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The Case for a Hatchback - 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI Long-Term Road Test

Edmunds.comEdmunds.com Posts: 10,059
edited August 2015 in Volkswagen
imageThe Case for a Hatchback - 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI Long-Term Road Test

For better or worse, no matter how distinguished the driver, a hatchback will always be a kid's car. That's not my personal view, but it's the impression I get from people who know little about cars except size, badge and a vague notion of price. These people, some of them in my life who are very nice people, can also pound sand.

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Comments

  • A hatchbacks is a kid's cars? Never come across that notion. What do people do or say to give you that impression?

    Then again, I'm the guy that thinks that wagons are the real deal. All that room, practicality, and long wheelbase for highway stability. Sexy. What I'm saying is that I don't tend to key into other people's perception of automobiles very well... An oddball if you will.
  • millemanmilleman Posts: 19
    Americans have developed unusual standards for acceptable cars, different from the rest of the world. Conventional four-door ("3-box") sedans, SUVs large and small, and pickup trucks. Even the eminently functional minivan is on the wane.

    You're an automotive eccentric if you drive a hatchback, roadster, coupe, station wagon or 2-door anything. Europe is free from pickup trucks, most SUVs, but has an equal mix of all other types of cars with their 4-door sedans.

    Eccentric that I must be, I've had only a station wagon, two hatchback coupes, and a 2-door hatchback...

    (but that 20" kid's bike could fit in any sedan's trunk after removing the front wheel)
  • emajoremajor Posts: 332
    I agree with the rest of your post, re: hatchback utility, their perception in the States of hatchbacks being a bit more youthful than a sedan, and making your own decisions about your car rather than relying on others' perceptions. But:

    "At $31,515 as spec'd, this hot hatch isn't exactly cheap and I've wondered if I could instead bite the bullet, stretch for another $10K, and get into an A3 like ours"

    I don't get that logic at all. If the GTI sticker price feels a bit rich for a "kid's car", the logical solution is to go get a nice CPO Infiniti G37 for less than a GTI MSRP, not spend 30% more on a smaller car from the same basic manufacturer. The A3 looks like you're trying to buy into a lux brand for the cheapest possible sum. Not a terribly mature impression to leave. Anyhow, there's the GLI if the GTI hatchback body style isn't your thing.
  • locke42locke42 Posts: 25
    edited August 2015

    A hatchbacks is a kid's cars? Never come across that notion. What do people do or say to give you that impression?

    I've generally considered hatchbacks to be more "juvenile" cars for sure.

    I think it's because a hatchback is the perfect style for someone who is indecisive about what kind of car they want (or what kind of car they want to get for their kid), and indecisiveness is a hallmark of younger people. Hatchbacks are more practical than compact sedans or sports cars, smaller than SUVs, cheaper than family sedans, etc. If I was a parent, I would definitely get my kid a hatchback for their first car.

    In comparison, cars supposedly made for "grown-ups" are more specialized, because once a person becomes a "grown-up," they presumably have figured out what they really need their car to do, and will buy something more specialized towards those tasks. Specialization = decisiveness, and decisiveness = maturity.

    Hot hatches (RS3, Golf R, Fiesta/Focus ST/RS, etc.) inherit this perception just by association, not because they actually are cars that should be driven by younger drivers.

    That being said, I think some hatchbacks come off as more "mature" than others. The Lexus CT200h and Mazda3, specifically, feel like they are for more mature audiences than the Fiesta, Focus, or Golf. I think it's because they stray more towards the liftback style with their sloping roofline.
  • locke42locke42 Posts: 25
    emajor said:

    If the GTI sticker price feels a bit rich for a "kid's car", the logical solution is to go get a nice CPO Infiniti G37 for less than a GTI MSRP, not spend 30% more on a smaller car from the same basic manufacturer. The A3 looks like you're trying to buy into a lux brand for the cheapest possible sum. Not a terribly mature impression to leave.

    For $40k, the A3 wouldn't be "the cheapest possible." It would be a fully-loaded A3 with more features and technology than any other Audi short of $50k.
  • emajoremajor Posts: 332
    "For $40k, the A3 wouldn't be "the cheapest possible." It would be a fully-loaded A3 with more features and technology than any other Audi short of $50k"

    Optioned up to $40K or not, it's the least expensive model from the brand and anyone who has shopped the lux brands will know it. The $40K A3 doesn't look much different than the $30K one with the $20K Jetta engine. Not that I'd care what anyone else thought.

