Back in the mid-1970s, as gas prices soared past 50 cents per gallon, the auto industry saw a major shift to smaller, more fuel-efficient cars, and that included plenty of small hatchbacks. The change was led by Japanese brands, which launched entries such as the Honda Civic and Accord, Toyota Corolla and Datsun B210 – all prominently featuring hatchback body styles. Then, it wasn’t long after that the likes of the Ford Pinto, Dodge Omni/Plymouth Horizon and Chevy Citation debuted.
While a few automakers offer compact hatchbacks for 2016, your choices should expand greatly for 2017, since Chevrolet, Honda and Toyota are all getting back in the compact hatchback game for the 2017 model year.
Granted, a number of brands currently supply hatchbacks for the subcompact class, though those cars are small indeed. For example, the compact Ford Focus hatchback, at 171.7 inches in length, is a full foot longer than the subcompact Fiesta hatchback.
2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatch
Hatchbacks may have been out of favor among U.S. consumers for a while, however their added versatility – highlighted by outsized cargo capacities – has kept them popular in the global marketplace. For example, Chevy has offered a Cruze hatchback internationally since the launch of the first-generation car, and the second-gen hatch, expected to go on sale here in the fall, already is available in other countries.
The biggest difference from the sedan is the most obvious one, too. The rear view of the 2017 Chevrolet Cruze hatchback displays an exclusive roof, rear-end structure and tail lamp treatment as compared with its four-door sibling. Also adding to the hatchback’s sportiness is a rear spoiler that’s been mounted at the top of the liftgate. Function also follows form with the Cruze Hatch. That means owners enjoy a dedicated rear storage space that can hold 22.7 cubic feet of cargo behind the back seats. When more room is needed, that back row can be folded down to allow 47.2 cubic feet of storage.
The price for the Cruze hatchback is not available at this time, but given trends in pricing and trim levels, its suggested retail price should be somewhat higher than the $16,120 starting point of the 2016 Cruze sedan.
Chevy has further confirmed that the Cruze Hatch will share all of the tech features found on the recently redesigned four-door model, which includes a mobile Wi-Fi hot spot, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration and a full range of active driver assistance features.
2017 Honda Civic Hatchback
A key player in Honda’s lineup from 1973 through 2005, the Honda Civic hatchback will return for the 2017 model year. The redesigned Civic was initially introduced as a 2016 model, in the shape of the Civic sedan, and that vehicle was honored with this year’s North American Car of the Year Award. Next was the athletically oriented Civic coupe that arrived earlier this spring, while the hatch should be rolling into dealerships in the fall.
Like the sedan, the Civic hatchback has four doors for passengers, but like the coupe, it also has a noticeably sporty appeal. And a noticeably sporty standard powertrain. The setup combines Honda’s new turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine with either a six-speed manual transmission or a sport-tuned continuously variable transmission (CVT). With that four-cylinder unit making 174 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque, Honda promises a pleasing mix of performance and fuel efficiency.
But the hatch won’t be the fastest new Civic, and neither will be the new high-performance Si editions. Raising the bar – and lowering sprint times – will be the Civic Type-R. Formerly unavailable in the U.S., Civic Type-R models deliver the ultimate sport-compact experience and the newest one is expected to be the hottest version yet.
2017 Toyota Corolla iM
The Toyota Corolla hatchback is an interesting case. Although it appears to have been missing from the marketplace for more than 15 years, it’s sort of been hiding in plain sight. The Corolla shared its platform with both the Toyota Matrix and the Scion iM, with the latter car now joining the 2017 Toyota roster as part of the company’s plan to shutter the Scion brand. (The Scion FR-S sports car and subcompact Scion iA sedan are switching to the Toyota brand as well.)
As for the newly minted 2017 Toyota Corolla iM, the automaker has not announced specific changes beyond the vehicle’s name. That said, the 2016 Scion version certainly established some benchmarks, from a standard six-speaker, 7-inch display audio system with Pioneer components to also-standard luxury cues like a leather-wrapped steering wheel and 17-inch alloy wheels.
The iM also supplies the versatility and fuel economy that folks prefer in a compact hatchback. Scion/Toyota doesn’t indicate how much total cargo space is available when owners fold down the rear seats, but there’s 20.8 cubic feet behind the back row. Additionally, the iM gets up to an EPA-estimated 28/37 mpg city/highway when equipped with a CVT. Models with the standard six-speed manual return 27/36 mpg.
Competing Compact Hatchbacks
While the upcoming Civic, Cruze and Corolla hatchbacks mean more five-door choices within the compact class, shoppers may want to check out a number of competing compact hatchbacks. These include:
- 2016 Ford Focus, offering high-performance ST and RS models, as well as an all-electric version.
- 2016 Mazda3, complete with sporty driving dynamics and a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
- 2016 Subaru Impreza, leveraging standard all-wheel drive and an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ certification.
- 2016 Hyundai Elantra GT, the hatchback version of Hyundai’s current best-selling vehicle.
- 2017 Kia Forte5, redesigned and showcasing a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and Android Auto/Apple CarPlay smartphone integration.
- 2016 Volkswagen Golf, the 2015 North American Car of the Year, with high-performance and electric variants of its own.