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Are Hatchbacks Finally Back?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro December 2016

I think it's time we all take a look at the hatchback. For several decades, throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the hatchback was considered uncool by virtually everyone except a few car enthusiasts -- most drivers avoided hatchbacks in droves. And now, suddenly, it seems to be coming back.

Back in the 1990s, most automakers didn't even offer hatchback models. There was no hatchback version of the compact '90s Ford Escort, the Chevy Cavalier or the Toyota Corolla. Even Honda, the lone hatchback holdout, stopped offering a Civic hatchback when the compact car was redesigned for the 2006 model year, choosing instead to leave the hatchback reigns only to the subcompact Fit. It seemed, to those of us who like hatchbacks, that the hatchback was headed for certain death -- unless you got an ultra-cheap subcompact or went with the Volkswagen Golf, a traditional hatchback mainstay.

And then, something happened: The hatchback sort of... took off.

To me, it seems like Mazda was the first automaker to see the potential in the hatchback. Upon releasing the Mazda3 in 2004, Mazda made sure the model's more powerful engine was only offered in the hatchback version. Soon after, Mazda debuted the MazdaSpeed3, which had more power still -- and the hatchback's position in the world of cool officially increased.

But it wasn't until a few years later that the hatchback really began to take off. The arrival of the Ford Focus ST in 2013 was the thing that signaled to me that the hatchback was returning. Not only had Ford taken a gamble and decided to build this sporty hot hatch, but it was actually selling pretty well. Then there was the Fiesta ST. Suddenly, Chevy was getting questions about why the Cruze didn't have a hatchback version -- and so, when redesigning the Cruze this year, Chevy gave it one. And after years out of the market, Honda will finally return soon with a Civic hatchback -- and they're even going to offer a Type-R version. Of course, soldiering along through all this is the Volkswagen Golf, whose lineup has seen an addition of its own with the high-performance Golf R in 2012.

All this leads me to believe that maybe, just maybe, the hatchback is back. No, it'll probably never overtake the sedan in the hearts of most American drivers. And no, not every automaker has released a hatchback: There's still no Corolla hatchback, for example, and I seem to be alone in my desire for hatchback versions of midsize sedans. But for all of us tailgate-lovers out there, the hatchback seems to be on the rise.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Are Hatchbacks Finally Back? - Autotrader