America’s Darling: the History and Reemergence of the Hatchback

July 12th, 2019 by

America’s Darling: the History and Reemergence of the Hatchback


In the early 1960s, the hatchback vehicle was introduced to America and we fell in love with it…at least for a time. Though it lost some of its luster throughout the years, the hatchback’s innovative design has been a major influence on what we see on the roads today. Maybe this is why we are currently experiencing a strong reemergence of the hatchback vehicle—is it time for a blast from the past? At Mount Airy Toyota, we like the prospect of seeing more hatchback vehicles on the road, and we have plenty on our lot to offer, so we thought a little history lesson on the cool-looking car could benefit us all.


Characteristics of the Hatchback

The original hatchbacks were simple cars fitted with a rear door, hinged to the roof, that opened upwards much like a—you guessed it—hatch. These vehicles were rather squatted with a two-box body style. “Two-box” means the trunk and passenger area can easily consist of one volume of space by folding seats down, while the engine is separated into its own volume that can only be accessed by popping the hood. Most vehicles today are designed to be either a two- or three-box system.

The original appeal of the hatchback car was not just its sleek, new (at least for its era) look. Car buyers simply loved the fact that you could fold the back seats down to create a massive trunk space, and that the vehicle often came with a removable rigid parcel shelf or a roll-up Tonneau Cover. These were features new to the car industry and they were quite impressive.

There is also what’s known as a liftback, which is a hatchback with a single slope from the roofline to the bumper (picture a 1969 Ford Mustang) that has a more horizontal angle than the standard hatchback.

Both versions were incredibly popular upon their arrival in the 1930s and 1940s, and the hatch-like door for which the vehicle gets its name can be seen in just about every SUV made today. Of course, nowadays we don’t even have to touch the hatch for it to open; just swing a leg under the back bumper and it magically rises on its own. Oh, how far we have come!


The Early Stages of the Hatchback

In 1938 Citroen produced the first hatchback, called the 11CV Commerciale. This large hunk of a machine possessed a tailgate that came in two pieces: a top door hinged from the roof, and a bottom door hinged from below. The car sold well enough for Citroen to continue marketing them, and soon after World War II they designed a version of the 11CV Commerciale that had one door hinged from the top only. Though this car was big and bulky and came with a massive rear hatch, it lead to later designs such as the 1949 Vagabond and Traveler vehicles that were more sleek and small, like a modern sedan. It is these models of the hatchback that have been described as the major influences for the hatchbacks manufactured in America sometime later.


America’s Version of the Hatchback

Just like our current obsession with crossover vehicles (a morphing of the modern sedan and SUV) when the hatchback hit the States, most Americans were quite impressed.

Once they noticed their popularity in Europe, big car companies like Chrysler, Ford, and GM immediately went to work on designing a model of our own. Though the first models of the hatchback in the 1960s did well, like the Ford Pinto and Ford Bobcat, it was the Dodge Omni and the Plymouth Horizon, both released in 1978, that set the standard for America’s version of the vehicle. Then later, in the 1980s, the Dodge Shadow and Dodge Lancer managed to keep America’s love affair with the hatchback alive.

Despite the decades of progress and popularity with the hatchback, its inclusion into modern life in the late 80s and into the 90s began to wane. We started to want bigger cars with more space and room to move around. Station wagons provided this, as did the entry of the Sport Utility Vehicle and, as fads always do, the American hatchback slowly lost its tracking.

But just as fads fade away, it only takes a handful of years before they reemerge into popular culture, often with a new take on an old idea. And if you have been paying much attention to what’s new in the world of vehicles, it seems the hatchback is on its way back into our lives.


A New Savior?

It’s tough to say why things come back into fashion. Have we run out of ideas? Is there really nothing new under the sun? Just look at the fashion industry and you can see just how circular trends can be. Despite the dubious nature of American trends, there could be an easy explanation for why the hatchback is reemerging. There’s no disputing the fact we see more SUVs and crossovers on the road than sedans these days, as the car industry has had a massive drop in sedan sales over the last decade. With this in mind, it could be said the arrival of modernized hatchbacks is an effort to popularize the sedan again (or at least a modernized version of it).

According to an article from USA Today, “In 2017, compact and subcompact car sales are down 25%.” Though this may not seem like much of a drop in number, even the smallest fluctuation in sales, either up or down, can have drastic repercussions. The article goes on to say that “Hatchbacks in those classes have risen 16%.” So with one (the sedan) going down, and the other (the hatchback) going up in sales, it’s safe to say the projected models of hatchbacks to come out in the next few years will test the market strength of this new style of sedan. Actually, that 16% figure already indicates an interest in the hatchback design by American car buyers, and the hope is this number will continue to rise. And judging from what we have seen in sales at Mount Airy Toyota, an increase does indeed seem probable.


