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A Hatchback is a car body style incorporating a shared passenger and cargo volume, with rearmost accessibility via a rear third or fifth door, typically a top-hinged liftgate—and features such as fold-down rear seats to enable flexibility within the shared passenger/cargo volume. As a two-box design, the body style typically includes an A, B & C-pillar, and may include a D pillar. The American Heritage Dictionary defines a hatchback as "having a sloping back with a hinged rear door that opens upward."
Hatchbacks and liftbacks share commonalities and distinctions with station wagons. The body style appeared as early as the 1930s, but according the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the term itself dates to 1970. This automobile design has been marketed worldwide with wide range of cars from all sizes from superminis to small family cars to executive cars.
Hatchbacks may be described as three-door (two entry doors and the hatch) or five-door (four entry doors and the hatch) cars. A model range may include multiple configurations, as with the 2001–2007 Ford Focus which offered sedan (ZX4), wagon (ZXW), and three or five-door hatchback (ZX3 and ZX5) models. The models typically share a platform, drivetrain and bodywork forward of the A-pillar. Hatchbacks may have a removable rigid parcel shelf, liftable with the tailgate, or flexible roll-up tonneau cover to cover the cargo space behind the rear seats. Sometimes a hatchback model is sold with a different name to a saloon version, but is identical bar the rear configuration, such as the Renault 9 and 11 of the 1980s.
Both station wagons and hatchbacks typically feature a two-box design configuration, with one shared, flexible, interior volume for passengers and cargo—and a rear door for cargo access. Further distinctions are highly variable:
Cargo Volume: Station wagons prioritize passenger and cargo volume—with windows aside the cargo volume. Of the two body styles, a station wagon's roof (viewed in profile) more likely extends to the very rearmost of the vehicle, enclosing a full-height cargo volume—a hatchback roof (especially a liftback roof) might more likely rake down steeply behind the C-Pillar, prioritizing style over interior volume, with shorter rear overhang and with smaller windows (or no windows) aside the cargo volume.
Cargo floor contour: Favoring cargo capacity, a station wagon may prioritize a fold-flat floor, where a hatchback would more likely allow a cargo floor with pronounced contour (e.g. the new Mini or the sixth generation Ford Fiesta).
Rear suspension: A station wagon may include reconfigured rear suspension for additional load capacity and to minimize intrusion into the cargo volume, (e.g., worldwide versions of the first generation Ford Focus).
Rear Door: Hatchbacks typically feature a top-hinged liftgate for cargo access, with variations from a single liftgate to a complex tailgate that can function either as a full tailgate or as a trunk lid (e.g., the 2008 Škoda Superb's TwinDoor). Station wagons also have numerous tailgate configurations. Typically, a hatchback's hatch or liftgate does not extend down to the bumper, as on wagons — with exceptions including the Skoda Superb.
Automotive journalist Dan Neil, in a 2002 New York Times report described verticality of the rear cargo door as the prime distinction between a hatchback and a station wagon: "Where you break the roofline, at what angle, defines the spirit of the vehicle," he said. "You could have a 90-degree break in the back and have a station wagon."
A liftback is a broad marketing term for a hatchback, which incorporates a shared passenger and cargo volume, with rearmost accessibility via a rear third or fifth door, typically a top-hinged liftgate—especially where the profile aspect of the rear cargo door is more horizontal than vertical, with a sharply raked or fastback profile. In comparison with the hatchback the back opening area is not very sloped but longer and is lifted up to open, offering more luggage space. Very similar is the "fastback", but it miss the "step" visually resembling sedan. Liftback is not used as a term in the UK, fastback or hatchback are used instead.
In 1949, Kaiser-Frazer introduced the Vagabond and Traveler hatchbacks. Although these were styled much like the typical 1940s sedan, they incorporated an innovative split rear tailgate, folding rear seats and no separate trunk.  In 1953, Aston Martin marketed the DB2 with a top-hinged rear tailgate, manufacturing 700 examples. Its successor, the 1958 DB Mark III also offered a folding rear seat. The 1954 AC Aceca and later Aceca-Bristol from AC Cars had a similar hatch tailgate, though just 320 were built.
