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.
Mazda3 CNG Concept
You know what we hate? Hydraulic fracturing – otherwise known as "fracking" – the process by which natural gas is released from crevices deep underground through the pulverizing high-pressure injection of a toxic stew of chemicals. But this process has yielded a natural gas boom in the United States, and since burning compressed natural gas (CNG) is a relatively simple, and green-ish, fix for a gasoline-powered engine, adaptations are growing. For example, Mazda showed this dual-fuel (powered by CNG and/or gasoline) version of its delightful Mazda3 at the 2013 Tokyo auto show. CNG-powered cars are popular in the Middle East and South America. Perhaps they'll catch on here as well. (The sedan is shown, but a CNG hatch is expected as well.) [mazdausa.com]