Hatchbacks are bouncing back
The segment is flourishing, in spite of the continuing surge of crossovers and SUVs
There's still a market for diminutive, yet fun-to-drive hatchbacks.
They blend characteristics of the sedan, wagon and crossover SUV, and the smaller form, which the typical SUV buyer perceives as a shortcoming, can be appreciated as a positive trait by city dwellers for the relative ease of navigation and parking, along with the improved fuel economy.
"It's interesting to note that the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla – Canada's two best-selling car nameplates in 2017 with hatchback offerings – both produced major year-over-year sales increases in 2017 even as the [non-SUV] market continued its steady decline," says automotive sales analyst Timothy Cain.
The next four best-selling passenger cars – the Hyundai Elantra, Mazda3 Sport, Chevrolet Cruze and Volkswagen Golf – all possess a strong hatchback offering as a variant or standalone model, according to Canadian auto sales figures.
"Canadians understand the value proposition of a more affordable vehicle like the hatchback, with lower cost of entry to luxury features, while maintaining some of the SUV-like versatility of a hatchback design," says Jamie Dewhurst, marketing manager for Chevrolet Canada.
The hatchback torch-bearer, the Volkswagen Golf, still resonates with empty-nesters and families with its model shape, energetic performance and handling, and flexible cargo space. VW has sold more than 33 million globally over a 40-year period. In 2017, sales of the Golf hatchback family jumped 23.2 per cent in Canada from the previous year. In addition to the standard model, the Golf GTI and Golf R are sports-infused hatches geared for power and handling prowess both on the track and within the city, and the German auto maker has introduced the new all-electric e-Golf, too.
Honda possesses a similar playbook to Volkswagen with a complete roster of hatches including the Fit, Civic hatch and sport-tuned Civic Type R.
"Since more shoppers are looking for cargo volume and versatility, it's not surprising that hatchbacks have become more popular among drivers still looking for that sedan-like driving experience, fuel economy and added versatility to meet their needs," says Jean Marc Leclerc, senior vice-president at Honda Canada.
With fuel economy a strong point of the segment, it's natural that two game-changers over the past decade come in hybrid and pure electric form: the Toyota Prius and Chevrolet Bolt EV. The Prius uses 4.5 litres/100 km, while the Bolt EV registers a pure electric range of 383 kilometres.
There are choices for consumers looking for a premium vehicle, too. BMW leads the pack charge with its electrified i3 and Mini Cooper Hardtop. The i3 comes with cutting-edge styling as well as the option of a 134-kilometre range extender. The recently refreshed Mini Cooper offers a unique retro-chic look and nimble handling.
Rounding out the list of exciting luxury hatches is the Audi A5 Sportback. The A4 sedan offers a plush interior and pulls impressive performance from its 2.0-litre turbo-four, but for added utility and cargo, the A5 Sportback supplies it all, in one breathtaking package.
Hatchbacks may be on a slight rise, as consumers desire that combination of car and utility, but as Cain says, "they are doing very little to stem the crossover/SUV tide." Regardless, there is a plethora of models and varieties in the Canadian marketplace, and consumers can enjoy their pick of the litter for the foreseeable future.
Now in its seventh-generation, the Golf family – regardless the model – boasts a lethal combination of sportiness, comfort and utility. This is for the driver who desires a touch of performance and some of the best transmissions in the business.
Honda Civic and Civic Type R
Canada's best-selling car for 20 years gets better thanks to the added options of a regular hatchback (not seen since 2005) or the 306-horsepower turbocharged Type R, built with an upgraded body and chassis. Civic hatch sales rose from 2 to 14 per cent in 2017, according to the Automotive News Data Center.
A perennial favourite for its styling, the Mazda3 Sport features cutting-edge design both inside and out, combined with exceptional handling thanks to G-Vectoring Control.
Chevrolet Bolt EV
As Chevrolet's first mass-produced electric car, the Bolt delivers exceptional range. The hatchback provides good handling and power with quiet precision, aided by a low centre of gravity due to under-floor mounting of its rather large 60-kWh lithium-ion battery pack.
Mini Cooper Hardtop
The Mini Cooper is a throwback that stands out for its unique retro features. It comes in three- and five-door configurations, and features a fun interior with plenty of circular design cues. Opt for the six-speed manual for ample enjoyment.
Audi A5 Sportback
Audi brought the A5 Sportback to Canada last year, and it impresses with a turbo-four that punches out 252 horsepower. If that's not enough, the S5 Sportback ups the ante with 354 horsepower from its twin-turbo V-6. For luxury without the bulk of an SUV, these Audi hatches are the perfect alternative.