To some people, hatchbacks can look a little strange. Not having a trunk can make the car look out-of-proportion and ungainly. And to be fair, there are some pretty ugly hatchbacks out there.
On the other hand, there are also plenty of stylish hatchbacks. Good looks and sleek European styling aren’t just for sedans and sports cars. In fact, some of the best ideas in automotive design are executed in the hatchback class. The shapes and lines of hatchbacks are even influencing other cars in other segments. Even though it’s an SUV, the Nissan Murano has the rounded shape and thick rear pillars of a stylish sport hatch. The Mazda CX-7 follows the same trend, with looks that ditch the lines of a traditional SUV for something more sleek, sophisticated and hatchback-esque.
The trend goes the other way. If you don’t like traditional hatchback styling, you can find a hatch that looks like anything from an SUV to a sports car. And if you want your hatchback to show off exactly what it is, there are plenty of classic hatchbacks on the market as well. When you’re looking for a car that helps you express your individual style, hatchbacks are a great place to start.
Lots of hatchbacks have great performance, but even more have great sports-car styling. The Lexus CT 200h has the strong sculpted lines of a top-performing sports sedan, even though it’s a hybrid. Meanwhile, the Volvo c30, though a little quirky, has an aggressive front end that makes it look ready to tear up the road. The Mazda3 hatch has smooth character lines that make it look like it’s moving, even when it’s standing still. A rear spoiler helps announce its performance abilities and the available bright colors say that it’s not a car for people who like to hang with the pack. Even the little Ford Fiesta has a swoopy shape that rises quickly from the car’s nose to its back glass. As a result, the Fiesta looks agile, like a sprinter about to rocket out of the starting blocks.
On the other end of the spectrum are hatchbacks that look like they were designed with anything but speed in mind. With right angles and upright profiles, boxy hatchbacks are meant to stand out on the outside by providing maximum utility on the inside. The Scion xB and Kia Soul both have squared-off looks that turn heads. The Nissan Cube takes the design to its logical conclusion: though it isn’t really a cube, the Cube is about as close as you can get to a box on four wheels. Extra design elements like rear glass that appears to wrap around the passenger’s side of the car are icing on the Cube’s t-square cake.
If you like your car to look cute and cuddly, a hatchback is pretty much your only option. No one has ever squealed at how sweet a muscle car looks. Luckily, puppy-dog looks are the calling card of many hatchbacks. The Mazda2 is tiny, but adorable. On its little body, typical Mazda styling cues like a smiling grille make it look friendly rather than sporty. The Mini Cooper also gets praised for its cute-as-a-bulldog-puppy look, thanks to its rounded and bulging headlights. Models that are new to the U.S., like the Fiat 500, have the rounded edges and headlamps that have made hatches like the Mini so popular. And, if you really want to go for cute, the Smart ForTwo has the face and gangly proportions that put it firmly in so-ugly-it’s-cute territory.
As SUVs and crossovers have become more popular, their styling cues have leaked into other classes, hatchbacks included. Models like the Subaru Impreza have a higher stance than many other hatchbacks, which makes them look like they could keep going when the pavement ends. The Toyota Matrix and Dodge Caliber have flared wheel wells reminiscent of SUVs. The Nissan Juke, which has aggressive wheel wells, is a hatch that looks like a shrunken SUV.
For hatchback purists, there are still plenty of hatchbacks that look like hatchbacks and nothing else. Classic designs like the Volkswagen Golf have similar styling cues as when they were first introduced, and the Audi A3 is instantly recognizable as an upscale, traditional European hatchback. Even newer models like the Kia Forte hatch and Honda Fit don’t shy away from traditional hatchback cues like a rounded rear end and plenty of windows. The Nissan Versa hatch has a tall roofline, big windows, and a rear end that couldn’t be on anything but a hatchback.