Hatchback Throwback: A Five-Door Retrospective

Derek Kreindler
by Derek Kreindler
hatchback throwback a five door retrospective

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.

Join the conversation
2 of 45 comments
  • Mazder3 Mazder3 on Feb 08, 2013

    I think this decade there may be an growth in hatches. My friends all went from sport utes to hatches and they plan on never going back. Same amount of room, twice the fuel economy.

  • RHD RHD on Feb 10, 2013

    Had a couple of the original Honda Civics - a '77 and a '78, a turbo Plymouth Colt (that was a fun little commuter!) and an '89 Acura Integra. Too bad so few are being made now - would love a hatch on my Accord... Good visibility and real-life practicality go a long way! Carmakers should forget about trying to outguess the market and just make really good cars. Lots of demographic segments would buy a good hatchback sedan if it wasn't cheapened and decontented to death (a la GM and Honda, recently).

  • Analoggrotto As we Tesla owners receive our life energy from the greatest son of the gods of all time, Elon Musk; His cherubs and His nephilim may remove whatever they wish from us for unto him we owe all for our superiority above all the rest of humanity.
  • Kcflyer Nice to see California giving NY some competition to be the worst run state in the union.
  • Wolfwagen I see my comment was deleted (BTW nice way to censor) so i will say it again:GTFO here with the pseudo "wealth distribution" BS. A crime is a crime is a crime.Its a slippery slope, what happens next, Jail a rich guy when he kills a pedestrian and let the poor guy who kills a pedestrian walk? What about if the poor guy is a crappy driver and has the record to prove it then what?Or we could go crazy and just institute the death penalty across the board for every driving infraction. That will make people better drivers or stop driving altogether which will make the greenies happy (damm it I just gave them an idea - SOB!!!)
  • Wolfwagen No. Bring back the J80 with an inline six and reduced electronics (i.e. no giant touch screen) and they will probably sell like hotcakes
  • David S. " test vehicles sometimes make sudden stops when uncertain about how to navigate traffic."??? Test vehicles are programmed by humans, HUMANS sometimes make sudden stops when uncertain about how to navigate traffic, Duh!!