  • locke42locke42 Posts: 25
    emajor said:

    Optioned up to $40K or not, it's the least expensive model from the brand and anyone who has shopped the lux brands will know it. The $40K A3 doesn't look much different than the $30K one with the $20K Jetta engine. Not that I'd care what anyone else thought.

    It may look like the $30k A3, but the fact that you know that it's the $40k A3 means you *really* don't have to care what anyone else thinks, because you could put them in their place if they were dumb enough to try and put you down for getting the "cheap" Audi. :P
  • darexdarex Posts: 187
    edited August 2015
    Current A3s don't look or feel much like any GTI, styling-wise. They look and feel like Audis, which they are. Personally, I wouldn't consider one unless they bring back the gas-powered Sportback. I don't do trunks. I guess the upcoming MINI Clubman will fill that niche this fall. Audi is stupid like that.
  • locke42 said:


    In comparison, cars supposedly made for "grown-ups" are more specialized, because once a person becomes a "grown-up," they presumably have figured out what they really need their car to do, and will buy something more specialized towards those tasks. Specialization = decisiveness, and decisiveness = maturity.

    I personally couldn't agree less with this statement. How is a sedan (huge sellers) so specialized compared to a hatchback? Same underpinnings, same engine, same seats.

    Trucks and BOF SUVs are very specialized, but I'd venture to say that over 75% of people get them for the image/perceived capability than their true capability. There isn't anything mature about that. Why are crossovers such great sellers when everybody would be just as well served by a wagon or sedan?

    Same thing for sports cars: for every person who appreciates the driving dynamics, there are three that just like the image of an expensive or fast car. Do most people want a BMW because of better materials and construction or the badge?

    Seems like the hatchback owners are doing pretty well. They can have a car's handling, ride, and efficiency, with a small crossover's utility in one package. Meanwhile, they're not buying $50K+ image machines.

    Not saying that everybody cares about image by the way, or that this is so wrong. But it doesn't scream maturity to me...
  • locke42locke42 Posts: 25
    edited August 2015

    I personally couldn't agree less with this statement. How is a sedan (huge sellers) so specialized compared to a hatchback? Same underpinnings, same engine, same seats.

    I don't necessarily agree with my statement, either. I'm just saying, that's the reputation I feel hatchbacks have, justified or not.

    But to answer your question, sedans are perceived as family cars. The most popular cars in America are the Camry and Accord, and so those cars form the prototypical image of the "sedan." In the public consciousness of Americans, a sedan is supposed to be big, soft, comfortable, quiet, and affordable. Compact sedans and sub-compact sedans inherit this reputation by association; they are marketed as having all of the qualities of the midsize sedans, just in a smaller, cheaper package.

    Hatchbacks don't have that reputation of comfort. Thanks in part to hot hatches like the GTI, hatchbacks are seen to be a little rougher around the edges: a little louder because there's no enclosed trunk and no space for deadening, a little rougher ride, etc. Whether that perception is true or not is a different story; this is just the reputation hatches have.

    Now, if we were talking ACTUAL capabilities, I would agree with you that a hatchback makes for a better all-around family car than a sedan. But at the same time, SUVs are now being perceived as the "upgraded" family car, because they have more space and higher ride, so again, the hatchback becomes the middle child in the equation.

    Trucks and BOF SUVs are very specialized, but I'd venture to say that over 75% of people get them for the image/perceived capability than their true capability.

    I agree with you, but I was only ever talking about perception, not actual capability.

    Same thing for sports cars: for every person who appreciates the driving dynamics, there are three that just like the image of an expensive or fast car. Do most people want a BMW because of better materials and construction or the badge?

    I think you actually agree with me, you just misread my post and thought I was talking about literal capabilities instead of perceived capabilities.

    Seems like the hatchback owners are doing pretty well. They can have a car's handling, ride, and efficiency, with a small crossover's utility in one package. Meanwhile, they're not buying $50K+ image machines.

