If Americans won't buy hatchbacks, we'll just call them crossovers. It's genius.
SUVs are starting to get so small, we're referring to compact crossovers of course, that they aren't any more practical than the hatchbacks on which they are based. Unfortunately, consumers in the US won't buy hatchbacks unless they are raised a few inches off the ground. For some reason, this simple modification causes American shoppers to switch from hating a vehicle to being enamored with it. The Mercedes GLA is the perfect example of this. We can't buy the A-Class hatchback in the US. Instead, we have the less practical CLA and GLA baby crossover.
We don't understand how American consumers could be duped so easily. If you've ever seen the GLA in person, especially the AMG version, you might not even be able to tell that it's an SUV. However, thanks to a clever marketing strategy, a car that is hardly any different from the European A-Class can sell well in the US. Using the same strategy as Mercedes, we wanted to see if we could make the formula work with a few other hatchbacks. Our first choice is the Honda Civic Type R. Americans have been begging Honda to sell a hatchback version of the Type R for years. While the Focus RS has finally arrived on US shores, we still have no news about the Civic.
For some reason, Honda has never brought a Civic Type R to the US, but we bet if it was an SUV there would be no problem. The Civic Type R is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter VTEC engine producing 305 horsepower. Small SUVs with weird looks like the Nissan Juke seem to sell well in the US, so we don't see why a Civic Type R with a few inches of ground clearance wouldn't also. Our next pick is the Renault Twingo GT. Renault doesn't sell any models in the US, but we really like the Twingo. The Twingo is powered by the same 898 cc turbocharged three-cylinder engine as the Smart car, but only comes with a manual transmission.
The Twingo is rear-engined, like a 911, but only packs 108 horsepower. We love the Twingo, but Americans never buy hatchbacks, especially low-powered ones. If Renault lifted this zippy little hatchback a few inches and gave it a more powerful engine it could be a sales hit in the US. It would also be the only rear-engined SUV on the market. Our next hatchback also comes from France, but this one is a lot more powerful. The Peugeot 308 GTi comes with a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine that produces 270 horsepower. This handsome hatchback looks great and would be the ideal competitor to the Ford Focus ST, but turning it into an SUV would help it sell in the US.
Renault actually has two cars on this list. The Twingo was a great start, but the Megane RS 275 makes us want to move to Europe. The Megane RS has a simple interior, six-speed manual transmission, and plenty of racy options like Michelin Pilot Sport 2 tires and an Akrapovic exhaust. The Mercedes GLA45 AMG shows that companies can sell hardcore SUV's with a racing feel in the US. We think that a slightly raised Megane RS has the potential to be one of the purest driving experiences from an SUV at any price range.
Our final hatchback is the Citroen DS 4S. Citroen's DS line of cars have a more upscale feel, and the DS 4S is one of the most attractive models. Citroen is actually planning on bringing the DS line to the US, and we think the DS 4S would be a great start. The top of the line engine is a 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 204 hp, which is plenty. If there's one thing that Americans love more than compact SUVs, it's luxury compact SUVs. The DS 4S could be transformed into a hot seller.