AA Buyer's Guide: Where have all the hatchbacks gone?
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If we cast our minds back to 2010, New Zealand’s car fleet looked very different. The two bestselling new passenger cars sold were both hatchbacks: Toyota Corolla and the Suzuki Swift.
Today, these same models have slipped down the list considerably. The Corolla – which is also available as a wagon and a sedan - now sits in fifth, and the Swift in seventh.
So what style of car has leapfrogged the trusty hatch? You guessed it – SUVs. In fact the top four bestselling cars are all SUVs. Today, medium and compact SUVs reign supreme, making up a huge 40 per cent share of the market. In contrast, small and light vehicles make up just a 13 per cent share combined.
Despite their apparent fall from grace, cars like the Corolla, Swift, Kia Rio and Toyota Yaris (third and fourth best-selling hatches for 2021 respectively) still have a lot to offer. And let's not forget about hot hatches!
The Current Toyota Corolla hatch comes in five models, starting from an affordable $29,990 for the entry level GX model, all the way up to the $39,990 for the range-topping ZR hybrid model.
Despite the lower price point, the GX comes equipped with all the modern day essentials like voice recognition and sat nav, as well as a few things that you might not expect, like the Toyota Safety Sense package. This includes Lane Tracing Assist, Pre-Collision System with Autonomous Emergency Braking, Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection and even All-speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control with Indicator-Linked Control and Road Sign Assist.
All variants received a five-star ANCAP rating during testing in 2018.
You can also upsize your order to the GX hybrid model, which drops the fuel consumption from 7.5l/100km to just 4l/100km for an extra $3700.
The Toyota Corolla Hatch emits 97g-139g of CO2 per km, depending on the variant.
The Suzuki Swift is still a popular sight on our roads, and currently there’s something for everyone in the range, from the entry-level variant (starting from $20,750) which looks great and sports modern tech like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard.
If you’re after something slightly more efficient, there are now three new hybrid options starting from $26,500. The Swift hybrid automatic consumes 4.1l/100 km, compared with 4.8l/100km for the GL automatic.
Probably the most entertaining model of the Suzuki Swift family is the Sport from $29,990. The Sport possesses a lively direct injected BoosterJet Turbo engine and the robust, lightweight Heartect platform.
The newest version of the Swift Sport has also been on a diet, and managed to shave around 90kg off the weight of the previous model.
The standard Swift emits 106g-199g/km, while the Swift Sport is slightly less economical at 141g/km. The Swift hybrid emits just 94g/km.
All Suzuki Swift models received a five-star ANCAP rating during testing in 2018, apart from the GL (base) variants.
Korean maker Kia is going gangbusters with its SUVs in NZ, especially the value-packed Seltos and medium-sized Sportage.
But the Rio hatch remains a quiet achiever: the third best-selling hatchback in NZ for the year-to-date, thanks to a combination of great style and great value. Don't forget that Kia's new Stonic SUV is heavily based on the Rio, so it's an important part of the local lineup.
The Rio starts at just $22,990, but there's also a great range on offer. The LX and EX versions have a 1.4-litre petrol engine with six-speed automatic, but the top GT Line sports a high-tech 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo and seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox.
The Rio emits 129-143g/km depending on model.
There have been some great hot hatches recently that broaden the appeal of smaller cars.
The Toyota GR Yaris, for example, benefits from the design and engineering skills of Toyota GAZOO Racing and, despite its small 1.6-litre engine, can thrust you to 100km/h in just 5.2 seconds.
Another option is the Hyundai i30 N, which features a 150kW/265Nm 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine. The latest i30 N has received a sporty makeover, with dressed front and rear bumpers, performance-based Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres. All in all, it’s a very appealing package if you’re looking for a practical hatch with added spice.
Will hatches continue to decline in numbers?
While the Toyota Corolla and Suzuki Swift were the only hatch options still present in the top 15 new models of 2020, they are still compelling in their own way.
There’s still a place for a hatchbacks, albeit in fewer numbers; the latest models are not short on features and offer good value, as well as safety, space and practicality. Hatchbacks are great for learning to drive. In fact, AA Driving School uses the Suzuki Swift as its preferred car.
Hot hatches will likely be here for some time to come too, as there’s little substitute for their wheel-on-each-corner go-kart-like handling, especially when paired to some of the latest engines available.