In 1961 Renault introduced the Renault 4 with a top-hinged tailgate incorporating the rear window, with only short side windows between C & D-pillars aside the load space and a steep angle from roof to rear bumper. During its production run the R4 was called a small station wagon, even after the term hatchback appeared around 1970. In 1964, Autobianchi marketed the Primula hatchback. In 1965, Renault marketed the Renault 16, a hatchback design with a folding rear seat.
In 1965, the MGB-GT was launched with a hatchback designed by Pininfarina, the first volume-production sports car so equipped. In 1967, the Simca 1100 used a transverse engine and gearbox layout, and incorporated a hatchback without side windows at the C-pillar. In 1969, British Leyland launched Austin Maxi, a five-speed, transverse front-wheel drive hatchback.
In 1973, Volkswagen marketed the Passat/Dasher hatchback, followed by the Golf/Rabbit designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro, as well as the Audi 50/Volkswagen Polo in 1974. Sports cars like the Jaguar E-Type with its side-hinged opening, Toyota 2000GT, and Datsun 240Z carried rear tailgates, with one row of seats, and Ford relaunched the Capri with a hatchback in 1974. In the 1970s, the Rover SD1, Renault 30, and Saab 900 introduced the hatchback style into the executive car market.
The 1980s Ford launched the front-wheel drive Ford Escort hatchback, followed by the Lancia Delta and many others. The 1983 Fiat Uno designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro, its tall, square body utilising a Kamm tail achieved a low drag coefficient of 0.34 won much praise for airy interior space and fuel economy. It incorporated many packaging lessons learnt from Giugiaro's 1978 Lancia Megagamma concept car (the first modern people carrier / MPV / mini-van) but miniaturised. Its tall car / high seating packaging is imitated by every small car today. It reversed the trend for lower and lower built cars. It showed that not just low sleek cars could be aerodynamic, but small, roomy, boxy well packaged cars could be too. In 1984 it was voted European Car of the Year. More hatchback cars followed over the decade, including the updated Opel Kadett, Austin Maestro, Vauxhall Astra, Renault 19, Fiat Tipo, and second generation Rover 200. Ford replaced the long-running Escort with the Ford Focus in 1998, featuring a model range with sedan, station wagon, and three and five door hatchbacks.
The hatchback was seen as a leap forward in practicality in Europe. From the 1960s it was adopted as a standard feature on most European cars, with saloons declining in popularity apart from at the top of the market where it was unpopular, where a saloon is seen as a sign of status. The Ford Granada Mk3 / Ford Scorpio executive car, that was launched in 1985 only as a hatchback, had to be relaunched in saloon and estate form. The hatchback was discontinued years before the other variants. Small economy cars that were more limited in load carrying ability than larger cars benefited most - long light loads like furniture could be hung out of the back of the car.
American Motors Corporation (AMC) marketed the subcompact Gremlin from 1970, in a single hatchback Kammback body design. The Gremlin used the AMC Hornet automobile platform, but its abrupt hatchback rear end cut the car's overall length from 179 to 161 inches (4,500 to 4,100 mm). American Motors added a semi-fastback hatchback version to its larger compact-sized Hornet line for the 1973 model year.
Introduced by AMC in 1975, "like recent European variations of the theme, the Pacer had a rear door or hatchback, which further increased its utility". For 1977, AMC added a longer Pacer model with a wagon-type configuration describing its large rear "hatch" as one of the car's three doors, all having different sizes. The Hornet's hatchback body design was continued in the redesigned "luxury" Concord line for 1978 and 1979, in a "sporty model designed for performance-oriented buyers". The AMC Spirit replaced the Gremlin starting with the 1979 models and was available in two designs, both featuring rear doors: a hatchback "sedan" and a semi-fastback "liftback" version.
Chrysler Corporation introduced the Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon hatchbacks in 1978. These were followed by the Dodge Charger/Plymouth Turismo. They released the liftback Dodge Daytona/Chrysler Laser in 1984, and then the Dodge Shadow/Plymouth Sundance—as well as the LeBaron GTS and Dodge Lancer hatchbacks. Captive import subcompact models included the Dodge Colt and the almost identical Plymouth Champ.
