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Which Hatchback?



  • SylviaSylvia Posts: 1,636
    I'm a big hatchback and wagon fan...less gas than an SUV and easier to park. I think hatchbacks got a bad reputation from the Pinto, Escort and a few other "less sporty" or "stylish" hatchbacks.

    More of the hatches are being marketed as "sportbacks" which I think will draw new people into the hatchback arena, especially with gas prices going to the moon.
  • csandstecsandste Posts: 1,866
    St. Louis-Kansas City with some urban driving--pretty good for a 3.5 liter 6. Can't do that with an SUV. Last week I was hauling a lawn mower around... we need more mid-size wagons and hatches... Chevy Suburu and Mazda-- not enough. What happened to the Cam-Cord wagons of a decade ago.... Oh, I know--- didn't sell... Too bad, both were nicer looking than the sedans they were based on.
  • Actually, the Escort was fairly decent (it was originally Mazda designed after all). The old Toyota and Honda hatches from the 70s and early 80s sucked though. And no, the Pinto didn't help at all
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 31,112
    I like the concept of a hatchback. The Maxx is one of the better looking ones. Most have big blind spots, which is my complaint. I like a wagon much better for visibility. Most of the Asian SUV/CUVs have terrible blind spots. Just poor design work. If MB would bring the E320 CDI Wagon to the USA I would buy one.
  • SylviaSylvia Posts: 1,636
    I had a Ford Escort. It was marginally decent, but definitely not stylish.
  • radar1radar1 Posts: 25
    I had a Ford Escort that I really liked, except that I couldn't get any large items in it (like a 27" TV. It was too big to fit in the trunk, and too wide to fit through the back doors,,even though there was plenty of room inside the car if I could have got it in there.
    I love hatchbacks, and now have a 2004 Focus ZX5 which did carry a new 27" TV from the store just last month. I like hatchbacks, because they are so practical and able to carry larger bulky items than sedans.
    The 2.3 Focus is very sporty, and I have more fun driving it than my Dakota 4.7, and the fuel bills are much, much lower, although I haven't exceeded 30 MPG in the Focus (automatic) yet, compared to an average 37 in my old Escort (stick shift).
    I really preferred the Focus wagon, but my wife (this is her primary car) preferred the looks and styling of the ZX5, which is fine with me, because it still has good utility value compared to the sedan.
  • HankrHankr Posts: 100
    After 2 years, I'm very very happy with my Suzuki Aerio SX (hatch/wagon) for its excellent combination of utility, comfort, features, safety, warranty, low-price and (so far) reliability.

    This car is often overlooked and should not be.
  • madmadammadmadam Posts: 55
    I looked at several hatchbacks, and I liked quite a few. I bought the Malibu Maxx and it has been a great choice. It has many great features for the driver and lots of interior room for the passengers, including adjustable rear seats (they move 7 inches). The cargo area is large and the cover is hard and can be placed on 3 levels and reversed (a carpet side and a plastic side for wet or dirty cargo).
    Most importantly, it has a longer wheel base for a very smooth ride, and the 6 cylinder engine provides plenty of zip. Anti-lock brakes are standard.
    It handles very well, gets good mileage on highway driving and the price is very appealing. The MAXX gives you alot of car for the money.
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,726
    not to mention having a fairly awesome stock stereo, and OnStar, right? The Maxx is a good deal for a larger V-6 powered hatch. The rear seat is truly commodious with the reclining feature.

    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

  • carquerycarquery Posts: 35

    I'm looking to trade-in my mid-sized SUV since I find I'm using it 85% of the time in city driving and the mileage (15-16mpg with premium) is a major bummer. However, I do like the spaciousness of the cabin and the roominess in the back seat, which makes a big difference with two car seats in the back. My wife's Outback Legacy feels very cramped with the car seats and is really too small for me in the front (I'm just about 6'0"). I thought about the Scion Xb, Honda Element but have safety concerns with all of those. Can anybody recommend a roomy hatchback that gets good mileage (24+ in the city) that also has good safety features. It doesn't need a lot of trunk space, just enough to tool around town with the kids.

