2012 Mazda 3: Who Started This Hatch Thing?
December 19, 2011
There should be a special day to celebrate the guy who invented the hatch, dont you think?
Every time I use the 5-door Mazda 3 in the way it was designed, I think there should be a day on the calendar to honor the person who brought us the perfect utility of the hatch.
Its easy to think the hatch has always been with us, but I can remember when it was new, when it was dissed and discarded, and when it became snappy and stylish.
As far as recent history is concerned, the Mazda Protégé 5 and the Subaru Imprezza reintroduced the concept of a small wagonette and made it cool. They brought back the spirit of those first Honda Civic wagons of the early 1970s, the car you drove if you were the kind of person who put a bandana around the neck of your German shepherd.
The way I remember it, the 1975 Volkswagen Golf really popularized the hatch in small cars, and once the GTI made us all realize that front-wheel-drive cars could be fast as well as practical, every carmaker rushed to market with a Hot Hatch. Of course, once the hatchback became synonymous with small, cheap cars, it went right out of fashion, but by then the hatchback had been integrated into all kinds of cars, from little coupes like the Acura Integra to sports cars like the Porsche 928. The Europeans really liked larger hatchback sedans like the Saab 9000, but Americans said the concept would never work in premium-style packages. Of course, sport-utilities eventually made everyone receptive to the hatch in big vehicles again and now the Audi A7 is everyones favorite car.
Who really got to the idea first? Big station wagons of the 1950s had split tailgates as I remember. It seems like the Jaguar E-Type might have been first with a hatch, you think? Butzi Porsche wanted the Porsche 911 to have one, but the body engineers told him it was impossible. The Pininfarina-designed 1965 MGB GT really popularized the hatch because the car was relatively affordable, and then cars like the Datsun 240Z, Ford Pinto and Toyota Celica Liftback followed.
Whatever, the hatchback guy deserves a place in the car design hall of fame.
Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com