The humble hatchback has never been the most popular body style in the U.S., but that’s all the more reason it usually had to offer that extra little something compared to its sedan counterpart in order to move a required number of units. That extra little something was often the extra cargo room sedans simply couldn’t squeeze into their low-slung overhangs.
This time we’ll take a look back at the hatchback’s past and the origin of its damaged reputation. More importantly, we’ll try and discern how the modern hatchbacks on the U.S. market compare to their not-overly-successful and (especially) not-reliable predecessors. In other words, how do the upcoming 2020 hatchbacks fare compared to their competitors?
Although they’ve always been present on the U.S. market in some capacity, the hatchback’s popularity surge coincides with the onset of the malaise era, and that itself speaks a lot about their reliability and build quality of the day. After all, you’ll agree that cars such as the Ford Pinto, Chevy Vega, AMC Gremlin, and Dodge Omni/Plymouth Horizon can hardly be considered role-models for any modern car that strives to be taken seriously in today’s market. Not that the mentioned lot didn’t have a hidden gem or two thanks to special editions and dealership packages – Randall 401-XR Gremlin and Shelby GLHS Omni, I salute you today! The hatchback has been branded inferior in terms of quality and labeled a “dirty word” ever since, much like ‘diesel’ (thanks a lot Oldsmobile!).
The modern-day hatchback is anything but a badly-built econobox from “that ’70s show,” however. The arrival of the hot hatch back in the day has done wonders for the hatchback’s reputation, but it wasn’t until recent years that the Americans had finally started to accept the hatch as an equal to the sedan. With their reputation improved, more and more hatchbacks have been finding their way to the U.S. market with each passing year. After analyzing the best hatchbacks of 2018 and 2019, here are some of the most exciting upcoming hatches for MY 2020.
08. Toyota Yaris
The city car doesn’t enjoy the same level of success in the U.S. and across the rest of the world, but Toyota isn’t giving up on its U.S.-spec subcompact hatchback. After selling only 1,940 units for the entire 2018, the time has finally come to get back to the drawing board, and that’s exactly what the Japanese had done.
The all-new 2020 Toyota Yaris was first revealed on April 1, 2019, just before the New York auto show. The new subcompact hatchback is anything but an April fools joke, though. Built in collaboration with Mazda (it’s actually a rebadged Mazda 2 that’s unavailable in the U.S.), the new Yaris will help the company keep the costs down while providing them with a stylishly executed entry-level car at the same time.
Speaking of prices, the next-gen Yaris hatchback starts from just under $18,000. Although the budget units aren’t exactly tech-savvy, more expensive models are able to provide everything a modern car owner might require including the automatic climate control, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, and plenty of advanced safety gear.
There’s only one engine available with the Toyota Yaris hatch, and it’s a 1.5L 4-cylinder with 106 horsepower and 103 lb-ft of torque. What’s more, the Japanese exclusively pair it with a six-speed automatic despite offering a corresponding manual gearbox with the Yaris sedan.
Although the Yaris hatchback’s engine is anything but peppy, what it lacks in poise, it makes up in efficiency. It returns 32 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway.
The 2020 Toyota Yaris hatchback might not be the most enthusiastic of hatchbacks on the market, but it sure is one of the most affordable and efficient ones out there. Not to mention that it’s highly reliable as well, and in general, offers a very good value for your money.
07. 2020 Mazda 3
Arguably the most beautiful compact hatchback on the market at the moment has recently undergone an unexpected generation shift. Even when we initially saw the Kai concept car being unveiled at the 2017 Tokyo auto show, we knew that the new Mazda 3 will be even more striking. The Japanese are certainly pushing the limits of the hatchback car’s design, but that’s not the only intriguing part of the upcoming Mazda 3.
Its powertrain is probably even more impressive, but more on that later. The 2020 Mazda 3 hatchback rides upon a new Skyactiv-Vehicle Architecture that’s stronger than the outgoing platform and allows for better cabin sound insulation. Sadly, the Japanese have decided to replace the 3’s multi-link rear suspension in favor of a cheaper twist-beam option.
Prices, however, didn’t drop. As we all know that’s not how things work in a greedy corporate world. The new Mazda 3 starts from $23,500 and comes with a 2.5L 4-cylinder engine capable of putting up 186 hp and a corresponding amount of torque. Further down the line, the Japanese will add the aforementioned Skyactiv-X to the lineup.
Speaking of which, the upcoming revolutionary Skyactiv-X engine should be more than sufficient to satisfy both the performance and fuel economy seekers. It’s based on a diesel-type compression ignition although it’s effectively a petrol engine.