    Any idea would be most welcome.

  • csandstecsandste Posts: 1,866
    Bought a Malibu Maxx last February and like it more and more. Gets mid twenties in mostly city driving, about 30 mpg on the road. TONS of space and flexibility. Looked carefully at the Scion Xb-- lots of space but far too noisy. At 70 it was turning 3500 rpm with manual tranny, about 75% more than my Maxx at the same speed. That kind of racket would have gotten on my nerves.

    At $16K the Maxx has a ton of standard features. It took about a month to get used to the size after moving up from an Elantra but the move was worth it. Not a big automatic transmission fan but I'm getting used to it. The ohv engine might be considered low tech but the torque is nicely matched to the transmission and the mpg is top of the class for a car this size, plus it's nice not to have to spend $700 for timing belts at 60K like I did with the Elantra.

    Lots of people complain about Chevy dealers but I've never had a problem. At least in St. Louis they're a lot lower key than the local Hyundai or Toyota/Scion dealers.
  • smalltownsmalltown Posts: 75
    I bought a Kia Spectra5 end of April and have been very satisfied. Most of the time, it is just me. I can put my bike in the back, or our three dogs. When I helped my son move back from college, his TV and computer went in with no trouble. It gets good mileage and drives well. I like it better than the Matrix/Vibe. The Spectra5 has tons of safety features. What will really come in handy in the winter is heated outside mirrors. I have that in my Hyundai Accent. My son is getting my Hyundai hatchback which is three years old. For utility, it is great. When he bought a TV, he had to unbox it in the parking lot to get it into his sedan that he drove before. A couple of weeks ago on a weekend trip with three people and luggage, the Spectra5 had more than enough power going around Minneapolis/St. Paul on the interstates.
  • jveneziajvenezia Posts: 85
    Well, we just put our new 05 Elantra GLS hatchback to the test. With three adults and one teenager in it, we drove 1,060 miles from Michigan's Thumb area up to the Upper Peninsula for a week-long vacation. We drove on everything from interstate highways to small dirt roads, in beautiful 80-degree sunny weather to driving rainstorms. Here's my review of the car during the trip:

    1) The utility factor of the car was outstanding. I took out the cargo area cover and during the trip the car was loaded with two large suitcases, a medium suitcase, a large sport duffle bag, small shoulder bag, professional camera bag, professional camera tripod, a small cargo tote for roadside emergency items, jackets, hats, and miscellaneous bags of souvenirs, snacks, drinks, and assorted "trip stuff". It all fit with a little room to spare, and without piling everything up to the point where the view out the rear window was blocked in any way. In all, we had nearly 100 pounds of luggage in the back.

    2) The comfort factor was OK. For most of the trip, the teen sat in the front passenger seat while two adults (both women) sat in the rear. There were nothing but compliments about the rear seat legroom. The big minus for comfort was the car's sport suspension. It was definitely stiff and we felt every little road imperfection, especially at 75 or 80 MPH on the interstate.

    In defense of the Elantra's so-so comfort rating...I replaced the softer OEM Michelin tires (which had the flimsiest sidewalls I've ever seen) with BF Goodrich's Traction TA-H tires as soon as I bought the car to improve its ability to drive in any kind of weather. The Goodrich tires have a very stiff sidewall. In fact, it was quite an effort to have them installed on the car's wheels, taking two people to do so. While improving the car's handling and all-weather ability by 1000 percent over the very sloppy Michelins, they do stiffen up the ride. Also, the car was loaded down a lot, with the back end squatting just past horizontal, and that didn't help either. On the other hand, we were actually grateful for the beefier GLS/GT hatchback suspension because it allowed us to carry so much.

    3) The reliability factor was excellent. Throughout the high heat (80-90 degree temps) with the air conditioner running full-time, sometimes rough roads, heavy load, and my driving, the car didn't have a single squeak, rattle, hiccup, or complaint. It just kept going. The car is pretty new and still on its first oil. It just went over 6,000 miles and I'm about to put some full synthetic oil in it now that it's broken in.

