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.
VW Golf GTD
The Volkswagen GTI has been a leader in the American hot hatch category since its introduction in the early 80s. But come mid-2015, it will be available here for the first time in diesel form as the GTD. Four doors, a six-speed manual shifter, a handsome interior, and all the sporty go-fast/stop-fast/turn-fast goodies that underpin the perennial favorite GTI – but powered by a torquey and economical 2.0-liter, oil-burning engine that should return well above 40 miles per gallon. [Base price: about $27,000; vw.com]