What is a hatchback?

Hatchbacks are efficient, cheap to run and practical: they are one of Britain's most popular types of car, but what is a hatchback?

BuyaCar team
Jan 5, 2022

Whether you’re looking for a car that is fast and fun for a great value run-around to get you from point A to B, there is a hatchback for every need and budget.

You can identify hatchbacks by their unique boot door, which is attached to the car’s roof above the rear window. Although it may not be the most efficient way of entering a car, you could technically get in a hatchback through the boot door by climbing over the rear seats. For this reason, the boot door counts as one of your car’s doors, and explains why hatchbacks are available in either three- or five-door configurations.

Hatchbacks come in all shapes and sizes: the tiny Renault Twingo is a hatchback, as is the Volkswagen Golf, the Ford Fiesta, the BMW 6 Series GT and the Audi A5 Sportback. Even Ferrari makes a hatchback. There are plenty of choices when it comes to hatchbacks.

The versatility and practicality of a hatchback is why they are some of Britain's most popular cars. If you need to load up your car with camping gear, luggage, boxes or equipment you could fold down the rear seats and have access to a huge boot space. Or, with the rear seats raised, you’ll be able to transport an additional two or three passengers in the back. Most modern hatchbacks have been designed with rear passenger comfort in mind and offer plenty of legroom as well as boot space, but be aware that some hatchbacks can be a bit of a squeeze for people sitting in the back.

In modern cars, this practicality doesn't come with many drawbacks. Hatchbacks can be a bit noisier than saloon cars because only the bootlid separates passengers from the outside (saloon cars have an enclosed boot that helps improve soundproofing). But you'd barely notice the difference with the best.

A few hatchbacks do have reduced legroom to make more space for the boot - or cut back on boot space to make more room for passengers. But most modern hatchbacks are relatively spacious for both luggage and people. Some have sliding rear seats - usually available as an option - which can be adjusted to increase legroom or boot space.

The different types of hatchback

The boot on a hatchback counts as an extra door because, if you really wanted, you could climb in, jump over the back of the rear seats, and you'd be inside. That's why you have three- and five-door cars.

What is a three-door car?

These cars have two front doors on either side and a hatchback boot. These are most commonly small vehicles: city cars or superminis. They will usually have rear seats, which can be accessed by folding the front seats forward. Read more about three-door cars.

What is a five-door car?

A five-door car has two front and two back doors on either side, plus a hatchback boot. Most car manufacturers will offer their hatchbacks in both 3- and 5-door variants. The advantage of a five-door car is the ease of access for rear passengers compared to three-door at the expense of the car having a more squared-off look. Read more about five-door cars.

Are SUVs and estate cars hatchbacks?

Hatchback boots are fitted to a variety of cars including estate cars, SUVs and crossovers. Technically, these are types of hatchback.

However, cars that are described as hatchbacks are generally traditional vehicles that are low to the ground and fairly compact. They tend to be seen as good value for money and cheap to run. That's why companies that make big, luxurious hatchbacks, give them different names (such as Audi's Sportback cars and BMW's Gran Turismo models).

Used hatchbacks

Along with SUVs, hatchbacks remain the most popular type of car on the market, so it's no surprise that virtually every car manufacturer on the planet offers their own hatchback. From the most upmarket brands including BMW, Audi and Mercedes, through to the budget end and the likes of Hyundai, Peugeot, Renault and Vauxhall. With a selection of three or five doors, a variety of engines, including some powerful hot-hatchbacks, this really is a versatile and wide-ranging sector.

Volkswagen ID.3 rear view

Volkswagen ID.3

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Hatchbacks: pros and cons

Pros

Big boot opening and versatile folding seats
Generally good value and cheap to run
Easier to park than a saloon car

Cons

They can be cramped
Slightly noisier than saloon cars
Lower driving position than SUVs and crossovers

What to look for in a hatchback

Getting a hatchback is a good start if you're looking for a practical and economical car. These are some handy features we’d recommend if you’re looking to buy a hatchback.

  • A split-fold rear seat, so you can increase luggage space and have space for a passenger in the back.
  • Rear seats that fold completely flat. Some just rest at an angle, robbing space.
  • A low or non-existent lip in the boot opening, so you can easily slide long or bulky items over the bumper and into the boot.
  • Back seats that can slide forward and backwards to create extra legroom or boot space.
  • A long wheelbase (the distance between the wheels) that maximises interior and boot space.

 

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