    4) The fun-to-drive factor was excellent. The U.P. has some very curvy, nicely paved roads through heavy woods (Michigan Highway 123, to be exact) and it was all I could do to not scare the cr_p out of my passengers by taking the curves at a pretty good clip. Even loaded down, the car's handling was phenomenal. Of course, the replacement tires helped a lot. The Michelins would have been complaining too much (French whines!). Even on dirt roads around some of the small lakes in the St. Ignace area, the car behaved very well.

    5) The economy factor was pretty good. I'd been getting about 27 MPG overall before the trip (30% city, 70% highway), with just myself in the car (which, by the way is technically my wife's). Loaded down with an extra 550 or so pounds with the air conditioner running nearly full time throughout the trip, we achieved about 24 MPG. If I remember right, we only filled up about four times during the trip, and we wound up with 3/4 of a tank still when we were done. Not bad. We're very satisfied with fuel economy.

    6) The "sociability" factor was excellent. Hyundais are extremely popular up in the U.P., with the Sonata and Santa Fe being the most prevalent. We blended right in.

    7) GLS vs. GT hatchback? We were very glad to have a GLS, since hot leather seats would have been very uncomfortable for us in those weather conditions. The suspension is the same between them, so practically speaking, we got the best bargain with the GLS and we're glad we didn't go with the GT.

    Great car! Nuff said.
  • SylviaSylvia Posts: 1,636
    Great write-up! Yes, the U.P. is great and I'm sure the Elantra handled great across the Mighty Mac bridge. If you didn't stop at the Keyhole in Mackinaw City for a burger, you missed out.
  • autonomousautonomous Posts: 1,769
    If you didn't stop at the Keyhole in Mackinaw City for a burger, you missed out.
    It sounds like you've got the beginnings of another great forum: Must see attractions across North America! It would be a great vacation planner.
  • doohickiedoohickie Posts: 949
    Hi, I'm Doohickie, and I'm looking for a hatchback.

    Here is where I'm at: In August, my wife starts her teaching job. At that point, I will put my daily commuter, a 95 Ford Aspire with 115k miles, up for sale and be looking to replace it. Looking to spend about $14-18k on a car that I will likely drive myself for about 5 years, then turn over to my younger son who's just starting high school this year to use when he is away at college (figuring no car for him freshman year of college). Hope to get about 10 years out of the car in total.

    Must have: Automatic (Mrs. Doohickie doesn't drive stick, which was a problem at times with the Aspire), Hatchback, A/C, Cruise, Pwr Windows/Locks, Keyless Entry, Rear Wiper & Defogger, must make 30+ mpg freeway.
    Highly desireable but not show stoppers include: 6-disc CD Changer, Intermittent Wipers, Antilock Brakes, makes high 20's or better mpg in the city.
    Nice to have: Leather, Side Airbags

    I had a list of about 30 models and narrowed down to these finalists: Scion xA & xB, Hyundai Elantra 5 dr, Kia Spectra5, Suzuki Reno & Aerio SX, Pontiac Vibe/Toyota Matrix, and Ford Focus ZX3.

    I started posting around here looking for insights into the different models. I was geeked up by the Spectra5 and Elantra owners who indicated these were good cars. Test drove both yesterday and was sorely disappointed with both. Interior design and quality of materials was substandard, acceleration was poor on both, and both had a shimmy at 70 mph, and rolled quite a bit in turns. Two peas in a pod. Since it will be a while since I buy, I may revisit them, though; the value in terms of money up front is tempting.

    The Focus drives like a Ford. This isn't all bad, since I've had an Escort Wagon for 10 years (the car my older son now drives) and am used to it. My Escort with 110k miles has a better ride and better acceleration than either of the Korean cars I drove today.