    That's exactly what I'm talking about. Hatchbacks are perceived good all-arounders. That makes them very good cars for everyone. But it also makes them easy to recommend as a first car for someone, which gives them a reputation that they're for indecisive/inexperienced younger people who don't need (or don't know if they need) the perceived isolation and comfort of a midsize sedan, the perceived cargo capacity of an SUV, or the perceived performance of a sports car.
  • American taste for cars is different from the rest of the world because America is different. Europe doesn't have large trucks and SUVs like us because their roads and cities are more cramped. America in comparison is vast and large. Texas alone is bigger than most European countries. 8-12 lane highways like we have here just don't exist in most countries in the world. I promise you won't see parking lots in France like the one at your nearest shopping mall that can hold hundreds of cars. The northeast U.S. is our version of Europe and there like Europe smaller cars and SUVs rule the road because those cities just don't have the room. Try finding a parking spot for a Ford F-250 Supercrew in Boston. You do, however, see a lot of VW Golfs, Subaru Outbacks and other car based hatchbacks.
  • locke42 said:

    In the public consciousness of Americans, a sedan is supposed to be big, soft, comfortable, quiet, and affordable.

    Heh, funny how Americans won't buy those cars though. People won't buy large sedans anymore, but that's a different subject entirely...

    Or is it? ;)
    locke42 said:

    Hatchbacks are perceived good all-arounders. That makes them very good cars for everyone. But it also makes them easy to recommend as a first car for someone, which gives them a reputation that they're for indecisive/inexperienced younger people who don't need (or don't know if they need) the perceived isolation and comfort of a midsize sedan, the perceived cargo capacity of an SUV, or the perceived performance of a sports car.

    Anyway, I still don't get this, but that doesn't mean other people don't see it that way, as you say. Maybe I just grew up where there a lot of hatchbacks being driven by all kinds.

    Ironically, I always saw the A3, in hatch guise, as a young person's car. The Golf and others not so much.
  • jakek66jakek66 Posts: 60
    I don't get that logic at all. If the GTI sticker price feels a bit rich for a "kid's car", the logical solution is to go get a nice CPO Infiniti G37 for less than a GTI MSRP, not spend 30% more on a smaller car from the same basic manufacturer. The A3 looks like you're trying to buy into a lux brand for the cheapest possible sum. Not a terribly mature impression to leave. Anyhow, there's the GLI if the GTI hatchback body style isn't your thing.

    I'm actually looking to trade in a loaded Q50 (G37's newer edition) for a GTI because I simply believe the GTI is better.
  • throwbackthrowback Posts: 445
    If you want a hatchback A3 get the Golf R. Cheaper than a A3 Quattro.
  • socal_ericsocal_eric SoCalPosts: 189
    It seems like much of the media has been pushing this notion for years that Americans don't want hatches. Maybe there are good reasons why most buyers in this market opt for sedans instead of hatch variants but I can't recall any personal situations talking with a regular Joe consumer where they've derided hatchbacks just for being a hatch.

    Perhaps they aren't as popular because historically they've only been offered as bottom feeders in most automaker's model lines. Perhaps a sedan comes across as the bigger car for use in a big land with big freeways. But talk to owners who've driven hatches and they usually talk glowingly of the versatility, even if it was an econo-poo-box that they didn't care for.
  • locke42 said:



    That being said, I think some hatchbacks come off as more "mature" than others. The Lexus CT200h and Mazda3, specifically, feel like they are for more mature audiences than the Fiesta, Focus, or Golf. I think it's because they stray more towards the liftback style with their sloping roofline.

    the mazda 3 didnt get swoopy until the last year or so, with the redesign. Also, most folks dont even know what a ct200h is and it def isnt isnt as swoopy as a focus, it looks like a slightly longer golf.

    I've never seen a more restrained or mature looking hatch than a golf. They age a hell of a lot better than mazda's do.

  • jakek66 Posts: 23
    August 24
    "I don't get that logic at all. If the GTI sticker price feels a bit rich for a "kid's car", the logical solution is to go get a nice CPO Infiniti G37 for less than a GTI MSRP, not spend 30% more on a smaller car from the same basic manufacturer. The A3 looks like you're trying to buy into a lux brand for the cheapest possible sum. Not a terribly mature impression to leave. Anyhow, there's the GLI if the GTI hatchback body style isn't your thing.

    I'm actually looking to trade in a loaded Q50 (G37's newer edition) for a GTI because I simply believe the GTI is better."

    Interesting; I did the same a few years ago, trading my 2007 G35S 6MT for a GTI. Haven't looked back a bit.

    I've always been puzzled by the hatchback vs sedan/other status thing here in the US. Across the pond, the GTI is generally considered a "classless" car... as likely to be driven by wealthy people as by middle income. I can't even invent a case where an A3 would attract me over a GTI, and the cost difference is immaterial in my case.
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