By on June 5, 2015

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So I was sitting around the house the other day and my mind started drifting to the Toyota Matrix. Do you remember the Matrix? This was a happy little Japanese 5-door hatchback that never really harmed anybody, except people with eyes who looked directly at the front bumper of XRS models.

No, I’m kidding. It wasn’t that ugly. Also not very ugly was its twin, the Pontiac Vibe, which was essentially the Geo Prizm of the modern era. What I mean by this is, it’s got Toyota running gear, and Toyota gas mileage, and Toyota reliability, but it’s two grand cheaper on Craigslist because everyone thinks it’s a Pontiac.

Now, these were, by all accounts, excellent cars. I mean, sure, they were dull. And they drove like economy cars. And they didn’t really have many features beyond power windows and a CD player. But in the early 2000s, this was about all you could want from a new automobile that cost like fifteen grand.

And yet people didn’t want it. The Matrix and Vibe went through one redesign together where they sort of lost the character of their shapes. And then, that was it: the cars were gone, Pontiac was gone, and Toyota sort of gave up on the hatchback game except the Yaris, which is a car that makes it seem kind of like Toyota gave up on the automobile game.

So what the hell happened?

Well, what happened is, they were hatchbacks. I say this because Toyota also sold a sedan version of the Matrix at the time, and it did very well. You may have heard of it, because it’s called the Corolla.

And, of course, people bought the Corolla in droves. Tens of zillions of people wake up every day with nothing better to do than buy a Corolla. They’re like zombie people, all heading to the Toyota dealer to get their Corolla fix. “MUST BUY COROLLA,” they say, walking in with blank personal checks in hand. “MUST NOT BUY MATRIX.”

So this is a major phenomenon, but I’m kind of curious why.

By all reasonable measures, the Matrix is probably a slightly better car. The thing is basically a Corolla in every conceivable way, except it’s got a lot more cargo room. So who the hell wouldn’t want more cargo room? And thus: who the hell wouldn’t want a hatchback?

Well, a lot of people, it seems, because in case you haven’t checked recently, hatchbacks don’t really sell all that well. I mean, yeah, sure, there are a few that seem to do pretty well, like the Honda Fit, and the Mazda3, and the Aston Martin DB9. But what I’ve noticed, generally, is that for every hatchback an automaker sells, they sell like fifty zillion sedans.

Interestingly, this isn’t the case in many places overseas. What happens overseas is, people buy hatchbacks in ridiculous numbers. “I’m running to the store,” an overseas woman might say to her husband. “Do you need me to get anything?” And he will reply: “Yes, a hatchback!” And then she will buy something like an Open Corsa 0.9 diesel, for which she will pay $8,399, plus tax of $112,470. Of course, all of this would take place in a foreign language, because that’s what they speak overseas.

But in North America, we’ve never really endeared to the hatchback. [Speak for yourself, U.S.A. -Canada/Mexico]

I think part of the reason may be because we are really concerned about privacy. This whole Edward Snowden thing went down, and Americans have suddenly gone into hyper privacy mode, to the point where people next to me in on a plane even try to hide their iPhone screens when I glance over to read their text messages.

And sedans are masters of privacy. This is because they have an enclosed box in the back where you can put your things, whereas hatchbacks have all these windows that kind of say: Here are my things! And this is where I have put them!

But is that the reason why we’ve eschewed the hatchback for the sedan? Simply due to privacy? We’ve given up on those sweet hatchback lines, and all that sweet hatchback interior room, and the sweet hatchback carrying capabilities, due to something that can be solved with a cargo cover?

I’m not sure, but I’d love to hear from you. Why do you think hatchbacks aren’t popular in North America? [Again? This is an American problem! -Canada/Mexico] Have you ever been rebuffed when you suggested a hatchback to someone? And if so, what the hell was the person’s reasoning? Aside, of course, from being a member of the Corolla-buying zombie club.

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233 Comments on “QOTD: Why Don’t We Like Hatchbacks?...”


  • avatar
    donalddole

    Many people like the extra security of a trunk over a window that can be smashed. Also, you can hide what is in the trunk to prevent thieves’ interest. Personally, I would never leave something of value in the rear of a hatchback, but I would in a proper trunk.

    Other than that, I like hatchbacks. They are ‘practical’ until you are someone that travels with valuable objects.

    • 0 avatar
      b534202

      Irrational fear.
      If thieves would smash a window, they can easily pull the trunk release lever.
      And which hatchback doesn’t come with a cargo cover to hide your stuff?

    • 0 avatar
      bjchase55

      I’ve only had 4 cars in my life thus far…a mini-van (my first car, thank you parents..actually I loved that car), a sedan, and 2 hatchbacks. The only car I have ever had anything stolen from is the trunk of the sedan. They popped the lock and that was it. My first hatchback was in high school and college and I had hundreds of dollars of subs/amps in that thing. Nothing stolen.

    • 0 avatar
      CX1

      But the key is what they are securing. If I read chart right on Wikipedia, Americans own 88 guns per person, on average.

      The average American may be able to load all 88 of their guns into a Pontiac Vibe but you can be sure that someone will smash your windows and take all your guns. (Probably Obama)

      A proper sedan with a trunk lets you bring along some of your collection without inviting folks to smash your windows and take a few.

      Europeans do not have to worry about this and can drive around in hatchbacks. You will note that hatchback ownership is lowest in European countries with Second Amendment rights (Serbia, Switzerland and Cyprus – all less than 3 hatchbacks per person).

    • 0 avatar
      cnate

      how about some people might be afraid of crash test score in a hatch, especially rear end accidents, hatch might look have less room to absorb impact?
      also the price, I remember when new mazda 3 came out, sedan came first, then the wagon months or a year later? plus a few hundred dollars more expensive, maybe that drove some buyers away.

  • avatar
    bigev007

    I generally like wagons, but the reasons I don’t like hatchbacks are:
    The hatch or wagon version is often shorter than the sedan. So I gain cargo height (which is less useful because I need to see out the back) but lose cargo depth. So yes the hatch might hold a bike(a Matrix wouldn’t hold mine w/o disassembly), but it won’t hold many suitcases.

    Hatches are noisier. There’s more room for noise to bounce around. (I think this makes them feel cheaper too) Plus add the noise of all of your stuff bouncing around back there.

    So they don’t always have more usable space, and they feel cheaper because they’re noisier. I believe those are largely why hatches are dead in the USA.

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      To some extent, it depends on the hatch – think of the the 1rst gen Mazda6 hatch – looked nearly identical to the sedan, had a similar shaped cargo area, just a bigger opening and more space when you folded the seats down.

    • 0 avatar
      Power6

      You bring up some good points. I’m a wagon/hatch fan but is not all upsides. It may be a dumb compliant but it is not just more road noise nice, but any cargo in a wagon you will hear rattling around where you don’t hear it in a sedan. No big deal sometimes but can be tiring when you have a long drive. I had a WRX hatch and it was exactly as you describe, 6 inches shorter than the sedan. It still fit cargo you could not fit in the sedan, but due to the short hatch area you had to fold down the seats a lot.I had an 88 MX-6 at one time that had fold down rear seats with a very sizable opening (some modern cars have tiny openings behind a huge seatback) and I felt that thing was a decent compromise.

      • 0 avatar
        S1L1SC

        There is a reason they make cargo nets and tie downs – secure your stuff and you don’t have noise issues…

        • 0 avatar
          Power6

          It wasn’t always practical for me to “secure cargo” you make it sound like a simple fix but it is not!

          For example I had this big rubbermaid bin I used for track days, it had jack, fluids, extra pads etc everything I need for a track day. Was nice when I lived in an apartment I could just load it in and go. That baby was heavy it wouldn’t move so it didn’t need to be tied down, but no matter how you arranged everything is was always rattling around on the highway. Couldn’t hear it in the trunk of my SRT-4 but it made a racket in my WRX. Securing the bin would not have made a difference.

          That’s just one example that I recall, there were other things and securing cargo is not always a solution. I still prefered the hatch over the sedan though.

    • 0 avatar
      roverv8i

      Bigev007’s comments hit the nail on the head for me. Generally, “hatchbacks, station wagons, SUV’s, CUV’s, whateverUV’s all have hatches. I have a 1980 Rover SD1 that is a hatch but not a notchback, it’s very sloppy. I think you have to consider a definition of the hatchback that we are talking about. For me it is a sedan that has the trunk turned on end so the majority of the space is vertical but not really bigger that the trunk of the sedan. A station wagon had the same trunk as the sedan but with a raised roof over it much like a camper top on a pickup. So, you get added space in the back over the sedan even with the seats up. A hatchback is not as versatile as a station wagon because to get most of the extra space it requires you to lower the back seats. If you have kids with you most of the time then you still need the seats. For me at least, when I need more space than the trunk I usually have to make a special trip because I would have the kids with me. So the hatchback would rarely offer that much more utility and is some case less as I could not stack thinks above the back seats for fear it would fall on the kids.

    • 0 avatar
      mitchw

      Because an aging, fat, and physically decrepit population has an easier time getting into taller wider vehicles. They don’t have to lower and hoist their jabba bods very far with their weak muscles or fold tight their intra-abdomenal adiposity in a tall CUV. I love it when hippos claim they’re too tall for a car, as if there’s no extra padding in their backs and behinds which squeezes them to the ceiling. Also, leasing makes more expensive vehicles reachable for the toe touching challenged.

      Does anybody think the car companies don’t know about this? They accommodate us.

      • 0 avatar
        udman

        You know, I really resent your comment categorizing people who need easy access to a taller vehicle as Jabba the Hut… I am a svelte 150 pound 59 year old male who prefers the ease of access a CUV or SUV grants because of a recent disability… I survived a major stroke three years ago. I can get into a sports car (and do so almost weekly as I work at a Mercedes-Benz Store), as well as regular sedans, wagons, and CUV’s, I just prefer the easier access of a CUV or SUV.

        I go to a gym at least three times a week (sometimes more) but I still don’t have the strength I used to have on my right side (I lost between 30 and 50% of my strength after the stroke on the affected side) so exiting a low slung SLK or SL is challenging at times.

        In conclusion might I suggest that when making comments like this, you might want to think about where your insults might land before submitting your comment…

      • 0 avatar
        mitchw

        I noted physical disability as a reason for demand for taller cars. Getting in and out is easier. I agree that my use of the word ‘decrepit’ was inflammatory, as too many people just sit around all day hoping for the best. Have you seen car guys? (see? did it again)

      • 0 avatar
        Zoom

        “Because Fat’ still doesn’t explain why more people choose a sedan over the same model hatchback.

    • 0 avatar
      TW5

      Noise is a good point. The cargo area is basically a reverb chamber. Has anyone ever ridden in a CR-V circa 2008-2010? The din is almost unbearable.

