The five-door hatchback, long a staple of world markets, is enjoying a resurgance in a big way. While hatchbacks were once regarded as symbols of poverty in the eyes of most Americans, the premium segment is the vanguard of the hatchback today, with everything from the Audi A7 to the Porsche Panamera sporting a “fifth door”.
The first leaked pictures of the BMW 3-Series GT drew more than a few comparisons to the very first Hyundai Elantra GT (shown above). Unlike the two-box GT on sale now, this one looked more like a pseudo-sedan and was part of a sporadic line of five-doors that tried their hand at the American marketplace and ultimately failed.
The most recent example that I can think of is the first-generation Mazda6. Despite being the driver’s choice since its debut, the Mazda6 has never really caught on with buyers – the hatch didn’t even make it past the first generation, despite soldiering on throughout the world into the second generation.
Unlike the good folks at Mazda, Honda decided to withhold the hatch from us. Europeans got the 5-door Accord, but like the Mazda, it never sold in huge numbers either – unlike hatchback versions of the Ford Mondeo and Vauxhall/Opel Vectra. These cars seem to get exported to the Carribbean in huge numbers – there’s even a song about it.
At the other end of the spectrum there’s the Chevrolet Malibu Maxx, and its “hot” sibling, the Maxx SS. The Maxx could be held up as yet another example of a good faith attempt at bringing European product over to the US, with the execution going horribly wrong (see: Buick Regal). The Maxx was based on the Opel Signum, which was intended to re-invent the “executive car” segment in Europe with a two-box form factor, similar to other famous success stories like the Renault Vel Satis and Avantime. We all know how that worked out. Now run that through the cheesecloth of awfulness that was GM right before the bailout, and it’s hard to imagine how this car avoided being an Aztek-grade screwup.
Of course, there are other luminaries like the Plymouth Sundance, most Saabs and of course, the Geo Prizm. My all-time favorite five-door hatch is still the early 1990’s Mazda Lantis with Mazda’s 2.5L KL-ZE V6. The same power as the 2014 Mazda6 in a lighter package full of hatchback goodness? I’m sold. Too bad the rest of the American buying public isn’t.