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Hatchbacks continue to hatch for 2007
By Bill Roebuck
The number of hatchbacks entering the market has kept on growing ever since 2002, and the trend is continuing for the 2007 model year.
That's no surprise with galloping gas prices, as hatchbacks generally offer fab fuel economy along with capacious cargo capacity. Why go for a station wagon, crossover, SUV or minivan when a hatchback will do the job? Moreover, most hatchbacks look better than the many of the alternatives.
All-new or newly redesigned hatchbacks that are appearing as 2007 models include the Dodge Caliber, Honda Fit, Hyundai Accent, Nissan Versa, Suzuki SX4 and Volkswagen Rabbit.
You can add these to an long list of existing hatchbacks that includes various sizes of three- and five-door models: Acura RSX; Audi A3; Chevrolet Aveo 5-door, Optra 5-door and Malibu Maxx 5-door; Ford Focus ZX3 and ZX5; Hyundai Elantra 5-door; Kia Rio5 and Spectra5; Mazda's Mazda3 and Mazda6 Sportwagon; Mercedes-Benz C230, Mini Cooper; Pontiac Wave; Subaru Impreza; Suzuki Swift+; Toyota Prius and Yaris Hatchback (3-door and 5-door); and Volkswagen's New Beetle and GTI.
Unlike 'three-box' cars with a trunk, the cargo area of 'two-box' hatchbacks is much roomier, swallowing tall items as well as long ones, since the rear seats fold down to extend the cargo area. The wide-opening hatch allows bulky items to be fitted in easily, making good use of the available space.
Although these same benefits come with wagons and minivans, both of those body styles are larger and not as stylish. Hatchbacks also are ideal when SUVs or crossovers are overkill.
Prices, power and fuel economy
Here's a quick rundown of the prices, engine power and fuel economy of the latest models in this category. All are powered by inline four-cylinder engines, except for the Volkswagen Rabbit, which now boasts a five-cylinder powerplant. Fuel economy is in litres/100 km.
* 2007 Dodge Caliber, $15,995, 2.0 L, 158 hp, torque 141 lb-ft, fuel economy 9.0 city/7.3 hwy.
* 2007 Honda Fit, $14, 980, 1.5 L, 109 hp, torque 105 lb-ft, fuel economy 7.3 city/5.8 hwy.
* 2007 Hyundai Accent, $13,495, 1.6 L, 110 hp, torque 106 lb-ft, fuel economy 7.4 city/6.2 hwy.
* 2007 Nissan Versa, $14,498, 1.8 L, 122 hp, torque 127 lb-ft, fuel economy 7.9 city/6.1 hwy.
* 2007 Suzuki SX4 (AWD), $15,995, 2.0 L, 143 hp, torque 136 lb-ft, fuel economy 9.9 city/7.1 hwy.
* 2007 Volkswagen Rabbit, $19,990, 1.5 L, 150 hp, torque 170 lb-ft, fuel economy, 10.7 city/7.2 hwy.
Bill Roebuck is the editor of CarTest.ca.
What's a hatchback?
It's not easy these days to define what a hatchback really is. Traditionally, the style has a large, top-hinged tailgate (but so do station wagons, minivans and many SUVs). Distinctive to the hatch is the fact is it slopes down over the cargo area, from the roofline to the back of the car, giving it its stylish look. None of the other three-door or five-door models do that.
Yet some new models that look like wagons are being called hatchbacks by their makers. One example is the all-new Dodge Caliber; I'd call it a wagon, but DaimlerChrysler says it's a hatchback. The boxy Honda Fit also claims to be a hatchback. I'm not going to argue with them -- so hatchbacks they are.
In addition, some hatchbacks are better included in more appropriate categories; cars like the Chevrolet Corvette and Audi TT, for example, are clearly sports cars, even though they have sloping hatches above the cargo compartment.