The Modern Hatchback

So if you are in the market for a new car, and are considering a hatchback—as many car buyers these days are—there are a few things to consider. In fact, we’ve come up with a list of five tips to think about before you get too far along in the process. Here they are:

  1. Fun or Family? Today’s hatchbacks typically come in two styles: compact and midsize. The compact is closest in form to its ancestors, except that it has much more power and pizazz. These are sporty, fun-to-drive cars with two doors and the iconic scrunched rear. Though they’re small, they are the perfect weekend ride.

The midsize is a four-door wagon-like car that maintains the hatchback look (as it does have the hatch in the back), but it is considerably larger than the compact model. This car could actually serve as a nice family vehicle with plenty of room to stretch and store goods.

  1. A New Crossover? Not all, but some hatchbacks coming out are large enough to be considered a small SUV, or a large sedan. But unlike the sport utility vehicle and the sedan, new hatchbacks still allow for the rear seats to fold down in order to provide even more cargo space. This might seem like a minor detail, but once you actually lay eyes on the space created from losing the back seats, you’ll realize this is a big selling point.
  1. An Easier Drive. Since the hatchback integrates the trunk space into the rear of the car more so than any other, it is shorter in length. This means it is easier to park and maneuver around tight spaces. This is great for big cities and congested areas and can make your life so much better.

And the ease doesn’t stop there. Take any modern hatchback and compare its turning radius to that of a typical sedan of the same price range and you’ll notice a big difference. Hatchbacks make sharp turns simple, quick, and fun. And you can’t help but feel a little safer knowing that.

  1. Low Cost, Big Results. Because they are smaller in nature than a sedan (and definitely smaller than an SUV or crossover), hatchbacks don’t cost as much. Not only that, but they also do better on fuel, and that’s not even considering the hybrid and all-electric versions of the hatchback—yes, the modern hatchback can come as gas-powered, hybrid, or electric!
  1. Rise in Popularity. Don’t believe the naysayers who love to hate on the hatchback, whether old or new. The truth is, the American hatchback is on its way up! That 16% rise in sales mentioned earlier is just the tip of the iceberg. Hatchbacks are back and they’re here to win America’s hearts all over again.


Toyota’s New Hatchbacks

Currently, Toyota has some impressive hatchbacks to offer, two of which we find to be our favorites: one in the Corolla and another in the Prius. Let’s have a look at some of the specs for each.

Corolla Hatchback:

  • Comes with a starting MSRP of $20,140
  • Offers 30/38 estimated miles-per-gallon
  • Has three trim levels—SE (L4 2.0L, 6MT); SE (L4 2.0L, CVT); and XSE (L4 2.0L, 6MT)
  • Available with a dynamic force engine; optimized suspension; leather-trimmed sport seats; 6-speed intelligent manual transmission; rear window spoiler; and wearable connectivity
  • It also comes with a chrome grille surround, LED taillights, LED fog lights, 18-inch alloy wheels, and piano-black accents and soft-touch materials throughout

Prius C:

  • Comes with a starting MSRP of $21,530
  • Has an estimated 48/43 mpg
  • Available in seven different colors—Tide Pool Pearl, Blizzard Pearl, Classic Silver Metallic, Magnetic Gray Metallic, Black Sand Pearl, Absolutely Red, and Blue Streak Metallic
  • Offered in an L or LE trim level
  • Features the following: pre-collision system with pedestrian detection; lane departure alert; automatic high beams; a sporty exterior shape; 15-inch alloy wheels; versatile design; 60/40 split rear seating; and a premium interior
  • And as far as technology goes, there is a standard backup camera, a smart key system with a push-bottom start, and a multi-information display


See to Believe

There are plenty more specs to both Toyota hatchbacks, but this is one type of vehicle you really have to see to believe. There’s just something about its performance, its comfortable-cool atmosphere that just can’t be explained.

Like it or not, the hatchback is about to experience its own renaissance and we couldn’t be more excited. Just take a look at what we have on our lot right now—

  • 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback (SE CVT) in Blizzard Pearl for only $21,842
  • 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback (XSE CVT) in Blizzard Pearl for only $26,681
  • 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback (SE CVT) in Classic Silver Metallic for only $21,692

Come in today and test drive the all-new Toyota hatchbacks. Mount Airy Toyota is confident you will be impressed with this blast from the past and, as always, you simply won’t find better pricing anywhere else. See you soon!



-Andrae Bergeron