor

    People really underestimate the capabilities of small hatchbacks. When I finished school and started my first job, in a move across town. I saved a bunch of moving expenses by moving everything I own in a Mazda 323 Hatchback. It took several trips, but I moved a Hutch, a Large computer desk, a Dresser, a king sized Mattress (INSIDE the hatch rolled up a bit).

    One thing I wish more manufacturers would do with hatchbacks is the folding front seat like the Toyota Matrix, to boost carry capacity even more.

    http://0.tqn.com/d/cars/1/0/N/X/11_07_matrix_gallery_cargo.jpg

    I love the Matrix Cargo capability. Too bad that is otherwise kind of mediocre.

    What other hatches have a folding front seat??

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      The HHR and PT Cruiser do/did, and the Fit does, though in a different way.

      • 0 avatar
        Bytor

        I don’t really consider the HHR/PT less mediocre than a Matrix.

        The Fit is interesting, but I think it’s long carry mode expose the seat fabric surfaces, while the matrix protects them. I prefer the Matrix approach.

        I am surprised that more hatchback makers don’t provide the simple folding passenger seat for long items.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        I rented an HHR on a trip a few years ago, and after 3 days of driving it, my now-wife and I decided we would never own one. The HHR is a modest family car on the inside with the same MPGs as my Ford Ranger (which didn’t impress us), but the problem was the visibility. The windows in that thing were tiny, and the pillars are huge, and we decided that this was a safety issue for us. The retro style may speak to some people, but it doesn’t do anything for us — and the lack of visibility makes it a dangerous vehicle for those of us who are accustomed to good visibility.

        Can’t speak to the PT Cruiser. It looks enough like the HHR that my wife says “VETO” if I even glance in the direction of one…! In that light, the Matrix is looking pretty darned good!

    • 0 avatar
      mazder3

      If you can put up with a lumpy load floor, the Mazda3 can have a folding front seat. Remove the headrests from both the rear and front passenger’s seats, move the front seat all the way forward, fold the front seat back and fold the back seat forward. An eight foot ladder fits snugly. Just make sure you put a blanket or a towel between the top of the ladder and the dash. Found out that one the hard way….

  • avatar
    Pch101

    475,000 units. An 11 million SAAR. That amounts to a whopping 4.3% of the market.

    Something for small car designers to note, but otherwise, not exactly a revolutionary change in tastes.

  • avatar
    MarcKyle64

    I love the utility of my 3 door 2010 Accent hatchback. I don’t need the extra doors and the amount of space available for storage with the seats down is fantastic. I bought exactly the amount of car that I needed: an economical car (I average 28 mpg in mostly city usage with the A/C constantly on) that could hold my wife’s wheelchair. I’d had previous cars with trunks big enough to hold her chair, but there was no room left after that was loaded, so I often ended up with the inconvenience of putting the groceries in the back seat. Now I just put her chair in first and then pile the groceries around and on top of it.


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