      • 0 avatar
        Mandalorian

        BIgev007 hit the nail on the head.

        Hatchbacks shorter than their sedan counterparts are lousy. Cargo depth is more important than height. With many hatchbacks, it’s impossible to carry people AND their cargo. With a sedan, the trunk may not be huge, but it can take 5 people + luggage. Sure you could fold the rear seats down, but then it’s people OR cargo.

        Here’s an example. On a recent trip I had a rental Corolla. It was able to fit 2 large suitcases in the trunk as well as carry around 4 occupants comfortably. This would not have been possible in a Matrix.

    • 0 avatar

      I know my Jetta SportWagen was identical in length to the Mk.5 Jetta sedan on which it was based. But yes, hatches, in particular, do tend to be shorter. The Sonic hatch, for example, is noticeably shorter than the sedan.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        “But yes, hatches, in particular, do tend to be shorter”

        For a great example of this and how big of a difference it makes, one needs only to park a Golf next to a Sportwagen and pop the back hatches.

        Most hatchbacks are People or Cargo movers, and hardly a step up from a sedan. Wagons are People + Cargo movers. Cargo volume alone is the primary factor keeping me from moving into a GTI from my Sportwagen right now.

        • 0 avatar

          I did park my Golf SportWagen next to a regular Mk.7 Golf. In all honesty, it’s only a foot longer. But it makes a big difference.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            A foot translates to a VERY substantial difference in actual cargo space. Case in point, I was trying hard to make the case for a low mileage Xterra to replace my older 4Runner. Seems pretty similar sizewise, no? Took a ruler with me to measure actual dimensions of the rear cargo hold with seats up and down at the dealer. The 4Runner won out about 6 inches worth length-wise, everything else was really close. But when I was moving to a new place this past month, I noted just how many times the large item I was hauling (treadmill, bench press, random furniture) just BARELY fit length wise in the 4runner. If I had the Xterra it would have been a no-go. In terms of official cargo capacity, the difference is clearly demonstrated: 1996 4Runner 44.6 cu ft seats up, 79.7 seats down. 2012 Xterra 36.3 cu ft seats up, 65.7 seats down.

          • 0 avatar
            Wheatridger

            If length is what matters — and only SHE knows for sure — then hatchbacks might be in for a revival soon. Have you seen the typical 21st Century urban parking space? Here in Boulder and Denver, 50,000 + folks are happily living in newly-built lofts and flats of Brooklynesque, if not Manhattanite density. An extra foot or two of length might matter there, especially considering the bike rack hung on back.

            My wife’s Tiguan is the family’s “big car.” Cargo room is tight with the back seat up, but she won’t consider anything longer. Though we live in the ‘burbs, she parks in a tight downtown garage. So far, she’s only hit one bollard there…

            Hatchbacks have always been my preference, whenever a wagon was unavailable. The psychology of the average American is a mystery to me, but I sure see plenty of wagons and hatchbacks all around me on the roads. They;re just enlarged 50% and called something else.

    • 0 avatar
      MrGreenMan

      +1 – Agreed. I don’t mind wagons and have shopped them. I don’t really like hatches and don’t shop them.

    • 0 avatar
      Jacob

      Hatchbacks give you a great cargo volume and shape with the rear seats folded. That’s the whole point. Folding rear seats is a reasonable compromise. How often do you have to transport large oversize cargo plus rear seat passengers?

  • avatar
    dwight

    Here in Canada, I prefer the hatchback design (I drive a Micra) but recently I have found a car that can do it all and it is no where near being a hatchback. On my list of “next car purchase” sits the Dodge Challenger. Just the V6 is fine.

    It suddenly hit me that this car has everything I need in a car: safety, spacious, comfortable and the trunk can swallow all my bikes and have room left over for my living room furniture. It’s the everything car.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve Biro

      Gadzooks, that’s brilliant, Dwight. I’ve been kind of looking at a V6 Challenger myself – more as an ersatz personal luxury coupe a la Monte Carlo or 90’s Thunderbird. But it is truly as useful as you say. There’s been too much emphasis on the brief muscle car chapter of Pony car history with both the new-era Challenger and new-era Camaro.

      Now, to hatchbacks: I don’t believe privacy is the issue here. After all, most hatchbacks offer a cover for the cargo area which essentially gives one the privacy of a trunk, at least when the rear seats are in the upright position. And what are SUVs and CUVs other than raised hatchbacks and wagons? I just think someone decided hatches weren’t cool and the ever-cautious general public didn’t want to be caught driving the “wrong” kind of car.

      Full disclosure: I currently drive a 2010 Subaru Impreza Outback Sport, which is nothing if not a hatchback. And so are the current five-door Imprezas and so is the current XV Crosstrek. And Subie is selling every last one they can make. Leave it to Subaru to find a way to sell hatchbacks to the Americans.

      • 0 avatar
        Veee8

        And what are SUVs and CUVs other than raised hatchbacks and wagons?

        Exactly…and the sheeple are loving their false sense of security and perceived coolness by not having a wagon,van or hatch..

    • 0 avatar
      Willyam

      dwight,
      your logic makes me happy, because (as long as you don’t buy purple or bright green) the Challenger seems the best option to have a pony-car and people won’t think you’re tooling around in your kids car. Make mine dark grey!

      • 0 avatar
        Steve Biro

        Exactly. Dark grey or dark blue, V6 (300hp anyway), 8-speed auto, no stripes or spoilers and the most low-key wheels Dodge will put on it. You wouldn’t even need much in the way of options. It already comes with air, power windows and U-Connect.

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        I’m come to increasingly respect the Challenger as it ages, it is the perfect boulevard cruiser in so many ways. I’ll be sad whenever FCA finally decides where to take it next. I’d rather the 392, though I hear it rides harsh so I’d either settle for the 5.7 or figure out how to adapt the springs of the 5.7 to the 392.

    • 0 avatar
      wstarvingteacher

      @ Dwight: +1 I once traded a Honda hatch for a town car for that reason. The trunk would carry all my tools which allowed me to moonlight while teaching school. It also will tow a small trailer for larger jobs.

      Retired now and have a large hatch (4Runner) which does it all. I consider the 4wd a real bonus as I live on a small hobby farm.

    • 0 avatar
      pragmatic

      If only the V6 offered a manual transmission.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    The first gen Matrix/Vibe are, in hindsight, some of the best cars in the compact segment in the past 15 years IMO. Reliable to a fault, roomier than the typical hatchback, fuel efficient, and there was even a genuinely sporty variant with a 8000rpm screamer of a motor (and lame gearing, it must be said). The Matrix in particular almost split the difference between wagon and hatchback in that the 1st gen still had a vestigial rear quarter window over the cargo area, the cargo area itself was actually very large and useful rather than the usual “chopped butt” hatchbacks. Avoid the “XR” with the aftermarket looking body kit and you even got some very decent ground clearance for a fwd non-crossover car. My family almost bought one in 2006 to replace our aging 1990 Civic Wagon, but were turned off by a)cheap-ish interior with gaudy chrome gauge surrounds b) ropey shifter linkage c) poor visibility. However by modern standards the visibility doesn’t seem so bad after all and the interior quality is higher than the subsequent generation of Corolla. We ended up buying a 5spd Fit “Base” in 2007, it replaced the old Wagon almost perfectly (except for worse visibility).

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      It was a great little utilitarian wagonlet, and you’re right that the base trims looked far better than those with the embarrassing body kits.

      I spent 4 hours each way in the back of one roadtripping with some friends and it was surprisingly roomy back there. Theirs was AWD. Road noise was an issue, as was the poor little 1.8 shoving the additional AWD hardware through the four wide ratios of the automatic.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Was going to mention the Matrix was available with AWD, an oddity in this segment outside of small Subaru items.

        My sister had an XR for a couple years, and boy howdy was that thing A) cheap inside and B) buzzy and loud on the road. Very tiring.

    • 0 avatar
      SteelyMoose

      “Reliable to a fault” is putting it mildly. My ’06 Vibe is coming up on 350,000 miles with nothing but fluids and rubber (and an ECM replaced under a TSB). It can swallow an amazing amount of stuff with the rear seat folded down (and in fact holds a lot with the seat up), and gets 32 MPG week in and week out. As mentioned, road noise is off the charts, although tire selection can increase or reduce the decibels. Due to that single factor, I will probably return to a sedan form factor for my next vehicle.

      But until then, I’ll just keep saving money while this little spud keeps on keeping on…

  • avatar
    Joss

    Renault 16 hit the shore 40 years ago as a sedan wagon. Maybe americans prefer longer monikers? Who knows, who cares.

  • avatar
    Truckducken

    Matrix is one of the few cars I’ve test driven that was so bad I turned the keys back in before leaving the dealer lot. It takes some really poor handling characteristics to get that sort of response from me. I suppose it might have been an OK appliance for driving in a straight line at moderate speeds.

  • avatar
    an innocent man

    We do like hatchbacks. We just like them a little taller and we call them CUVs. And I’m not sure we’ve eschewed anything for sedans. Who buys sedans?

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Exactly.

    • 0 avatar
      EquipmentJunkie

      Yep, and don’t forget the SUV and minivan segments.

      As a former owner of a VW Golf and currently a BMW 318ti, I love the practicality of popping open the hatch and throwing in my weedeater, a 4′ step ladder, or an antique something that I picked up at an auction. Hatchbacks are a bit like Boy Scouts, they have the motto “Be Prepared”.

    • 0 avatar
      notapreppie

      The only reason I went with sedan (used 2009 G37x) was that I couldn’t get a hatchback with RWD/AWD and 300 HP for under $20k.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      I bought a sedan. My previous two cars were hatchbacks, my wife asked me not to get another. Not sure why, she’s had two crossovers and a van, which all had hatches.

    • 0 avatar
      Fred

      People buy sedans who don’t want a high center of gravity slowing them down in corners.

    • 0 avatar
      dwford

      +1

    • 0 avatar
      ClutchCarGo

      Yes, pretty much anyone who is interested in the added functionality of a liftgate in back is going CUV nowadays. Hatchback versions of cars used to be much more popular, but once style-conscious buyers (i.e. women) decided SUVs of every size were more fashionable in the 90s, hatchbacks became declasse. The advent of CUVs even accelerated the trend.

      • 0 avatar
        Mandalorian

        I would argue that with the exception of the tiny (ex: Buick Encore) CUVs are more of raised up WAGONS than HATCHBACKS. CUVs tend to have a pretty good sized trunk (seats up) like wagons where hatchbacks do not.

  • avatar
    FastPatrick

    Hatchbacks don’t sell because they have a persistent image problem in a status-symbol economy. Hatchbacks will always define the econo/cheap/living-small end of the car-buying scale, and no proper millionaire-in-waiting American wants to look like they accept their underfunded state to the point of advertising it with a car purchase. Yes, there’s no shortage of really tacky cheap sedans that are basically hatches with trunks tacked on running around, but those at least let people avoid the hatch stigma in their own heads.

