While combined sales of crossovers and SUVs currently dwarf hatchback deliveries by a ratio of 7 to 1, research firm IHS Automotive predicts that the hatchback body style will be the fastest growing segment through 2020. The firm forecasts a 37 percent growth in sales during that period, to a total of 1.1 million vehicles.
Hatchbacks long ago were established as the most popular body style in Europe, securing 37 percent of the market in 2015. By comparison, only 4.6 percent of light vehicles sold in the U.S. last year were five-doors.
However, carmakers are betting that the rising popularity of crossovers and the increased versatility of hatchbacks will make them a compelling alternative to sedans. In an attempt to capture a portion of that market, Honda and Chevrolet are introducing five-door variations of the Civic and Cruze, joining the Ford Focus, Mazda3, Volkwagen Golf and Toyota’s Corolla iM, a rebranded version of the Scion iM.
In addition to the practicality and extra cargo space offered by hatchbacks, product planners also see an opportunity to attract new buyers by offering vehicles that provide a distinctive look and livelier driving experience.
For Chevrolet U.S. vice president Brian Sweeney, the five-door experiment should translate into increased sales. “We think the utility in the Cruze hatch and that sportiness opens up a whole new demographic and customer base for us.”