Ford Motor Company introduced the Pinto and Bobcat in 1972. The German-built Mercury Capri II hatchbacks were imported to U.S. Lincoln-Mercury dealers for the 1976–1977 model years, and the Ford Fiesta hatchback was imported for U.S. Ford dealers later in the decade. Ford offered a hatchback version of its third-generation Escort. The third generation Mustang and Mercury Capri introduced in 1979 were offered in hatchback models. Between 1988 and 1993 Ford marketed the imported Festiva subcompact hatchback that was later restyled and renamed the Aspire for the 1994 through 1997 model years.
The Chevrolet Vega, introduced in September 1970, was the first hatchback model from General Motors. Over a million Vega hatchbacks were produced for the 1971–1977 model years accounting for about half of the Vega's total production. GM introduced rebadged Vega hatchback variants, the 1973–1977 Pontiac Astre and the 1978 Chevrolet Monza S.
The Vega-derived Chevrolet Monza 2+2, Buick Skyhawk, and Oldsmobile Starfire introduced for the 1975 model year, were produced exclusively as hatchbacks with the Pontiac Sunbird hatchback introduced for the 1977 model year. All were produced through 1980.
A Chevrolet Nova hatchback was introduced for the 1973 model year, and was offered through 1979, another hatchback Nova was reintroduced in the 80's based on the Toyota Corolla. The Chevrolet Chevette was introduced in 1975 as a two-door hatchback. A four-door hatchback on a longer wheelbase was introduced with the 1978 models. In early 1979 the Chevrolet Citation was introduced as a 1980 model offered in 2 and 4-door hatchbacks continuing through the 1987 model year. In the 1981, General Motors included a hatchback model as part of its J-car series that included the Chevrolet Cavalier. Chevrolet offered captive import hatchbacks built by Suzuki and Izuzu. The NUMMI U.S.-made Chevrolet Nova was also offered in a hatchback model in 1987 and 1988. Its replacement, the Geo Prizm, was also available in a hatchback model and the domestic designed Chevrolet Corsica was briefly available in a hatchback version.
The third generation Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird produced for the 1982–1992 model years, featured a curved glass hatchback liftgate. GM marketed a series of hatchbacks in North America as a joint venture with Suzuki, the Swift/Metro/Firefly. Chevrolet offered a longer wheelbase, hatchback vesion of the Malibu, the Malibu Maxx from 2004 to 2007. In 2008, GM introduced the 3-door and 5-door Belgian-assembled Saturn Astra. Chevrolet added a hatchback version of its Korean-built Aveo in 2009.
The Chevrolet Corvette was first offered with an opening rear glass hatch for the 1982 Collector Edition model. It was adopted on all Corvette Coupes beginning in 1984, with the fourth generation models.
In addition to specific models of captive imports mentioned above, a number of import brands have been available in the hatchback body style as a primary model: Acura Integra, Toyota Celica, Fiat Strada., Volkswagen Golf, etc.
BMW's 3-series hatchback was offered from 1995–99. The liftback version of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, the Sportcoupé, was sold in North America from 2002 to 2005, lacking many amenities of German luxury imports (especially a Mercedes). Audi subsequently marketd the Audi A3 In North America. The Mini Hatch range incorporates a hatchback design.
The first Soviet hatchback was the rear-wheel drive IZh-2125 Kombi, which entered production in 1973. This was followed in the 1980s by the front-wheel drive Lada Samara, ZAZ Tavria and Moskvich Aleko.
Hatchbacks are very popular in India. The Maruti 800 has been the most successful of hatchbacks in India with over 2.5 million sales since its launch in 1983. Since 2004, Maruti 800 has been overtaken by Maruti Alto as the car with highest annual sales. Entrance of several foreign car makers in the Indian market and growth of Indian companies has also attributed to the their success in local market. In March 2009, Tata Motors launched the Nano, the cheapest road hatchback (and car) in the world.
Hatchbacks have proved to be less popular in South America, Africa, and some parts of Asia than in Europe, and as a result, manufacturers have had to develop sedan versions of their small cars. In Brazil, for example, the Fiat Premio was developed from the Fiat Uno in the 1980s, with Ford and GM subsequently offering sedan versions of the Opel Corsa and Ford Fiesta in the 1990s. (The first generation Opel Corsa was sold in Europe as a sedan as well as a hatchback, but proved unpopular, and the three-box sedan was not replaced in 1993). These models were also sold in South Africa and China.
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