    I've also driven the xA. I will readily admit it is underpowered, but was impressed by the build quality and the way they got the most out of the little engine. I think the B in xB stands for Butt-ugly. Seriously. But after driving the Elantra, I went over to the Toyota dealer with my younger son (who may get this purchase as his college car) and he immediately fell in love with the xB. Although it is butt-ugly on the outside, it's beautiful from the driver's seat (both my sons and myself are 6'-2" or taller). I may drive it soon.

    I love the configuration of the Aerio SX wagon (especially the interior), but am worried about Suzuki reliability over the long haul. I plan to check it out, as well as the Reno; if they don't ride well I'll cross them off my list. I have yet to really check out the Matrix/Vibe.

    Any advice about these cars? Are there others I should consider (Mazda3 5-door is too pricey for what you get in my opinion). What should I look for?
  • doohickiedoohickie Posts: 949
    "I love the configuration of the Aerio SX wagon (especially the interior), but am worried about Suzuki reliability over the long haul. I plan to check it out, as well as the Reno; if they don't ride well I'll cross them off my list."

    So I drove the Suzukis today so I could "cross them off my list." Maybe it was because I had low expectations, but I really liked both cars, probably the best balance of handling, power, sound system, and quality of materials & finish of any cars I've driven yet (including Focus, Scion xA, Elantra & Spectra).

    I drove the Reno first. My first impression of the car's interior is that of an upscale sedan (it is a close cousin to the Forenza, and maybe they didn't bother to "cheap it out" for the hatchback version?) Nice carpets, gray seats with black patterned seating areas, very clean dash and instruments. I got behind the wheel, pulled to the edge of the parking lot, hit the gas, and WOW. It's no muscle car, but after the anemic Spectra and Elantra, it's 2.0L had very nice torque off the line. It shifted very deliberately but smoothly, pretty much at the points I would shift if I were driving a manual. Sure, it leaned a little in turns, but it always felt predictable and in control. At speeds up to 80 mph, it was rock-solid (didn't go faster than that). It has a sunroof which didn't noticeably cut into my headroom. My overall impression of this car was that of a very upscale car.

    The Aerio has a whole different flavor. With a 2.3L, 155 hp engine, there is more power for about the same weight. The reviews pointed out that the Aerio has problems with engine and wind noise; I could hear that. The engine was worst when negotiating parking lots... at low rpms, the vibration got into the cabin more. On the road this was much less noticeable. On the freeway, though, there was a constant, smooth "whoosh". Most cars I've driven with wind noise problems sound more turbulent; apparently the flow over the Aerio is very smooth. It leaned when challenging corners, but the handling was just what I would expect of a car with a high aspect. And without even trying too hard, I found myself at 85 mph. The only clue was the wind whoosh. The interior isn't as upscale as the Reno, but apparently the dash is new for this year and was very straightforward. The fabric on the seats looked like it might not be the most durable, though. But this car has lots and lots of head room and storage space.

    The road feel was more pronounced (both in a good and bad way) in the Aerio than the Reno. At least in both cars, you felt connected to the road. The Hyundai and Kia felt more like cats trying to cross a stream without getting their paws wet. The stereos were far superior than in the Elantra and Spectra as well. The Reno's single disc CD-Radio was more than competent. It didn't have a boomy sound at all. The Aerio's sound system included a 6-disc changer and a subwoofer, which provided excellent sound without being too boomy.
  • smith20smith20 Posts: 256
    That's great. I think it's always better to choose from a set of many desirable options. Probably you would be very satisfied buying any one of a couple different cars on your list. Sounds to me like the three best hatchbacks for you are either the Focus, Aerio, or xB. That's just my impression from your description of your experiences with the cars. I don't think the Hyundai or the Kia is going to cut it for you. Maybe another test drive of just those three cars in one day would help you (and your son if this might end up being a car for him to drive) decide.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,907
    I am really surprised you got such poor acceleration on the Elantra and Spectra. They have more power than the Reno and pretty good torque for a 2.0L engine. One thing about the Elantra/Spectra is that they have "learning" automatics. Drive them leisurely, they will shift leisurely. Push them to the floor, they will shift more aggressively. But it takes awhile for them to "learn" your driving style. If your test drive was short, you might want to take them for a longer drive until they learn your style.

