Often overlooked, the once popular hatchback may be getting set for a comeback.
The hatchback has suffered setbacks in recent years, both to its image and sales figures. The unstoppable rise of compact crossovers has been the major culprit, their chunky styling and increased ride-height finding increasing favor with the new generation of motorists. Yet, despite this, the hatchback platform has plenty to offer and unless you really need the additional ride-height, is generally more fuel-efficient and dynamic to drive than a similarly priced crossover.
The rear hatch also gives it an added level of practicality over a similarly sized sedan too. We take a look at some of the more popular hatchbacks on sale and also take a sneak peek at the recently announced Toyota Corolla Hatchback.
The latest Toyota Corolla hatch recently made its debut at the New York International Motor Show and it shows improvements in nearly all areas compared to its predecessor. An obvious observation you might say, but with the Corolla generally being a safe and perhaps slightly unadventurous choice in the segment, it is refreshing to see Toyota taking some stylistic and technological leaps for the new model. Apple CarPlay will finally be available as will a new infotainment system and updated driver safety aids.
One major yet unseen change is the adoption of the new TNGA (Toyota New Global Architecture) platform. This means that the Corolla Hatch will benefit from a more rigid structure and lower center of gravity, the more aggressive exterior design should also extend its appeal to a younger generation of motorist.
The iM name will be dropped for 2019, the new model will simply be called the Toyota Corolla Hatchback. Both the wheelbase and overall length will be increased and the height will be a tad lower, adding to the visual athleticism. Criticisms of tight space for rear passengers in the current iM should also be alleviated. The popular Corolla sedan will also undergo a similar refresh in the coming months but for now it is the Corolla Hatchback that will usher in the new technological and safety systems of the new platform. If ever there was a time to consider a hatchback over a sedan, it is now.
Challengers for the Corolla Hatchback are not in short supply, Toyota themselves have alternative offerings such as the chunky and stylish C-HR crossover that at first glance appear to offer more. Dig a little deeper though and even compared to the dimensionally smaller 2018 iM, the C-HR offers less cargo volume (19.0 cubic feet vs. 20.8) and has less front headroom too. It also uses more fuel and costs around $5,000 more than the iM. The new Corolla Hatchback will also offer a more powerful (168 hp) and more efficient version of the current car's slightly lackluster 2.0-liter inline-4 so the benefits of going with the Hatchback option will be even more rewarding.
While the Corolla nameplate may be the best-selling of all time, the Hatchback variants, at least in the US, are not exactly huge volume sellers. So, the battle for increased market share is particularly tough and there are plenty of strong challengers out there such as the Honda Civic Hatchback, which makes a strong case for itself with a turbocharged 1.5-liter engine, good handling dynamics and a high-quality interior. Starting at $20,000, pricing is right in the ballpark too. If you are in a massive hurry then the $34,000 Civic Type R with its 306-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged engine is also on offer.
When it comes to iconic hatchbacks, the venerable Golf hatch is one of the very best. You have a number of different options to choose from too. The base hatch is a great family car with a nippy and fuel-efficient 170-hp 1.8-liter turbocharged engine and even the cheapest S trim comes with a color touchscreen and LED taillights. Of course, there is also the hot hatch benchmark 220-hp GTI and sports car baiting 292-hp Golf R to consider as well.
Subaru is well known for its all-wheel-drive rally cars of the past but this technology has also been a core selling point for its more mainstream models like the Impreza Hatchback. It too features a symmetrical all-wheel-drive system and superb wet weather handling characteristics although as the sole engine option is a 152-hp 2.0-liter flat-four, you won't be emulating the rallying greats in the speed department. Still, the Impreza is a solid and reliable car that offers all the benefits of the hatchback platform and it remains the only one to offer all-wheel traction (save for the much more expensive Golf R).
The Elantra GT has just gone through a full redesign and this once fringe player is now well and truly up there with the segment leaders. It may not excel in any one area, but its mix of decent performance, spacious interior and generous specifications make for a great offering. The base GT offers up 161 hp and starts off at under $17,000, while the top GT Sport piles on the equipment and speed thanks to its 201-hp turbocharged motor. Handling levels on the GT Sport are also sharper and when you consider that its $20,750 price tag is on par with lower powered rivals it starts to make a lot of sense.
Another accomplished hatchback is the Mazda 3. This model's sales figures would be even better were it not for the admittedly accomplished CX-3 and CX-5 crossovers but it remains a delightfully engaging sporty hatchback with a level of interior quality that is a cut above most others in its class. The base 155-hp 2.0-liter motor in the Sport trim is fine for most tasks but it is the well-equipped and more powerful 184-hp 2.5-liter Touring that is the sweet spot in the range.
As we have found, there are plenty of good hatchbacks from a number of big manufacturers offering a broad range of strengths that should appeal to most shoppers. Some are fast, others spacious but almost all are both cheaper and more fun to drive than your average crossover. Tey will likely cost you less in fuel bills too, and with cars like the latest Toyota Corolla Hatchback moving the technological game on, the time may be ripe for a hatchback resurgence. After all, hatchbacks are the thinking man's (or woman's) crossover. They just happen to sit a bit closer to the ground.