    And for those of us past a certain age, hatches too often come across as exclusively youth-market cars and we tend to prefer something a bit more formal given the choice. The Golf is probably the only hatch that can convey some sense of adult gravitas, although the Focus and maybe the Mazda 3 aren’t too far back. Otherwise it’s like trying to roll with Wiz Khalifa or something turned up a bit too loud.

    Of course, if you think about it, there are millions upon millions of very functional hatchbacks running around that people love and think are the greatest cars on the road. They’re called SUVs.

    • 0 avatar
      spreadsheet monkey

      Do you think cars like the Audi A7 and BMW 3-series GT can change the “hatchback = cheap/inferior” mentality in the US?

      Here in the UK, we get hatchback versions of midsize cars like the Ford Mondeo (Fusion) and Vauxhall Insignia (Regal) and they look pretty good. I assume the product planners at Ford and GM have decided there is insufficient demand to bother with selling these cars in the US.

      • 0 avatar
        clivesl

        The catch 22 of the us market. Do they not sell because they aren’t here or are they not here because they don’t sell.

        I would have been in the market for an upscale hatch before the kid and the dogs. I may still find myself in one when the child leaves in a few years.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I see plenty of A7s driving about.

      • 0 avatar
        HotPotato

        Believe it or not, fashion is shifting in the direction of large luxury hatchbacks. Thank Tesla for that. In my overprivileged little town, there is no shortage of Teslas, Audi A7s, Porsche Panameras and that BMW thing that’s essentially an expensive Honda Crosstour. Their ultra-slopey rear windows make them all pretty useless compared to a proper wagon, and the Porsche’s styling resembles Donald Trump’s dildo, but they’re “different.”

        Would someone like to take a chance on selling a *real* wagon to this crowd? Or at least to this crowd’s cousin that went to a state school and isn’t quite in the BMW price bracket? The Opel/Vauxhall Insignia wagon is dead sexy, truly one of the best looking cars I have ever seen. And unlike its Euro-wagon peers like the Volvo V60 and Audi A4, it actually has cargo space. What do you say, Buick? Regal Turbo Touring? There’s no competition in that niche here but the Acura wagon, which is underpowered, overpriced, and styled by Sears Roebuck.

        • 0 avatar
          S2k Chris

          “There’s no competition in that niche here but the Acura wagon, which is underpowered, overpriced, and styled by Sears Roebuck.”

          It’s probably because of the TSX no one sold wagons. All of the criticism of the wagon can be levied onto the sedan, but they sold the relative crap out of the sedan (they’re thick on the ground here in Chicagoland) and almost none of the wagons. Wagon fans are the pimply “would not hit” overweight internet basement dwellers of the car world. “I would totally buy a wagon. Wait, that one is slightly more expensive and slightly less powerful than I would prefer…FAIL.” Meanwhile, sedan buyers buy the sedans in relative droves.

          Yeah, shocking no one makes a wagon.

    • 0 avatar
      jhefner

      I think people still associate hatchbacks with the Escort, Chevette, and Yugo of old; even though there have been some good ones. Some other thoughts:

      * To me, hatchbacks are comprise between a sedan and a wagon, with disadvantages from each. Like a wagon, your cargo rattles with you in the car for everyone to see to steal; but the slopped back of the hatchback has less interior volume than station wagon off the same body style, since the wagon has a more vertical hatch. (I am aware that you can place stuff in a hatchback, and leave the back open, something you can’t do in a wagon.

      * It is not just the noise of the stuff in the back, but the hatch itself usually squeaks a little even in a very stiff car. It also lets more noise and sunlight/heat through that huge rear glass.

      Having said that; with today’s coupe styling, they may as well make hatchbacks out of them rather than have the small trunk lid most cars have nowdays.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    That little Honda looks more fun than a barrel of monkeys…

  • avatar
    Keith_93

    I like hatchbacks (and drive one).

    The hatchback has picked up some steam in recent years… all small cars.

    But the poster who said “CUV” is right. The CUV has become the modern American hatchback. I may not like that, but its true.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    Doug DeMuro ‘The Robotic automaton’ clickbait titles will be the end of contemplative TTAC.

    Doug’s upcoming titles:

    Can brown cars be sexy?

    Why the modern automatic transmission is actually more engaging than manual gearbox.

    Go snag a used 3 cylinder Geo Metro now before prices skyrocket.

    Rolling coal is actually a constitutionally protected right.

    Why Hillary Clinton will be terrific for the automotive industry.

    They don’t make a single bad vehicle today.

    Why the inline 4 cylinder is inherently superior in EVERY way to the V6 or V8.

    The wagon: Menace to society.

    The diesel motor: Our collective salvation on planet earth.

    Fossil fuels: How & why they will end us.

    Balsa wood & model airplane glue: How it will save the auto industry.

    What Caitlin Jenner & Pre-packaged bankruptcy in the automotive context have in common.

    Johan de Nysschen: The Henry Ford of our time.

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff Waingrow

      DeadWeight, I love when they lob a fat pitch to you and you hit it out of the park. Might you consider adding another ten to the list? For example, “Can anyone honestly tell where the leather ends and the vinyl begins?”

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        “Today’s stance suspension is yesteryear’s lowrider, with special additional commentary by Wang Chung, collectively”

        (Kinja article in sidebar: “Amy Schumer can catch a d**k anytime she wants and she’s a buck sixty, too.”)

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t think we need to be serious every morning. Friday is Hawaiian Shirt Day at TTAC.

    • 0 avatar
      energetik9

      This response does crack me up. Nice work on getting Caitlyn in there somewhere because we sure do need to hear more on that one.

      But…just for the record, I do like these QOTD, even if they are wide open. I’d like to think that the TTAC population is varied and covers the entire spectrum of the experience and maybe even the industry. And in the end, this is a platform to discuss and post. The QOTD is specifically designed to start a discussion.

    • 0 avatar
      TW5

      There’s nothing wrong with bikeshedding, as long as everyone knows what’s going on. Sometimes good things come of frivolous thought exercises, too, but you should know that DW since you spend all of your time contemplating the spiritual awakening of GM.

    • 0 avatar
      Acd

      Here are some additional pressing automotive issues that Doug could help clarify for us:

      Automatic headlights: Delightful convenience of the downfall of modern civilization?

      Cloth or leather seats? Let’s settle this once and for all.

      White sidewall tires: Is now a good time for them to make a comeback?
      (Optional follow up: Are narrow stripe or wide stripes better?)

      Since Great Brittan won’t drive on the right side of the road should the rest of the world start driving on the left?

      Radio antennas: Should they be mounted on the roof or fender? You decide!

      Why do so many Toyotas drive under the speed limit in the left lane and clog up traffic?

      What is the best new car for senior citizens since the Grand Marquis went out of production and no one makes a car with a factory vinyl roof anymore?

      Why do cars have AM radios?
      (Related Question: Are traffic reports on the 2’s or the 8’s more useful?)

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      I find DM’s QOTD mildly diverting, so I’ll click from time to time. I do find DW responses hilarious though.

      DM and DW — boy you two have curious initials… as if DW is trying to turn DM on his head. :)

      Anyway, I’ll play:

      – How many speeds should a manual have? 5, 6, or more?
      – Flat bottom steering wheels, gimmick or for fat people?
      – Bangle Butt or Kardashian Butt?

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      I think it would be funny if Doug did an article about how to get DW riled up.

    • 0 avatar
      Crabspirits

      Wrong!
      I’ve been selected to lead the downfall of The Truth About Cars!
      I’ll do this with fiction obviously.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Everyone who’s ever been subjected to SpongeBob SquarePants knows crabs are shifty and up to no good.

        • 0 avatar
          Mullholland

          @dal20402 Congratulations!
          Your two posts have won one of the most entertaining threads I’ve read on TTAC in quite awhile. Honorable mention goes to Crabspirits, redav and WheelMcoy. And what would we do without DeadWeight?
          Oh, I just bought an Elantra GT for my wife to drive. More power, more standard features, better ride and handling—all for much less money than a sedan or some jacked-up mini SUV.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            I have to be honest and say that DeadWeight deserves all credit here.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            Dal, for all of our disagreements in substance or tone (often but not always), you’re a gentleman and scholar. An example of this is when you, 28 and a couple others defended bball as one of the finest of the B&B – I attacked Kyree in a juvenile fashion several months ago, by contrast, and still feel badly about that as Kyree is also a gentleman at all times).

          • 0 avatar

            I appreciate the compliment, DeadWeight. No hard feelings.

    • 0 avatar
      alexndr333

      I can understand DW’s frustration. Mr. DeMuro expresses so easily what DW so desperately lacks: a sense of humor.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        Some of Doug’s stuff is funny & I was among his most ardent supporters when things went haywire under the Bertel Schmidt regime, but he’s been phoning it in lately.

        I’m really not without a sense of humor nor am I prickish in real life, but I don’t tolerate utter incompetence (see GM and Cadillac management) lightly (I’m not comparing Doug to Cadillac; that’d be a hyperbolic stretch & unfair to Doug, as Cadillac makes him appear to be Daimler or Ferrari as a matter of relativity)..

  • avatar
    kefkafloyd

    As mentioned earlier, people drive hatchbacks and wagons every day, they’re just overinflated SUV/CUV bodies. The problem is that a bigger car almost always means “better” if it really isn’t.

    I also don’t buy the privacy argument, because 1. tinted windows and 2. almost all hatchbacks I know of come with the privacy shelf (or privacy blind on Subarus). Nobody can see behind the seat on my Mazda 3.

  • avatar
    Maymar

    Yeah, the privacy thing, the security, the noise complaints against hatchbacks? None of that bullshit holds up when crossovers are so heavily defended here as the ideal automotive solution (because ground clearance erases all those sins, I guess? And ground clearance makes otherwise amazing sedans stupid?).

  • avatar
    Eric Aubanel

    Simple answer: because they’ve been replaced by CUVs. I’m still enjoying my ’08 Matrix, but will likely replace it with something like a Honda HRV or Mazda CX5. What I’m curious about is whether Toyota will produce a new car in the compact CUV segment.

  • avatar
    tedward

    It’s just a styling preference driven by the perceived cheapness of hatchbacks in the eighties and nineties. I’ve led too many people around focus Mazda3 and golf/jetta comparisons too many times pointing out ways in which the companies have better content in the hatch versions (nevermind practicality arguments) only to have them go for the lesser product on thegrounds that it’s a sedan. I barely try anymore.

    • 0 avatar
      Bp3dots

      It’s a styling preference for me, but nothing to do with cheapness perceptions, I just think most hatches look atrocious. (at least the ones that would be in my price rance.)

