The concept of a small automobile with five access ports—four doors and a top-hinged portal at the rear—is hardly new. Volkswagen popularized the body style with the introduction of the Golf (nee: Rabbit) in 1974, and there have been many variations since. But even though hatchbacks dominate in Europe’s small car segment, particularly in the northern countries, American buyers have resisted them, preferring formal sedans—so-called three-box styling versus two-box designs.
This is still true. According to General Motors research, compact hatchbacks account for only 350,000 sales per year in the US, in a market of about 17 million vehicles.
Given the boom in small crossover SUVs such as the Mazda CX-3, which is just a smidge bigger than its Mazda 3 compact hatchback counterpart, this is a little mystifying.
Still, GM sees expansion—and consequent opportunity—in the compact hatch market. And that’s what this new version of the Chevy Cruze is conceived to exploit.