    Personally I found the Reno's/Forenza's powertrain (with manual) to be rough and rubbery (shifter). But maybe the automatic masks the roughness of the engine. I liked the interior of those cars though--I think it's perhaps the best in the low-end class, with the Reno having an edge on the Forenza (did you notice a resemblence between the Reno's dash and that of the new M-B SUV?).
  • doohickiedoohickie Posts: 949
    Well, I've never been in an M-B SUV, so... no I didn't see the resemblance. The two things that seemed undesirable to me with regards to the Kia and Hyundai were... it just seemed that both had more lag than I was expecting from a dead stop. With the Kia, I saw this when making a left turn with oncoming traffic. I knew it wasn't that close, but it just seemed to take forever before the rpms kicked up high enough for the acceleration to kick it. The other thing was that when the engines on both those cars revved, the noise sounded pretty harsh in the cabin.

    The Reno, on the other hand, has better torque from a dead stop... the engine tugs you off the line. And maybe because of sound insulation or something, but when the Reno's engine revved, it sounded more like a purr than a desperate scream. To be honest, I was greatly shocked at how nice a ride the Reno had. Since everyone prefers different ride qualities, it's hard to quantify that in an analysis; it's one of those intangibles. Is it enough to make up for the mediocre gas mileage and the uncertain reliability of the Reno? Not sure.

    The Aerio is admittedly much less refined. But I think it reminds me of my current Ford Aspire- kind of like an overgrown go-cart. I didn't expect refinement and didn't get it. But what what I did get, I got so enthusiastically that I didn't mind the rough edges. The Aerio doesn't try to be something it's not.

    Since I'm not quite ready to buy, I probably need to finish my initial test drives (the xB is the only thing on my list I haven't driven yet) and sleep on it for a while. I can come back in a month or two and look at the field again with fresh eyes. If there are some little model year changes and I go with a 2006, things could be incrementally better. I may even look at the new Rio & Accent; the new Rio hatch looks kind of interesting.

    And backy- despite our differing opinions of Hyundais, I appreciate your insight. As a repeat owner, you know your stuff. If there is a "learning curve" on the Hyundai tranny, I probably need to drive it a bit more before passing judgment.

    As a 40-something guy sending kids off to college, a lot of the cars I'm testing seem more suited to my sons than to me. But the Reno had just the right amount of playfulness, utility and refinement for my personality. I drove it just to cross it off my list, and the test drive shot it up to the top of the list instead. Weird, huh?
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 31,112
    With the current incentives on Chevy Malibu Maxx you can probably get a very nicely equipped Maxx in your price range. They are a great hatchback. With your desired options they are going for $18,800 here in San Diego. May be less in other areas. Check the GM buyer link here on Edmund's. Oh and they get real good mileage also.
  • cticti Posts: 134
    I own a Mazda3 5-door and I (obviously) found it to be a better car than the other hatchbacks I looked at, including some that you are looking at.

    The biggest difference I found is the Mazda has vastly superior handling and breaking and a more powerful engine. If those things matter to you, the 3 is your car. The other hatchbacks you mentioned don't even come close.

    But if you are more interested in utility than your choices are the way to go. I priced out a ZX3 (why are you not looking for a ZX5?) and found that the SES model has all your minimums as standard features. I remember looking for ZX5s a while back and having a very difficult time finding one with lots of options like sunroof, ABS, or leather. The stereo upgrade was easy to find, though.

    As far as style goes, I liked the previous generation Focus. Much more European looking. In fact, after visiting Ireland last year the Focus seemed to fit in very well with all the other hatchbacks I saw. Still, I like the current version better than the Aerio which looks like the wheels are too small.
  • doohickiedoohickie Posts: 949
    If I had a Maxx, I'd shave its butt and make it drive backwards. That is one UGLY car.
  • doohickiedoohickie Posts: 949
    Mazda3 5-door is more than I want to pay for what you get.
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 31,112
    Other than the Elantra, hatchbacks are kind of ugly critters. Funny, I have not driven the Maxx, I just see them all the time and thought if I got stuck with a hatchback that one I might be able to live with. I would buy a Golf TDI, my wife thinks it is UGLY. All in the eye of the beholder.