      The downside is that then I may have to sactifice some performance or features to have a car I can live with looking at.

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    It’s pretty simple really, tall wagons or tall hatchbacks aka CUV’s offer the same or more utility than a standard hatch, a higher seating position and more profit for the automaker. Just look at impreza hatch to XV sales.

    The only reason to buy a hatch is because you care about driving dynamics and are willing to give up the better looks of a sedan or coupe for the additional hatch utility. If you want utility you buy a CUV/SUV.

    For example take the new 2016 Camaro and make an identical (styled differently of course) Chevy Nomad. Same platform and engine choices. The Nomad will sell 2,000 per year and the Camaro will sell 120,000 per year.

    Why would a manufacturer even bother? Sadly

    There is a bit of hope in the hot hatch segment, we have the Fiesta ST, Focus ST, Focus RS, Golf R and probably MS3.

  • avatar
    PeterKK

    Everyone in my immediate family owns a hatchback.

    Mom: Versa
    Brother: Matrix
    Me: Protege5
    Sister: PT Cruiser.

    I am not sure. I hated hatchbacks in high school because I thought they were ugly, but I have definitely grown into them.

    We also have minivan angst in America which is stupid since they are probably the best vehicle for the money if you need one in that size. I would guess they are related. We just have a weird stigma against big car booties.

  • avatar
    darex

    My last five cars were hatchbacks, so I have no explanation for the folly of others, but I will echo those who point out that CUVs and SUVs are extremely popular, are all hatchbacks, and are appreciated for that fact.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      Same here I just don’t understand it. Go to Europe: hatchbacks EVERYWHERE. My wife got a hatch (Volvo C30) and now swears she will only own hatches from now on. They are easier to load, carry more stuff, are generally smaller / more nimble thus fun to drive. Between me and the wife we have owned 12 cars to date… and 1/2 of them were hatchbacks if you count SUVs as a hatch. As an teenager in the 80s everything was a hatchback and I was in heaven.

      My only guess as to why hatchbacks aren’t popular is they are generally associated with “cheap”. Plenty of tiny, joke cars entered the market as hatchbacks. People don’t think they are safe because they are small. Thus the trend to make everything beefy and jacked off the ground (CUV/SUV), so it appears “safe” when its actually the opposite (roll over). I don’t get the privacy thing at all. If you worried about privacy then convertibles are the thing to avoid.

  • avatar
    slance66

    People love hatchbacks. As others said, that’s why CUVs are popular. What people don’t love are cars that are low to the ground, and increasingly FWD instead of AWD (regional for sure). After the winter we just had in Boston, FWD cars are sitting on lots.

    Given our deteriorated roads, potholes, and winter, I think something like a GTI is pretty close to the worst car possible here at its price point. Yet my sister in SC just bought an Elantra hatch. Curious what the regional numbers actually show.

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    My problem is that the only hatch worth buying (for me) is a VW, which I’m of course terrified of owning for 5+ years out of warranty.

    I absolutely love hatchbacks. Just not enough selection.

    Now there is a sweet White Saab wagon on cars.com that I’d probably (foolishly) buy today if it were less than an hour’s drive from home for me to look at. It’s hot!!!

    • 0 avatar
      Willyam

      Agreed. My VW GTi was my favorite hatchback, and it even looked nice as I walked away from it repeatedly to find a payphone and get it towed. (Era pre-cellphone).

      As much fun as one would be now…

  • avatar
    ccd1

    The aversion to mid-size hatches is just irrational. You have hot hatches and high priced hatches like the A7 and Panamera so it is not a question of perceived value.

    I used to own a 2008 Mazda6 hatchback which was designed so you could not tell the difference between the hatch and the sedan and customers still preferred the sedan! There was no added privacy with the sedan, just less utility. Go figure.

  • avatar
    cdotson

    I think there is genuine merit to the “cheapness” argument. The hatch affords much more linear seal by which noise etc. can creep into the cabin. When hatches first became prevalent in the mid/late 70s, let’s face it, nobody did NVH well and any fundamental design that made NVH worse was amplified by the shoddy methods of addressing it. Modern hatches benefit from modern NVH control methods. I purchased a 2014 Elantra GT after having driven a 2015 Civic (the only sedan I test drove) and the Civic felt like an Afghani Hilux in comparison.

    Since I’m sitting here in my Hawaiian shirt I’ll attempt to muster some TTAC swagger of days gone by and propose another hypothesis for us USAians’ aversion to hatchbacks: deep-seated puritanism. Few argue that Americans are more puritanical than Yurpeeans. If you think about it, the traditional sedan is as formal as a debutante gliding around in an iron hoop skirt to the hatchback’s slutty face-down crawl waiting for someone to flip the miniskirt onto her back and go to town, and that tends to be off-putting to the type of people who shell out (or even have) new car money.

    • 0 avatar
      cdotson

      While I’m generally loathe to reply to my own posts, I’ll do so to make a point I neglected without editing and leaving the subscribers out of the loop:

      The people who make the point that SUVs/CUVs are just hatches and they’re popular have confirmed the point that hatchbacks have a “cheap” stigma. SUVs and CUVs have *status* because they cost more than their car/hatch/wagon counterparts. They benefit from modern NVH control methods and none of the truly popular ones are BOF “trucks” anymore but the still carry the price and positioning premium that the capable/capacious truck-based SUVs of yore forged for the segment.

  • avatar
    Ooshley

    I’d just like to take this opportunity to castigate you yanks for the current lack of a hatch WRX/STi!

  • avatar
    mindgymnast

    Christ, Doug, please wait until you come up with an actual idea before posting again.

  • avatar
    KevinC

    I’ve owned many Golfs / GTIs in my time. Wife drives a Mk7 Golf TDI. We love hatchbacks. But I know we’re an aberration in America.

    Slight correction – the Matrix isn’t Japanese, both it and the Vibe came from the NUMMI plant in Fremont, CA, GM’s joint venture with Toyota that operated for about 25 years or so. It’s now the Tesla assembly line.

  • avatar
    Chocolatedeath

    The first hatchback I fell in love with was the 9-5. With its underrated 140 HP engine to its carnivorous backseat and luggage space. I love my CX-9 now but my fav car I have owned has been my 92 Taurus wagon, Brown. I once put (no lie) a 22 cubic ft up right freezer in the back. I had to take off the doors and shove them in sideways. I current drive wagon of course no other than a Flex. I want one bad and if they renew it in 2018 I will get one.

  • avatar
    energetik9

    I very much like hatchbacks. My first car was a hatchback. I think hatchbacks resonate with the american consumer much like diesels resonate. There’s just an old, outdated image associated with them. Add to that, SUV/CUVs are more instyle. I think sometimes that a hatchback has an image of a kids car, maybe? I think too that many hatchbacks also have (or started out as) very cheap variants that doesn’t help.

  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    My theory is that hatchbacks don’t appeal to Americans because there’s still some part of the American national psyche that looks at a hatchback and says,

    “Oh HELL no. I can do better than that.”

    Regardless of their virtues, hatchbacks are essentially cars for people who live in cramped, expensive environments. In the places where hatchbacks are the most popular – Europe, Japan and other heavily urbanized areas – cars are actively targeted by the government and subjected to a thousand taxes, restrictions and rules because the State doesn’t want people to drive AT ALL, but they don’t have the courage to institute outright bans on private vehicles.

    Places where people are stuffed into high-density, high-cost, rabbit-hutch environments where Small and Efficient are virtues, because EVERYTHING is hideously expensive. Places where there isn’t really room for properly-sized automobiles.

    I know that hatchbacks have their defenders who’ll point out that they’re sharp-handling, fuel-efficient and fun (and they are), but to me, they’re exemplary of downsized expectations. The hatchback is, in effect, the scarcity mindset rendered in metal.

    It’s a type of car at odds with the sort of place America is, and wants to be. And that’s why America doesn’t embrace it the way Europe and Japan do.

    A hatchback – regardless of its cost, amenities, value or performance – really isn’t an aspirational type of car. It’s not the TYPE of car you buy because you WANT to – it’s the car you buy because you can’t do any better right now.

    It’s the retail job of automobiles.

    It’s shaped like a shoe, it can’t be styled properly because it literally isn’t a big enough canvas to lay down flowing lines on and it has to be front wheel drive in order to maximize its main virtue – a big, useful interior in a small footprint.

    And I’m saying that as someone who’d go out and buy a new Focus ST TODAY if I had enough cash.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    Hatchbacks are the ramen noodles of the automotive market. They remind us of frugal living. Ramen noodles themselves are a caricature of something entirely different, a delicious and practical one-bowl meal that provides everything you need…protein, vegetables, and flavor.

    Modern hatchbacks can provide that as well. Practical nourishment in a fun-to-drive and nicely appointed setting. The GTI, Mazda 3 and Hyundai Elantra GT aren’t remotely cheap in their interior appointments.

    They’re not ramen.

  • avatar
    NormF3

    I believe people just think they’re unattractive – Acura ZDX, BMW X6, Honda Crosstour. I know I can’t stand those three. As it was mentioned, people want their hatchbacks in CUV form, which don’t seem to hold jack with the back seat up.

    • 0 avatar
      darex

      Ummm…no. Those are THE WORST examples of hatches you could have cited. They are the worst of both worlds: very little hatch utility, due to compromised height, and the need to have stretchy window blinds as privacy covers due to length.

      Those aren’t even proper hatchbacks. They’re what were once known as notchbacks (?).

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        My girlfriend – a budding but inexperienced Car Person – noticed an X6 M last night, mostly because it had a flat black wrap.

        Her comment was basically “What the hell is wrong with that thing’s looks? It’s so … weird!”

        Not *exactly* ugly, but ungainly and not-good.

        (That said, I lust after the 335 GT. But I realize that’s a personal problem.)

    • 0 avatar
      ttacgreg

      On my travels to Europe, I always marveled at the sleeker fastback roof lines of the hatchback versions of the same cars sold in sedan form back in the USA.
      What is not to like? sleeker styling, more interior room, and greater versatility in what can be transported by said vehicle.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    Were hatches ever popular?

    Are CUVs not hatchbacks? They sure look like one to me.

    • 0 avatar
      Willyam

      Yes, but maybe only from the perspective of those that were kids in the 70’s (ALL Hondas were hatchbacks there for a while, right? Rabbits, Corolla liftbacks, Mazdas, Chevettes, Pintos, AMC’s, they were all everywhere you looked.)

      Then, in the 90’s, there was a resurgence, but maybe it was just my perspective from the hourly-wage end of the down economy. I had an Audi GT (at the end of it’s useful years) and relatively new GTi and Civic DX. Seems all my friends drove a hatch, and even the Mustangs were mostly hatch Fox-bodies for a while.

