Hatchback Buying Guide

Compact and versatile, hatchbacks provide drivers with extra cargo capacity without the extra height, weight, and size found in an SUV or minivan. Hatchbacks are typically available in three-door and five-door models, with the additional door being located at the rear and opened using a hinged lift gate.

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Hatchback Car History

While the hatchback body style can be traced all the way back to the 1930s, the hatchback didn’t really become popular until the 1970s when models of this type were widely produced for the first time. The earliest known production vehicle to feature this design was the Citroen Traction Avanti, which was introduced in 1934. The 1946 four-door DeSoto also featured a hatchback design and even included the folding rear seats that would become typical of hatchbacks for decades to come.

French automaker Renault introduced the Renault 4 in 1961. Initially marketed as a small station wagon, the compact Renault 4 with its top hinged tailgate at the rear and steep rear roof to bumper angle could be regarded as the prototype for the modern hatchback as we know it. German automaker Volkswagen picked up where Renault left off and introduced a number of hatchback models throughout the early 1970s.

American auto manufacturers also entered the hatchback market en masse in the early 1970s. American Motors Corporation introduced the Gremlin, a subcompact car with a hatchback, in 1970. In 1971 Ford introduced the Pinto, which was soon followed by the German-built Mercury Capri II hatchback. The first hatchback model Chevrolet introduced was the Vega, which also emerged in 1970.

Hatchbacks emerged as a leading body style in the 1980s. The Chevrolet Citation and the Chevrolet Cavalier were both hatchbacks that were introduced in the early 1980s. By the end of the decade hatchbacks would be among the most popular cars on the road, with major automakers around the globe producing them in mass quantities.

Hatchback Variations

Hatchbacks on the whole tend to be fairly compact, generally ranging in size from super-mini to midsized. There are also currently a number of luxury and sports models available that feature a hatchback body design.

Popular Hatchback Brands

Hatchbacks of all different types are enormously popular with drivers around the world. Economical compact hatchbacks are appreciated for their good mileage versatility. The Honda Fit and the Fiat 500 are popular compact hatchbacks. Top selling hybrid models such as the Toyota Prius, the Chevrolet Volt, and the Honda Insight also feature a hatchback.

Some newer models like the Kia Soul and the Scion xD have found success by giving the hatchback some creative, eye-catching style.

Larger models of hatchback cars, with similar interior space to a midsize sedan, include the Nissan Leaf, the Acura ZDX, the Honda Crosstour, and the Hyundai Elantra Touring.

Some luxury hatchbacks include the Volvo C30, the BMW 1-Series, and the Mercedes-Benz B-Class.

Who Drives Hatchbacks?

Hatchback cars have a versatility that makes them suitable for a wide variety of drivers. Their smart design as well as the fact that they are economical to drive and maintain makes hatchbacks particularly popular with younger drivers. This is especially true of stylish models like the Kia Soul and the Scion xD, both of which are frequently marketed as the ideal cars for piling your friends into for a trip to the beach.

Hatchbacks also make great cars for families with children. Larger hatchbacks have generally the same backseat capacity as a midsize sedan, and the rear cargo area is great for bringing toys, games, and snacks along for the ride.

Hatchbacks are often roomier than other cars, which makes them ideal for young professionals who commute daily.