    And welcome to the forum. I hope you find the car of your dreams...

    The Golf TDI gets an Honest 45-50 MPG and handles more like a sports car than any of the others you have test driven.
  • npaladin2000npaladin2000 Posts: 593
    Have you considered the current Accent 2 door hatch? And by the time your build date comes around, the Kia Rio5 should be available.

    Honestly, if the Mazda3 is too expensive for you, that seriously limits your options. The ZX3 and ZX5 are worth looking into, and possibly Dodge's upcoming Neon-replacement, which is supposed to be a hatch, but all of these have smaller, less powerful engines than the 3. The Spectra should be a major option, but apparently it didn't sit well (I dunno why; they're pretty sweet looking) and again, as you've noticed, it's less powerful, and has a softer suspension. Sounds like you liked the Aerio and Reno, so I guess you could go for one, but I just don't trust Suzuki/Daewoo (The aerio is built by Suzuki, but the Reno is a Daewoo product).

    Hatchbacks aren't cheap anymore. as I'm sure you've noticed; if they're only available in 1 trim in a model line, it's usually the HIGHEST trim, not the lowest. I spent the money on the Mazda3 and have never been happier with a car in 15 years of driving. It's powerful, comfortable, well-built, reliable, and I love the looks I get (it's red, bwa ha).

    I ended up jumping through a few financial hoops to get that 3 I wanted it so bad. You should look into it again...your offspring will appreciate it, I think (MUCH more "cool factor" for a future college car).

    However, now is a bad time to try to buy a mazda3...they're going to be in pretty short supply until October
  • smith20smith20 Posts: 256
    Honestly, if the Mazda3 is too expensive for you, that seriously limits your options.

    Right, it limits the options by one by not having the Mazda3 on the list. I don't think the problem was paying for it period, it was the cost to benefit ratio wasn't satisfactory for him. The couple thousand dollar premium to get that car isn't worth it for everyone and I think Doohickie already stated that was the case for him.
  • csandstecsandste Posts: 1,866
    I looked at each of the cars you're referring to:

    1. xB-- Lots of space-- TOO NOISY with a 5 speed (running 3500 rpm @ 70--- ouch).
    2. Forenza wagon (heavier than Reno) but was pretty sluggish--at least with an auto.
    3. Had an Elantra 4 door which I loved, but I didn't love the dealer.
    4. Spectra5-- First crash tests worse than Elantra. Fixed some of this, but not before I was ready to buy.
    5. Mazda3-Mazda6-- Liked both of them.
    6. Aerio SX-- Really liked this and came close to buying. 05 interior has gone from goofy to sublime-- however most of Suzuki's sales increase is because of the Daewoos-- the Aerio is selling at such a low rate that I'm afraid. Plus the local dealer is the same one as the Hyundai--not good.

    I bought a Maxx SX and it's an entirely different class of car (except for the Mazda6). Tremendous flexibility, great gas mileage for the size of the car, torquey engine and I don't have to spend $700 for a new timing belt (and other stuff) like I did with the Elantra. Although people sometimes complain about Chevy dealers, my experience has been more positive than the typical import.

    I paid $16,000 in February, that's without a GM card discount. Should be able to do at least as well with the new cuts.
  • autonomousautonomous Posts: 1,769
    You may want to check out your local public library for the April 2005 annual auto issue of Consumer Reports. Since you plan to keep your car for 10 years, reliability is obviously key. CR rates the xA and xB highly, not surprising as they are Toyota products.

    I agree with npaladin2000 and cti that you should take the Mazda3 for a spin just to compare with your other options. CR rates the Mazda3 automatic just under the FocusZX4 SES. Mazda3 tops CR's list of small cars with manual transmissions.
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