      So, yeah, I point the finger at recent cheap (relative to wages) gas. So all the CUV’s are definitely the modern interpretation, but without the fuel-sipping and easy-to-park necessity that drivers needed at the time.

  • avatar
    Tinn-Can

    I traded my 95 Avalon in on a Mazda3 hatch and lost a lot of usability… I fit a forty gallon aquarium in the trunk and stand in the back seat of my avalon, but the mazda can’t even fit a bag of golf clubs in the rear. My rifle cases will barely fit in the back seat section if I angle them a little… Pretty much anything of any size requires you to fold down the seats which is a pain with the parcel shelf required to keep people from breaking into your car to steal all your crap at which point you might as well just get the sedan and not have to deal with the creaking hatch and road noise…
    tl;dr
    yurop, canada and mexico are dumb for liking hatches so much…

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      I think your problem is that you went from a full-size near-luxury car to a compact economy car, not that the compact happens to have a big back door.

  • avatar
    TW5

    America loves hatchbacks. They’re called CUVs and SUVs.

    If we’re buying the utility of a hatch, we apparently also want the utility of ground clearance, and many people also demand AWD.

    If America like sedans so much, why has sedan market share been declining (more or less) since CAFE regulations were first introduced? Sales fails have nothing to do with Americans. The manufacturers fail on purpose with their nonsensical groupthink and their weird obsession with educating their consumers.

    Take a Golf R. Give it sidewall, 4-5 inches of ground clearance, and some epic throwback VW-logo Group B mudflaps. Shut up and prosper.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      Hmmmm, with all the virtues people tout about sedans over hatchbacks – justifiably, in many cases – I wonder when we’re going to start seeing sedan bodies on raised suspensions and bigger tires? Is that the next big thing? I can’t wait to see the return of the Camaro truck in 2025.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        As the underfunded roads and infrastructure continue to crumble here in the US, perhaps we’ll start to see the ‘developing world’ packages applied to global platforms sold here. In Russia, plain jane sedans usually come equipped with stiffened and raised suspensions, full size spares, and sometimes steel skid plates to protect the oil pan and transaxle. Something pedestrian like a Skoda Octavia has about 6.5 inches of ground clearance when sold there. Russian sedans go above and beyond, for example the ground clearance of the Lada Kalina is 7.3 inches, more than most crossovers in the US these days.

        • 0 avatar
          rpn453

          They can start by adding more sidewall!

        • 0 avatar
          ttacgreg

          Yes, this. Make the suspension long travel. Beef up the suspension components so alignment does not suffer, and strengthen suspension parts so they are less damage prone, and of course, stronger bend resistant wheels.

          Because in our current dysfunctional political culture, creation of an economic aristocracy, and military boondoggle spending, combined with a pathological attitude towards taxes, is more important than even decent, much less excellent roads.

          • 0 avatar
            TW5

            We don’t pay too little tax. Military spending is not growing. While we have an economic aristocracy, all of them know the consequences of hoarding wealth, but they can’t give the money away and hope for anything good to happen.

            If you’ll just look at the budget before you speak, you’ll see what’s consuming all of our money. Cliff’s Notes: Social Security and Medicare. Those programs are paid for with payroll tax. Raising those taxes will remove even more young Americans from the economy, which the US can’t afford because we are already deficit spending to make up for the deadweight loss of avarice and largesse in the entitlements for the elderly.

            You’re stepping over $1 to pick up a penny. Read the budget, and stop regurgitating the dumb sh*t you hear on television or gawker.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        http://www.caranddriver.com/news/2015-volvo-s60-cross-country-photos-and-info-news

        Volvo, answering the question nobody was really asking.

        • 0 avatar
          rpn453

          Hmmm. Needs more sidewall!

          This would be about perfect for our spring roads:

          http://s689.photobucket.com/user/metalmulishaman88/media/camaro.jpg.html

      • 0 avatar
        slance66

        Didn’t Volvo release an S60 like this? The S60XC? The Legacy is doing well too I believe and is essentially this. Ford just added AWD to the SE model Fusion for a reason.

        I think we’ve seen the sweet spot. Truck SUVs, too tall. Cars, too low. CUVs have been moving towards the ground and cars up from it. People are tired of bending awkwardly to get into a family car. These aren’t Corvettes or 911’s. My dad’s ’77 Cougar was much further off the ground than even a modern Fusion, which itself is higher than an A4 or other German sports sedans.

  • avatar
    auchkarl

    Um, isn’t the Prius a hatchback? I don’t have official numbers, but they’re extremely common here in southern California. The next most common newer car on the road here is probably the Ford Focus. Half or more are hatchbacks (again, anecdotal observation only, no official data).

    It appears to me that hatchbacks are popular in the U.S. and here to stay. The Matrix on the other hand…

  • avatar
    HiFlite999

    As far as the looks-like-a-hatchback category of cars, one problem for me is the ~zero crush space behind the rear seat passenger. I got rid of my beloved 1984 GTI after measuring the horizontal distance between the rear bumper and my car-seated son’s head to be 14 inches. A similar argument can be made with respect to the fuel tank.

    Sedan trunks make for great crush zones.

    • 0 avatar
      Willyam

      Having spent the morning being run up on by moms in Suburbans with phones growing out of their heads I can see your point.

      -My 84 Mk I was white over blue!

      (Does anyone else flash their brake lights like I do when at the back of a traffic line to try to un-zombie these folks?)

      • 0 avatar
        HiFlite999

        White/blue, so was mine! Less than 10% of Pennsylvania GTIs were made in that combo.

        Flash brake lights, for sure. On occasion, also pushing in the clutch and shoving the gearshift over to flash the backup lights.

    • 0 avatar
      NormF3

      Yes, good point. My wife got rear-ended in her ’98 Corolla by a Sienna with the kids in back. Smashed the trunk almost to the back window, which shattered. Luckily, no one was hurt.

  • avatar
    redav

    One point may be that in the US, when you want more space, you get a larger vehicle. That’s not a practical option in many countries, whether due to taxes, road size, parking, etc. If you cannot get a larger vehicle, you find ways to make your smaller vehicle more useful, more versatile.

    I see evidence of that even here in the US. The hatchbacks that sell are on the smallest/cheapest of vehicles. Compacts & subcompacts sell decent percentages of hatches/wagons. But the moment you get larger than that, hatch/wagons disappear. If people need more space, they move up a segment. If they need versatility, they get an SUV or truck.

    Also playing a factor I think the commonness of multi-car families in the US. When you have more than one car, you can afford them to be specialized. You don’t have to worry about not being able to fit stuff in the trunk of a sedan when your tuck is sitting next to it. I suspect that if you look at families with one car, you will see a higher take rate of hatches/wagons than you do with multi-car families, because they need maximize utility with one vehicle, which is what hatches/wagons do. (Of course, the trend is to SUVs, which are just tall hatches/wagons.)

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    The Matrix seems very popular here in western Canada, and, surprisingly, the Malibu Maxx. In fact, I’m recommeding my in-laws buy a Matrix. I think people hate hatches because the first generation ones had hatches that squeaked and rattled so bad. Of course modern build quality has fixed this, but the die was cast.

  • avatar
    JLGOLDEN

    For me, the unappealing aspect of some hatches is the appearance: The chopped rear end of many hatchbacks looks stubby and play-toy-ish, but only if the rear quarter window is tiny, or if the roof pinches hard downward toward the tail. Cars like Matrix, Encore, Audi Q3, Fiesta come to mind. Proper *wagons* with an extended quarter glass, over the rear wheel arch, look more formal and attractive to my eye…I’m thinking 3-series wagon, Volvo V60, Audi Q7.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    Yup, the hatchback is dead save for the: cr-v RAV4 highlander rx350 equinox terrain trax encore escape cx5 X1. I am fairly certain I missed a few other of the dead hatchback models.

    How is the CUV anything but a hatchback with a small lift kit factory installed? All we did is give them a new name.

  • avatar
    Rday

    Hatchbacks make so much sense that i cannot believe more people don’t like them. Have owned many including the Matrix. Bought it for my stepdaughter who never paid me back for it. When she passed away a several years later i repossessed the car and sold it. she never changed the oil in 60K so it smoked a bit on startup. told the new owners and they were ok since i knocked of $1200 just in case they needed to machine the head and replace the valve oil seals and valves.
    The matrix set very low for me and i disliked the high windows but it was a very good car for her and her kids.
    We loaded a stacked washer and dryer set into the back of our 13 Prius V and it held it well. I would not have bet that we could have done it but we did. thanks dear lord for hatchbacks.

  • avatar
    reclusive_in_nature

    Reading a lot of good reasons, but I think one hasn’t been touched yet:

    They are the four wheeled sex repellent. Every characteristic that women find unattractive in men can be found in a hatchback. Small = short, fuel efficient = weak, and spacious = fat.
    Just like a male, unless the hatchback has the right name (brand), worth (price tag), or personality (good luck finding the one out of 100,000 who cares solely about that) the ladies just aren’t going to want to be seen with/in one.

    If the chicks don’t like ’em the dudes aren’t going to buy them. Simple as that.

    • 0 avatar
      Willyam

      True. Seen that “which guy is cooler” Chevy truck ad, recently? Reinforces the anti-small-car ‘Murican stud thing.

      However, when women of a certain age mention their fantasy guy, it’s Jake from Sixteen Candles, standing next to a red 944. Yep, you guessed it, hatchback!

      • 0 avatar
        xpistns

        I once had to pick up some friends from the airport in my 944. My other friend insisted that we needed to bring his truck. However, I was able to fit all 4 friend’s luggage in the back of my 944 (albeit with the seats down). He pulled up in his truck and asked where everybody’s luggage was, and they pointed at my car.

        (Cue face of astonishment)

        I was also able to haul my race tires to the track if I removed the folding rear seat back altogether.

        God I miss that car.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Your friend was right, and if you took his truck you wouldn’t have needed two cars at all.

          You can fit the luggage or people, but not both.

          • 0 avatar
            xpistns

            He only had one extra seat in his truck aside from the bed–unless you were suggesting putting people back there.

            So we only needed two cars rather than 2 cars and a truck in this particular instance.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Ha, these days I assume trucks have four doors and a rear seat!

            But it sounds like all y’all need a sedan.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      “Small = short, fuel efficient = weak, and spacious = fat.”

      So, uh … it should be both big and not-spacious?

      Why isn’t the Taurus an unstoppable high-selling sex machine, then?

  • avatar
    Wraith

    Remember the Saturn Astra? The 3/5-door hatchback GM brought over from Europe that lasted for like a year on the market?

    The Malibu Maxx, the hatchbackified version of Chevy’s midsize sedan that was around for one generation?

