The sporty hatchback has been around for nearly 50 years – many experts date its production genesis back to the MGB-GT of 1965. But its American market primacy likely peaked in the mid-1980s, when the body configuration accounted for nearly 40 percent of new vehicle sales. It's pretty much been in popular local decline since then.
Yet as Americans begin paying attention to issues like fuel economy, practicality, and the efficient use of space, hatches are gaining in popularity once again. But these vehicles aren't the punishing forms of debtors' prison they once were. They're increasingly the most interesting and innovative segment of the market. To prove this, we've selected nine of the latest lift-back models, each of which fits squarely in the category but busts out of the, ahem, box in unusual ways.
At the other end of the price and size spectrum is Audi's stunning RS7 – the twin-turbocharged, high-output version of the four-ringed brand's stunning, square-shouldered, A7 hatchback. With specially upgraded and exquisite interior materials, an impossibly capacious rear cargo area, all-wheel drive, and a rousing 560-horsepower engine capable of catapulting this most elegant of five doors to 60 faster than a new Corvette, this may be the one car that does nearly everything imaginable and does it superlatively. Perhaps the best all-around car on the market. [Base price: $104,900; audi.com]