What is a hatchback?

Last updated November 3rd, 2022

Whether you’re a novice casually browsing the market for a new car or a fully-fledged petrolhead, there’s a good chance you’ve heard the term ‘hatchback’.

For those unfamiliar, a hatchback is a type of car featuring a boot lid that swings upward to provide easy access to the boot compartment. Some people assume that any small city car is considered a hatchback, although this is not always the case.

In this article, we’ll take a more detailed look at what defines a hatchback, the various types available, their features, benefits and drawbacks.

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What is meant by ‘hatchback’?

The term ‘hatchback’ usually refers to smaller cars with a boot lid that incorporates the rear window, with a hinge at the top. A hatchback has, in effect, an additional full-height door at the back. That’s why you’ll often see cars described as three or five-door, even though you’ll only ever get in and out via the doors at the side.

Popular hatchback categories

  • City hatches

    City hatchbacks are generally viewed as small, nippy everyday cars that can weave in and out of urban traffic. They’re convenient and inexpensive to purchase and run. Popular city hatchbacks include the Ford Fiesta and Hyundai i20.

  • Hot hatches

    Hot hatches are sportier, more powerful versions of everyday hatchbacks. Popular models include the Golf GTI and Ford Focus ST. These are favourites among car modification enthusiasts, offering impressive handling and performance at affordable prices.

  • Luxury hatchbacks

    Hatchbacks are not merely the preserve of budget and mid-range brands; many luxury car manufacturers also produce them. Popular luxury hatchbacks include the Porsche Panamera and the Tesla Model S. Due to their more compact size, luxury hatchbacks are often cheaper than larger premium models.

  • Big hatchbacks

    As a hatchback’s defining trait is a boot that hinges at the roof, some larger cars, such as the BMW 6 Series Gran Turismo also fit this classification. Big hatchbacks offer many of the same benefits as their compact counterparts, together with extra passenger and storage space.

Is an SUV considered a hatchback?

In technical terms, there are plenty of cars that have a hatchback boot that you might not refer to as a hatchback. Estate cars, for example, have hatchback boots, but are usually called estates. The same logic applies to SUVs, as they have a different body style beyond the boot lid - and aren’t classified as hatchbacks based on other elements of the design.

4-wheel drive hatchbacks in the UK

There are numerous 4-wheel drive hatchbacks available, including the 2022 Polestar 2 and certain hot hatches, such as the Mercedes AMG A45 and the Audi RS3. These offer all the benefits of a standard hatchback, with improved traction on uneven terrain, making them ideal for off-roading.

What is the difference between a hatchback and a saloon?

The key feature that distinguishes a saloon car from a hatchback is the boot. On a saloon car, the boot lid hinges beneath the rear window, whereas on a hatchback, it hinges at the top. Additionally, saloons are often more expensive than hatchbacks due to their larger sizes.

Is a hatchback a coupe?

Coupes have a sloped roof tapering to a sharper point, giving a more aerodynamic and flowing look than the typically boxy, flat-roofed hatchbacks. However, larger coupes such the Audi A7 are sometimes also classed as hatchbacks because of the way their boot opens.

Hatchback configurations

In technical terms, a hatchback is a car which:

  • Has two or four car doors (plus one boot door).
  • Is assembled on a two-box body.
  • Has a boot door that hinges at the top.

Small five-door cars

A five-door car has two front and two back doors on either side, as well as a hatchback boot. Hatchbacks are mostly small five-door cars, suitable for city driving or for families who require some extra space, without the potentially cumbersome nature of an SUV.

Three-door hatchbacks

Many three-door cars are hatchbacks, with the exception of coupes. A three-door car has just one door on each side for the driver and passengers to use, as well as a boot.

New hatchback cars

Due to the popularity of hatchbacks, modern hatchbacks are becoming significantly more streamlined, with stylish, sweeping rooflines and more luxurious interiors. Many models are also becoming more expensive, with many hatchbacks passing for five-door saloons.

Advantages of hatchbacks

Hatchbacks are a great option for anyone who needs to commute in a city but also requires cargo or passenger loading capabilities. Plenty of hatchback models offer flat-folding rear seats, allowing you to load a large cargo with ease.

Disadvantages of hatchbacks

Hatchbacks have one potential downside. The rear area of a hatchback isn’t sealed off from the rest of the cabin as well as it is in a saloon or estate. They are also generally made to a specific low-end price point, meaning the quality of the ride and interior might be compromised.

Should I switch to a hatchback?

If you need a car that can nip around the city whilst holding multiple passengers and a boot full of luggage, a hatchback is probably the best option for you. Many hatchbacks are also attractively priced and economical to run.

If you need to raise some cash towards a hatchback, you can sell your car through a car buying service such as webuyanycar.

Frequently Asked Questions

Hatchbacks are generally less expensive to insure compared to other car types because of their lower prices and smaller engine sizes. Newer hatchbacks with additional safety features may be cheaper still to insure. However, premium hatchbacks will inevitably cost more.

Hatchbacks are generally preferred by those looking for low-cost motoring and a vehicle that’s easy to drive and park in urban areas.

As we’ve mentioned, they’re also highly practical and generally cheap to insure.

Hatchbacks typically have good fuel economy, making them great for long distance drives in terms of efficiency, but they may not always be the best choice for comfort. Those making long-distance trips on a regular basis may prefer a more spacious vehicle.

If you’re thinking about selling your hatchback to switch to a roomier vehicle, you can get a free car valuation in less than 30 seconds with our simple-to-use tool.

Many hatchback drivers enjoy the experience of driving a small, light car that can navigate traffic with ease – even with a few passengers. Sportier models boost the fun factor even more, offering smooth, nimble acceleration and handling above and beyond what’s required for rural and urban driving.

Compared to larger vehicles, hatchbacks are generally lighter and offer excellent MPG (Miles per Gallon). What’s more, many popular hybrid cars - and fully electric models - are hatchbacks and very economical to run.

The ‘dual-fuel’ Dacia Sandero hatchback can run on either LPG (Liquified Petroleum Gas) or petrol. LPG is available at selected forecourts across the UK and is considerably cheaper than both petrol and diesel.

The humble hatchback is still one of the best family cars out there. They’re arguably more fun to drive than larger alternatives, whilst still maintaining a good level of practicality and comfort. Despite their compact size, hatchbacks have more than enough storage to accommodate an average family’s weekly shopping.