  • avatar
    r129

    One big reason that I don’t think has been mentioned is price. If there is a sedan and hatchback in the same lineup, the sedan will frequently be less expensive and/or available in a lower trim level than the hatchback. Examples: Ford Focus, Mazda3, Nissan Versa/Note, Toyota Corolla/Matrix, Volkswagen Jetta/Golf. In addition to the difference in MSRP, the dealers usually stock many more of the lower priced sedans and they advertise them.

    With the Corolla/Matrix example, two things were probably at play aside from Americans’ general preference for sedans. Name recognition is one. Everyone knows what a Corolla is, many people continue to buy Corolla after Corolla, and the Matrix wasn’t on their radar. Perhaps more importantly, when do you ever recall seeing newspaper ads for rock bottom lease deals on the Toyota Matrix? That’s like the bread and butter of Corolla sales.

  • avatar
    alexndr333

    Doug, you haven’t retreated far enough into history on this question. Hatchbacks in the USA started in the early 70’s with the two-door Japanese coupes, and the American’s response in the Nova coupe hatchback, Vega, Pinto and others. Since all these cars were of very low build quality and the German’s were not importing hatches, save the early Rabbits (another low-quality car at the start) I think the hatch might have become associated with crappy cars bought by people who couldn’t afford better.

    Meanwhile, the Europeans find the practicality of the 5-door hatch pretty hard to beat. I just returned from three weeks in northern France where I drove a new Peugeot 308 (2014 Euro Car of the Year) 5-speed diesel hatch, and had a ball. The vast majority of cars on the roads were 5-door hatches.

    Back stateside, we have bigger roads, lower gas prices, blah, blah, blah. But we also have an aversion to looking poor. And I think hatchbacks are still associated with not having enough money. We’ll buy SUV’s, CUV’s, trucks with covered beds, even Avalanches, so long as we aren’t seen in a hatchback.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    I like hatchbacks but I have to carry medical equipment around and don’t want thieves seeing it, also when we go on trips, I can leave luggage that we don’t need for the night in the trunk and only use a small bag for motel stays.

  • avatar

    Now, I’m on my second wagon (which is currently at the body shop, awaiting parts that will take up to two weeks since it’s such a new model; yes I’m bitter about it), but I genuinely just like wagons. In all fairness, a CUV is at least *as* profitable as a similarly-sized wagon or hatchback, if not more so. Many people don’t drive spiritedly enough that the ground clearance and higher COG would be a detriment, but it does make for ease of ingress/egress and ease of loading items into the cargohold (except for the new Cherokee, whose load floor is *too high*). Plus, people like the commanding view of the road.

    Americans haven’t really eschewed hatchbacks at all. That’s especially the case for these new subcompact crossovers. I mean, I’d thought the Kia Soul was a hatchback until my grandmother bought a new one last year, and I realized they marketed it as a crossover. (P.S. the Tiguan rental car I’m stuck is pretty much the size of a Soul save for its longer front end). Ditto for the Nissan Juke, which she cross-shopped. I didn’t realize that was a crossover, either. And Subaru *literally* took an Impreza hatch, gave it some cladding, jacked up the body, and has had much success selling it as the XV Crosstrek.

    • 0 avatar
      Daniel J

      We looked at these at the VW lot which was right next to the Mazda lot. We ended up with a CX-5. More cargo room, slightly cheaper, a little more head room and hip room, and drives 9/10 of the Sportwagen in terms of handling for most of our daily driving. It also has a little ground clearance for when we go hiking. Personally, I liked the Jetta Wagon better, but the other half didn’t. Felt slower, and was way more expensive in terms of getting some of the options that were on the CX-5.

      • 0 avatar

        I’f I decide I want a small crossover, it’ll be between the Forester and the CX-5. Those are, hands down, my favorites.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          Very different vehicles.

          The Forester is, and feels like, a utility vehicle. Cavernous inside, large ground clearance, excellent AWD system, great visibility, plain interior, a bit agricultural in terms of driving experience although the light weight helps handling. The CX-5 is more like a car. Less room, actual styling inside and out, less ground clearance, your standard wait-two-seconds AWD system, and a more satisfying on-road driving experience.

          • 0 avatar

            I think you’re right, having driven both. I actually picked up my rental today, and it is a CX-5. I like the way it drives, but will have to give it back and exchange it for something else because the left front tire is cupped and it makes the most dreadful noise between 45 and 55 MPH.

    • 0 avatar
      brentalan

      Kyree, I think you nailed it. Remember how GenX wouldn’t be caught dead in a station wagon and bought a crap-ton of Ford Explorers? Crossovers are the next generation eschewing their parents’ Dodge Colt Vista. Like the wagon-haters before them, these kids want hatchbacks, but they want a few inches of lift so they don’t have to admit they drive a hatch.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I like having a separate trunk. I find it luxurious to have a physical wall between me and my cargo, and I think it’s also more secure to have a trunk that always looks the same rather than a cargo compartment that may have items in it or a BREAK INTO ME cargo cover on it. That said, there’s no denying that the hatch is more useful for a lot of applications, and so we own both a (lifted AWD) hatch and a sedan.

    CUVs are Americans’ workaround for their hatch hangups.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Strange . . . Long before Mr. De Muro’s time, Detroit made hatchbacks — BIG hatchbacks. I remember dating a woman in college who owned a Ford Torino hatchback. The Torino was Ford’s “intermediate” sized car . . . physically quite large by modern standards. That was in 1969, by the way.

    Of course, large hatchbacks had a number of weaknesses, already pointed out. In addition, with a large body, a hatchback made the car rather “floppy,” because it lacked the reinforcement of the rear bulkhead that separates the cabin from the trunk in a sedan.

    It’s really not accurate to say that hatchbacks always give more cargo room. In a lot of cars, the hatchback is a styling exercise that simply conceals the lack of cargo space behind the rear seat. But people today seem less interested in cargo space than the were 40-50 years ago. The cars of that era have absolutely cavernous trunks, even while carrying a full-size spare and having a 20 gallon gas tank slung underneath.

    The advantages of a hatchback are (usually) greatest in a small car, because they allow for a large cargo hold when the back seats are folded. The Honda Fit is the best example of this.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    I like big trunks and I cannot lie

  • avatar
    Pebble

    Best hatchback ever: Seventies AMC Hornet. HUGE liftgate, sporty, good on gas, hella cool. Amen.

  • avatar
    NewLookFan

    The “Matrix” would still sell in acceptable numbers, but people at Toyota USA don’t have a clue why the 1st generation Matrix sold the way it did. The design lost some appeal in the 2nd generation as well as some visibility. Next, instead of marketing some versions of the Auris sold in Europe, we’ll be offered a boy racer version loaded with silly ground effects body work. As a Scion, no less; the kiss of death.

    In spite of a new Mazda3 in our household, I still like my 2003 Matrix. Yes, the powertrain is agricultural in refinement, and the seating position is absolutely wonky, but the car as a whole really works for me.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    The cargo room in hatchbacks is often exaggerated on the spec sheets. They must measure it from the floor of the hatchback to the roof, which is misleading because: (1) you don’t want stuff in the hatch to block your vision to the rear; and (2) You don’t want it flying forward when you brake. I think the spec sheet for my C-Max says it has 22 cu.ft. cargo space in the hatch, but it has less than 12 cu.ft. under the luggage cover. at least the C-Max gives you good MPG. Modest MPG was the problem with the Vibe/Matrix. They weren’t very aerodynamic, and at least during they spent most of their run with just a 4 speed automatic transmission. You put those together, and it was a small car that had trouble getting 30 MPG highway. In terms of modern cars, the Focus sedan is both cheaper and has a bigger cargo area than the hatchback. It is also slightly more fuel efficient.

  • avatar
    George B

    I don’t think that the problem is specifically hatchback vs. sedan. The 5th door doesn’t make the Audi A7 less desirable. The real question is why don’t people in the US buy short length cars. To me the answers are 1) US parking spaces are sized for large vehicles so short length offers no advantage, 2) Short length look poorly proportioned like a dwarf human and 3) Traditionally longer length is associated with higher price. To most Americans, a short length car automatically looks like a cheap, ugly car.

    • 0 avatar
      Mandalorian

      The reason people in the US don’t typically buy short cars is cargo space. Most people want to be able to have sufficient luggage space and have the rear seats occupied.

  • avatar
    Daniel J

    I like the look of hatcbacks. But, they aren’t useful. Typically they are 10-12 inches shorter than their sedan counterparts. That means while stacking tall is easier in the trunk, anything reasonably longer means the seats have to go down. A wagon is a much better idea, making the wagon as long as the sedan. To get useful trunk/cargo space, one has to go to a compact SUV.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    “The hell, the hell, the hell

    tens of zillions…like fifty zillion

    Corolla Zombie”

    This hatchback aversion rage is an old and worn meme and the writing doesn’t add any interest. We could probably rename this “DeMuro’s Disingenuous Hyperbole: June 5th Paycheck Edition”

    And yes, I know I legitimized the business case for it by clicking and commenting.

  • avatar
    Waftable Torque aka Daniel Ho

    We don’t like hatchbacks because it’s 9 letters long in singular form. H-A-T-C-H-B-A-C-K. S-E-D-A-N is only 5 letters long and much more frugal in the use of our precious letters. The 4 door C-O-U-P-E only took off when someone in marketing realized it had the same number of letters as sedan. T-R-U-C-K is also hits that sweet spot of 5 letters.

    Don’t believe me? Look how terribly the 11 letter C-O-N-V-E-R-T-I-B-L-E sells.

    It’s just a matter of time before the 3-letter S-U-V and C-U-V takes over the market. It’s just a generational thing while we wait for the old geezers to die off. And minivans would sell so much better if they were just a V-A-N. And what will we do with all those letters we save? We sell them to luxury car manufacturers who are running out of alphanumeric characters, and use the offset credits for something like USB ports and floor mats.

    Now about my luxury alphanumeric theory and prime numbers….

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    If you liked the 2nd gen Matrix (which was really a Corolla hatchback), you can look forward to the forthcoming Scion iM (which IS really a Corolla hatchback).

  • avatar
    nickeled&dimed

    Like most commentators on this site, I drive a hatchback and a wagon.

    Unlike most commentators, the hatchback is a Prius. The wagon is that same old beater Subaru lifted GT wagon that I asked Sajeev’s evil twin Sanjeev about years ago.

    I have a lot of big things and dogs to put into my hatchbacks. It is socially unacceptable to put your dog in a trunk. That, and a good way to not have a dog anymore.

    I think that a lot of the decline of hatchbacks and wagons is that people don’t own houses anymore, or if they do, it’s out in the country where the only option is to drive a lifted, 4-door, 4×4 full-size pickup truck. The long-term apartment renters don’t have to shove lumber, closet doors, kayaks etc into their cars, and therefore cannot concieve of the automotive brilliance of combined / convertible spaces. This is one of the reasons that the Stow-N-Go seating engineering brilliance of the ChryCo vans are exerting such a strong pull as the next car choice.

