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Hatchbacks fell out of popularity on the U.S. market but have held steady elsewhere. Recent trends show a slow comeback of these practical compact cars. As more Americans return to the practicality and efficiency of the hatchback, European models serve as exciting teasers for models that could come stateside if popularity continues to increase. The 2021 Volkswagen Polo GTI is a tasteful hot hatch that American drivers might envy.

The history of the hatchback in America

A white 2021 Volkswagen Polo GTI hatchback on a white background
Volkswagen Polo GTI | Volkswagen

Hatchbacks hit the U.S. market in the 1960s and grew into popularity. Buyers loved the innovative design, which gave unprecedented flexibility. Hatchbacks allowed drivers to fold down the rear seats and create expansive and versatile cargo space.

The hatchback filled a gap between an economical compact daily river and a very light utility vehicle with some storage space. Hatchback often catered to work applications and made built-in seat back protectors and debris trays to protect the interior while hauling cargo.

With the rear eats up, hatchbacks seat between four and five passengers, making them an excellent choice for families. The extra cargo space also proved invaluable for car camping and other adventure ideas. Hatchbacks even found their place in the world of rally racing.

The Volkswagen Polo GTI changes the game

With the 2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI about to hit American streets, the automaker boasted another new sub-compact hot-hatch that Americans could only look on with envy. The sporty and quick Volkswagen Polo GTI is a smaller, more efficient, and less expensive alternative to the more extensive Polo.

A 2.0-Liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine powers the Polo GTI. The engine puts out 241 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque. Accelerating from zero to 60 in 6.7 seconds means the Polo GTI is fast. This little hatchback is steep competition for the rest of the segment because it’s so fun to drive.

This hatchback represents another subsegment that no longer exists in the U.S., sub-compact hatchbacks. There are no longer hatchbacks in this class on the American market. Could that change moving forward as crossover and hatchback sales continue to rise?

What does the future of the hatchback look like?


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Automotive trends have defied all expectations since the onset of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Perhaps one of the most surprising upticks was the resurgence in American hatchback sales. Hatchbacks were popular in the 1960s through the 1990s. In the early 2000s, hatchbacks began to taper off.

For nearly two decades, the segment languished. In 2017, hatchbacks enjoyed the beginning of a rise in popularity. Since then, hatchback sales and diesel truck sales have both steadily risen in sales. Alongside this trend, crossovers have dominated sales.

As sedans fall off the radar more and more, could there be a gap left in the market? Crossovers are wider every year, which is beginning to cause municipal crowding. Enough demand for compact, economical daily drivers with cargo space and room for families could increase demand. More automakers may start offering these super practical cars.

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