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.
Nissan Juke R
Nissan's Juke is one of the most bizarrely styled vehicles on the market. But its sporty, fun-to-drive character forgives many of its design trespasses. Taking things one – or one million – steps further into the realm of the lunatic, this special-order version of the car, which saws the vehicle into pieces, crams in the twin-turbo V-6 (and other assorted brake, transmission, and suspension bits) usually found in the brand's omnipotent six-figure GT-R supercar and then reassembles it tightly around this powertrain, creating a mini Franken-monster. Not exactly a production car, but not just a one-off, the Juke R is available to anyone willing to write Nissan a check for $600,000. [nissanusa.com]