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    “The thing is basically a Corolla in every conceivable way, except it’s got a lot more cargo room. So who the hell wouldn’t want more cargo room? And thus: who the hell wouldn’t want a hatchback?”

    Trunks.

    Far more secure storage than all that “hey, please break the glass and snatch-and-grab” bait glass*.

    I think Conslaw has a point – “space” that you have to pile things up against the back seats, and over the tops of them, to use … doesn’t really count for as much.

    (*At least that’s my guess.

    I mean, I just bought an XC70 a few months ago so plainly that’s not *my* driving motivation. But if I lived in another part of town and parked on the street, it would have figured a LOT more.)

    Counterpoints: Small SUVs are … well, I’d say they’re a lot like “hatchbacks”, as Mr. Williams said, above.

    And I do see a fair number of compact hatches around, and plainly they do sell, since they’re still offered.

    The Focus, the Sonic, the Golf, the Fit?

  • avatar
    cpthaddock

    Trunk – schmunk.

    A blanket works as well as a trunk lid for privacy, but every time I see some poor four door fool trying to get their latest Costco purchase home hanging out of the back end of a sedan I shake my head.

    I’ve made the mistake of purchasing two betrunked cars and they drove me bonkers with their impracticality. While my primary ride today has a trunk, said trunk is used primarily for storing the roof so that large Costco purchases can use the extra headroom*.

    These days though, the USA has woken up to the benefits of hatchbacks. We just like them a bit bigger and higher up than in other countries. We call them SUV’s, softroader, crossovers or cute-utes.

    * Yes, rain causes complications, which is where 330+ horsepower comes in handy

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      “A blanket works as well as a trunk lid for privacy.”

      Not really. A trunk lid says nothing. A blanket (or a cargo cover) says “There is something under this which my owner wants to hide.”

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        How does a cargo cover say anything? The one in my Highlander stays in place unless I have a load too large to be under it or I’m actually using the 3rd row jump seats. 90% of the time anyone who broke in would find a diaper changing kit for my 9 month old.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          Walk down the street and look into CUVs. See how many have the cargo cover. It won’t be many. If you’re a tweaker desperately looking for anything you can sell in cars, where are you going to look first? The few CUVs with cargo covers.

          I don’t care if someone actually steals anything out of my car. I don’t leave anything valuable in it anyway. I care if someone breaks in and makes me replace windows/replace locks/straighten out bent bodywork.

    • 0 avatar
      ttacgreg

      My 2000 Corolla sedan has folding rear seats. Best of both worlds, I can fit longer items in the car, and not suffer the stigma of “hatchback” !!

      :P

  • avatar
    Slow_Joe_Crow

    I think the US has a perception of hatchbacks as cheap and inferior perhaps influenced by memories of Gremlins, Vegas, Chevettes and Citations with a soupcon of Dodge Omni. Consequently hatches seem to end up as bargain basement cars like the Chevy Spark or Hyundai Accent, or enthusiast models like the VW GTI or Subaru WRX.
    We are not alone in the love of notchbacks, although trunk love appears to be more of a Southern Hemisphere thing. Brazil, South Africa and Australia have all had notchback versions of cars sold as hatchbacks or pseudo hatchbacks in Europe. Examples would include VW Voyage (based on the Gol, sold in US as Fox), The Austin Apache (also sold in Spain)based on the 1300 and the Aussie notchback version of the 1800 “Landcrab”.

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    “So who the hell wouldn’t want more cargo room? And thus: who the hell wouldn’t want a hatchback?”

    Personally, I think car guys (esp. wagonistas) WILDLY overstate how much cargo room people really care about having. Most people drive to and from work with themselves and maybe a laptop bag. And on the weekends they haul around other PEOPLE, which is why CUVs make sense, more PEOPLE room. But I don’t think most people care to haul around that much STUFF, and if they do, they’ve got an SUV to do it in. If you don’t have a huge dog or play the drums, really, WTF are you hauling around all the time? For most people…it’s nothing.

    • 0 avatar
      brett_murphy

      By your rationale, most people should be driving a Smart car or Fiat. As I note below, I think it has less to do with utility and more to do with image.

      As for what people carry: I haul fishing gear (try carrying a 7 foot rod in most sedans without using PVC pipe and a roof rack), extra tires, car parts (including a whole rotary engine) and other stuff.

      You’re probably right that most people use an SUV for this. SUVs are considered more macho than hatchbacks.

      • 0 avatar
        S2k Chris

        You kidding? Almost all sedans have a folding rear seat and are longer than comparable CUVs and hatches. I brought home a bunch of 8′ 1x4s and pieces of quarter round just the other night. Pop down 40% of the back seat and off you go. No problems. I’m getting some 12′ 2x4s this weekend and using the sedan instead of my wife’s CUV because the sedan is longer and it’s easier to tie the trunk shut than a big hatch.

        • 0 avatar
          brett_murphy

          You don’t have to tie the trunk down if it fits all of the way in the car, though I struggle to think of how you’d get a 12′ anything in any modern sedan.

          You neglected to comment on the tires and rotary engine, though I doubt too many people are carrying R-comps or Wankels around.

          • 0 avatar
            JD23

            I’ve fit four 19″ wheels and tires in my A4 with the seats folded down numerous times and the car is long enough that I don’t have to stack them to the roof and block my view. Many sedans are far more versatile than you are acknowledging.

        • 0 avatar
          nickeled&dimed

          Most modern cars it’s almost impossible to tie the hatch down. This is because of all the NVH padding and furry plasticized cardboard that lines every inch of every surface on the underside of the lid. Usually one has to go around the hinge, over the exterior of the deck lid, and down to the latch point (or tow point). To me, this is no easier than tying down the hatch on the wagon.

          I know this because of all the people who want to put a christmas tree in the trunk (seasonal family business). Almost never fits. I’ve put a 7′ tree entirely inside the trunk of an old Imperial, however.

          • 0 avatar
            Mandalorian

            Sure, most people don’t haul around fishing poles 24/7 but most vehicle owners undoubtedly WILL jam-pack their car full of large items at least a few times during ownership.

            Trip to Ikea? Sale at the Lego Store? Ski trip? Hunting? All of those things require mucho de spaceo and most people can’t afford a commuting car and a utility car, hence the rise of the crew-cab pickup.

      • 0 avatar
        CRConrad

        Fishing rods have been able to telescope down to a little over a foot for at least fifty years now.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Claw

      the amount of people room CUVs and SUVs have is vastly overrated. Minivans are still the best people movers.

  • avatar
    brett_murphy

    I love hatchbacks. The drawbacks that have been mentioned are far outweighed by being able to fold down the seats and stuff them full of cargo.

    This might be the drawback. People want to be “sporty and fun” and hatchbacks are considered dull and practical.

  • avatar
    josh78752

    I think you can trace it back to the Pacer, Gremlin, and Chevette, etc. of the 70s gas crisis era. It was a low-point in car quality and they were seen as cheap fall-apart cars for people who could only afford a cheap fall-apart economy car to get through a depressing time in U.S. history. That was the climate in which the hatchback was rolled out to the mainstream in the U.S. It wasn’t until the VW GTI that hatchbacks deserved much credibility, but by then, the image of the hatchback was already set. And though younger buyers now don’t remember those times, the effects have been lasting.

    However, for those of us who prioritize utility, who have a love for European automotive philosophies, and/or find joy in the irony of refined or high-performance hatchbacks, hatchbacks rule. I’ve never owned anything but hatchbacks and as a current GTI owner, I just cannot imagine owning something that I can’t carry a bike inside of but that can also be entertaining to drive. If I won an Audi S4 tomorrow, I’d take a few nice drives in it just to say I did and then trade it in for a five-door Golf R.

    As for privacy, I haven’t had a hatchback yet that hasn’t had a flippy-cover thing in the back that obscured your stuff. And window tint takes care of the rest.

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    I forgot about the two compromise cars we had. The Saturn SL had a trunk that did not appear to be large but the back seats laid down. We carried a bunch of stuff in them and they were the only useful small cars with a trunk that I can remember. When possible, my small cars were all hatches and I would love to make the next one a prius. I don’t know what to call the cube we are now driving (DD) but hatch would work as well as anything. Sure not an SUV.

  • avatar
    Herr Ingenieur

    “But in North America, we’ve never really endeared to the hatchback. [Speak for yourself, U.S.A. -Canada/Mexico]”

    Exactly, maybe it’s because of the obvious economic differences between both countries, but here in México, you can find hatchbacks everywhere you look, specially sub-compacts: Micras, Sparks, Gols… And they’re not only commercial vehicles or fleet cars. A lot of people buy them as a personal car.

    So maybe is the necessity, but the practicity of a small car in the crowded cities like ours is undeniable.

  • avatar
    fendertweed

    We had an ’05 Matrix XRS CPO for 7 yrs. and 80k+ miles. It was, regrettably, not up to Toyota reliability and none of the issues were related to it being an XRS except perhaps needing a clutch at 80k.

    The rocket engine was fun if schizophrenic (one personality, 0-4000 rpm, another 4000-8000 rpm). Ride quality was pretty bad on a highway trip, I drove it from VA to NJ and back once and swore never to do that again. Huge jolts from expansion joints and a kind of seasick motion (not due to worn shocks).

    We finally let it go last year in disgust at Toyota’s shirking responsibility for exploding Takata airbags – I was not willing to let my wife drive it daily. Traded it on a new ’14 Subaru Impreza Sport (another hatch) that seems vastly superior in every way other than the “rice rocket” personality.

    I still like hatches, wagons, too (I’ve had Chevy Vega wagon, VW Dasher, Saab 900 (classic), Audi A4 Avant, A6 Avant, Subie OB )… I guess I just wasn’t made for these times (apologies to Brian Wilson).

  • avatar
    baconpope

    Auto manufacturers have a delusional belief that the additional empty space in a hatch is worth thousands of dollars, and, unlike discount sedans, hatchback buyers will not balk on price. I can say that a 2000 Pontiac Vibe sold to fleet for about $4000 over a similarly equipped Corolla. Fleet! I would presume the difference was greater for retail. BTW, hatchbacks rented for more than sedans as well. People seem to love hatchbacks and minivans when traveling.

  • avatar
    Joel

    See: Honda Fit. And Mazda 3. And Hyundai Accent Touring. And Nissa Versa (yes I know now you can get a sedan one, but originally, you couldn’t). And Chevy/Daewoo things. There’s a lot, actually. Though I do agree with the article a bit, so why did the Matrix/Vibe not do better?

    Back in 2007, we cross shopped the Matrix and the Fit. My wife didn’t like the visibility out of the back of the Matrix, and she thought the seat headrests got in the way of visibility (they were kind of clingy, as she put it). Now she has a fit, and loves it. And, her next car will also be a hatchback. Also, I drive wagons, so it’s kind of in the family around here, but then, we’re different, all of our cars are row-your-own.

  • avatar
    Chan

    IMO Americans don’t buy hatchbacks because hatchbacks don’t come to mind when car shopping. Historically, Americans bought sedans for practical reasons (or lack thereof), leading to a cultural habit.

    American cars have always been some variation of the 3-box 4-door saloon, with a dedicated, closed luggage space separated from the passenger cabin. These large cars have always carried a more upscale visual identity over smaller, cheaper cars that need a hatchback configuration to maximise usable space.

    Most of suburban United States gives people a front and back yard, two-car garage and strip malls with huge parking stalls. Rather than a compact hatchback, Americans can comfortably afford a midsize sedan to keep that “appearance” while having a loooooong trunk to make up for the inefficiency in space usage.

    Unconstrained by space or cost, maximising the interior space of your car has never been a thought on American minds.

    In the rest of the world, roads are narrow, cars are taxed to hell, people live in apartments and their destinations often don’t have “just for you” parking. Convenience dictates a smaller car with optimised interior space.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Claw

      …and there’s also this. Great response.

    • 0 avatar
      skeeter44

      I think these are all probably valid reasons, I would add that Americans rejected wagons a long time ago as “old fashioned” and what are lift backs except small wagons. Of course that is not stopping BMW from bringing their version of the Toyota Celica GT Liftback to the USA, oh wait those are SUVs right.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      In the late ’70s and early ’80s, a combination of a disastrous economy and regulations that were ahead of technology forced many Americans into austere hatchbacks. They were everywhere, and common on anything up to midsized cars. When things got better, nobody wanted to be reminded of their brush with poverty and hatchbacks. I worked at a Saab dealer in 1989. The only models that sold at all were loaded 900 convertibles, base 4 door sedan 900s, and the 9000CD. All of them had trunks instead of hatchbacks. Just think how more mainstream buyers felt about hatchbacks.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      It was not always that way. Yes until the 60’s Americans bought sedans but in the 70’s and early to mid 80’s the hatchback was the car to have. Vega, Pinto, Civic, B210 all started off being offered as a sedan and a hatchback and the hatchback version was far and away the best seller. In some cases they accounted for the vast majority of the sales. Soon everybody was adding a hatchback version of many of their models. Nova and its replacement the Citation, Mustang, Celica, Corolla, 510, 626, Camry ect.

      However most of those cars came to be regarded as penalty boxes. So as the economy got better and people forgot about the energy crisis people wanted to get away from the hatchback because they associated them with being penalty boxes.

      So the hatchback body style became something that didn’t sell very well and many of them were dropped while manufactures started adding sedan versions of models that had been hatchback only.

      • 0 avatar
        RideHeight

        “but in the 70’s and early to mid 80’s the hatchback was the car to have”

        I suspect Boomers in college dorms and apartments did a lot to make that trend. Also, if you wanted then-decent fuel economy while still retaining a bit of the carrying capacity of the malaise barge your parents had, hatchback.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          The fact is that most kids going off to college didn’t get a brand new car they got a used car and quite often it was a hand me down, Dad’s used “work car”. I know of the people I hung out with in college quite a few of us had Dad’s old car and it was a hatchback.

          In our neighborhood in the late 70’s early 80’s more often than not Dad’s commuter car was a hatchback. No not every Dad had one but they probably accounted for 40-50% of the “dad cars” in the neighborhood. A few had the sedan version of a sub compact, some had trucks both large and small, some had something sporty or a midsize personal luxury coupe.

          Meanwhile Moms most likely had a station wagon.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    I almost bought a Mazda6 5-door in 2005, but the way Mazda packaged their options (basically, if you wanted a stick you had to go with the 4-banger in poverty spec only and then buy a limited list of options individually instead of in a package) is what kept me from buying it.

    I know it was a weak seller, and Mazda killed it. Never understood why it sold poorly, to the untrained eye it just about looked like the sedan – with the rear wiper the only quick tipoff that it was different.

  • avatar
    Mathias

    I’m a former Vibe owner — twice actually, ’04 and ’07. Good cars in principle, somewhat annoying — balky shifter, road noise, engine noise. Dirt cheap to run, easy to sell, stick or no. The MSRP was indeed above a Corolla, but I don’t think the street pri

    I caught myself thinking yesterday, WHY oh why doesn’t GM make a Malibu wagon. Or an Impala wagon, if I wanted to go that big? I just ordered three replacement windows from Home Depot. Last time I did this, four of them fit into my Vibe — that thing was HUGE inside. They’ll fit in the Outback. They’d be a pain in an Equinox due to packaging and poor seat layout. In a Passat, or Mazda6 wagon, this sort of thing is a cinch.

    Never mind hatches, though. Give me a WAGON worthy of the name. that extra foot of length in the way back makes all the difference, from some hours of sleep on a long trip to getting two-by-fours home. Every euro manufacturer does this with their bread-and-butter cars, and the wagons/hatches outsell the sedans. The hatches are easier to park, so they’re popular in the cities.

    I don’t understand either why people don’t buy wagons where available. They do in Subarus, always have, and Subaru has been growing by leaps and bounds for at least a decade.
    It’s not like their customers are fundamentally different than the others.

    I think it’s marketing and corporate product planning.. more money in selling Escapes than in selling Focus wagons. BUT: The Focus wagon existed and wasn’t a big seller.
    The whole thing is bit of a mystery.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Claw

      I agree with this. I think the current Impala would look great as a wagon. The Traverse doesn’t count; it’s just too truck-like, and if I wanted that, I’d get a Colorado, honestly.

      At least with the current Escape, I’m glad Ford has gone “OneFord” and basically are using a design that says “this is a family car, not some wanna be truck”. Sometimes I can be petty and crack a half-smirk at those who bemoan the loss of (particularly) the very last iteration of the Escape before the current one, that “New Edge” era one with the “straight off a Ranger” front end. Hope Ford continues to go Euro, their Euro passenger cars were always superior from the ’70s forward (with the exception of that awful 2nd gen Scorpio, that was way too ’90s “Oval Ford”).

  • avatar
    Dr. Claw

    Because American drivers are notoriously conformist, LOL.

    The Matrix is actually one of the best cars for shuttling multiple (tall) people around, and it has the added (ease-of-mind) bonus of being a Corolla. Which makes me wonder why the iM is going to be a Scion. I didn’t really like the 2008-or-so refresh because the visibility went to the toilet, but it still was a good car.

    and though every now and then nostalgia calls for that old 242, I’ll never go back to a car with a regular trunk, unless it’s a rental (where I have little to no choice).

  • avatar
    xpistns

    There’s no mystery about it.

    A hatchback is not something people aspire to. Look back through our history with the automobile during the 20th century and you’ll find that the hatchback has the stigma of the penalty box.

    The only way hatchbacks sell to those that can afford a big sedan or CUV/SUV is if there’s some fashion statement attached to it (I.e. Mini Cooper, Fiat 500, etc.)

    This is America–where what you drive affects your image–and the hatchback does not exactly project an image of success (not here anyway). 60% of Mercedes-Benz sales are leases.

  • avatar
    ilkhan

    I think a good portion of it is trucks.
    When Americans think “I need to move a bunch of shit on a regular basis” they think “I should get a truck” not “I can only afford 1 vehicle so it better able to do everything, HATCHBACK!”

    Hatchbacks and CUVs (which are just lifted hatchbacks) are great for being a single vehicle. But if you can get 2 (alone or as a couple) optimizing each for their task is the way to go. One car (good for mileage and everyday driving) and one truck (for hauling whatever shit you have, wherever you want it to go) is a better optimized solution than a pair of hatchbacks which can each haul most of your shit most places with moderate mileage.

    Plus the image problem. Most of the US hatchbacks have been cheap shit. I still associate hatchbacks with the ’91 dodge colt that was my first car. Was it quick and nimble? Yes. Was is dependable? Until it blew the headgasket. Was it in any way sexy or even appealing or aspirational? hell no!

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    The first generation of Accord was a nice hatchback. My wife had a 77 Accord 5 speed manual that we easily put suitcases in without folding the rear seat down. When the rear seat was folded down you could put a washing machine in it. We had the Accord for 17 years and finally got rid of it because the bottom was rusting out. I would still be driving it today if it were not for the rust and yes it had a cargo cover to conceal anything in the back.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    I reject your hypothesis. Focus, GTI, Forrester, Fiat 500, etc. What don’t you get? Tesla S, S7, Rapide, Panamera? We love hatchbacks.

    • 0 avatar
      Chan

      Every car you listed, except the Focus, is a niche product. In the US, none of them sell anywhere near Camry levels.

      Even with the Focus, a significant chunk of those sell in sedan form in the US market.

      • 0 avatar
        05lgt

        prius, leaf… AND… every CUV sold is a relabeled hatchback.

      • 0 avatar
        05lgt

        Wait, sell at Camry levels is the standard? that makes exactly one car relevant… the Camry. Clown.

        • 0 avatar
          Chan

          Prius and Leaf are sold for reasons other than their hatchback form, and you know it (they happen to have very slippery shapes).

          CUVs are sold for their ride height and not because they have a hatchback, and you know it (or else everyone would still be driving MPVs).

          Several models cars and trucks sell 200k+ units per year in the US, and the subject compact hatchbacks don’t even reach half of that. But thanks for the name calling, keeping it classy aren’t we.

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    Hell’s bells… except for pickups I haven’t bought anything that *didn’t* have a hatch since my ’82 Civic wagon. For me it’s just stupid to give away the increased interior volume and superior ease of loading that comes with a tall D-pillar and a hatch.

    I inherited a couple of sedans over the years that only confirmed the increasing suckiness of their CAFE-blighted ilk.

    While tickled pink over the recent surge of CUVs at the expense of sedans I am very troubled by the inevitable transference of CAFE aggression, like any gangster activity, to whatever is the latest successful segment. Can already see it in pickup and CUV rooflines. Goddamn pestilence.

  • avatar
    BrunoT

    Americans don’t like hatchbacks because for the most part all hatchbacks sold here were economy cars. Therefore they became equated with inexpensive rides. And there is nothing Americans hate more than being of modest means and having people know that. So, in this poseur nation, everyone wants to at least be seen as a possible rich guy. A guy in a Corolla might just be a prudent and boring rich guy. But a guy in a hatchback? Broke!

    I like hatches, wish they’d sell upscale ones and larger ones that don’ cost $70K and up like Audi A7’s and Porsche Panameras. The BMW 4 series gran coupe is probably having slow sales despite having all the goodness of the sedan and coupe plus the added flexibility of a hatch.

  • avatar
    stevenj

    For the same reason families struggle to cram themselves and their stuff into SUV’s when a minivan would the job so much better. they just don’t portray a cool enough image

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