This supercharged Homogeneous Charge Compression Ignition 2.0L 4-cylinder engine ignites the primary ultra-lean air-fuel mixture using compression, but it still requires spark plugs to control the timing of that ignition. Spark plugs ignite a secondary dollop of fuel just before the power stroke, which actually creates the necessary pressure for compression ignition.
The Japanese are promising fuel economy improvements of up to 30% compared to similar-displacement engines from their competition. The Skyactive-X is expected to crank up 190 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of rotational force, but it’ll likely produce a higher level of noise than comparable engines. That’s the main reason behind a better-insulated cabin on the new model, after all.
Finally, like most new technologies, the HCCI engine might end up being a reliability nightmare, but we’ll have to wait in order to find that out. Initially, as mentioned, the new Mazda 3 continues with a 2.5L 4-cylinder we’re already well acquainted with.
06. 2020 Toyota Corolla
The twelfth-generation Toyota Corolla was initially offered exclusively in hatchback and sports wagon forms with sedans scheduled to follow during MY 2020. The latest hatchback version of the most popular car in history doesn’t depart from the previous generation in any significant amount, but still offers more than a few improvements where it counts.
For starters, the new model rides on a different platform which has been taken from the Euro-spec Toyota Auris unveiled last year in Geneva. It’s sportier and more entertaining to drive than the outgoing model, but far from being actually sporty.
The new Corolla hatchback now also offers a standard 8-inch touchscreen display with included Apple CarPlay. Android users weren’t too happy initially due to the Android Auto integration’s exclusion from the features list, and we still don’t know when the Japanese are planning on rectifying that issue. They did rectify the issue of failing to obtain the IIHS Top Safety Pick, however, and they’ve done so by providing optional headlights within the Advanced Lighting Package.
The 2019 and 2020 Toyota Corolla hatchbacks now sport a new engine that’s more powerful and efficient at the same time. A 2.0L inline-four is good enough for 168 horsepower and 155 pound-feet of rotational force which is 36 ponies more than what the 2018-year model made. At the same time, the new Corolla hatchback manages to return as much as 32 mpg in the city and 42 mpg on the highway in the base SE trim with a CVT transmission on the side.
The very same transmission that allows such great fuel economy figures also snuffs all the fun out of the already-not-very-fun compact hatch. A standard 6-speed manual is definitely more engaging, but it comes at the terrible price of as much as a 5 mpg combined efficiency penalty.
Models equipped with manuals start from $20,000, while better fuel economy costs $1,000 more. All things considered, the next-generation Toyota Corolla is exactly what people expect it to be, and that’s exactly what the affordable compact hatchbacks are supposed to deliver.
05. 2020 Subaru WRX
Although the U.S. market Subaru Impreza and its performance WRX STI version have always been limited to sedan body style, this could change come MY 2020 or 2021 and the next-gen model. It’s no secret the Japanese are working on the all-new sixth-generation Impreza which is mainly intended to be a hatchback pretty much everywhere else. Whether that will finally happen to be the case in the U.S. as well, remains to be seen, but this would definitely be the moment to do so if there ever were one.
With new hot hatches flooding the market in recent years, the beloved Japanese brand doesn’t have to hold back anymore. Moreover, they could surely use some newfound credit among buyers since the current Impreza and WRX are far from spectacular. The WRX STI itself doesn’t have to worry about the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo anymore, and lack of competition is never a good motivational factor. The rest of the Subaru lineup, on the other hand, suffers from the widespread use of CVT transmissions.
If the next-gen Subaru WRX happens to be a 5-door, it would have to hold its own against the likes of Honda Civic Type R and any similar upcoming hot hatch in 2020. Of course, the 350-horsepower Ford Focus RS (or 400-hp which the overseas markets will reportedly get by then) is, sadly, out of the picture for the U.S. market the way things stand right now. Then again, Honda and Volkswagen’s hot hatches should achieve a corresponding amount of ponies by then, and the WRX STI would have to answer the call should it remain competitive.
This, it would be able to do by using an upgraded and uptuned Ascent-sourced 2.4L turbocharged 4-cylinder mill which makes only 260 ponies in its conventional state. Either that or an electric motor-bolstered 2.0L unit, but that’s just wishful thinking at this early state of the next-gen WRX STI’s development. Either way, the next-gen Subaru WRX could end up becoming one of the best 2020 hatchbacks we can expect to see.
04. 2020 Lexus CT
The slow-selling CT hatchback might have been discontinued in the U.S., but the compact has survived in a number of overseas markets. Not only did it survive the U.S. market’s cut, it’ll apparently survive the introduction of the all-new UX compact crossover as well. The 2020 Lexus CT will return in Europe as a fully revised next-generation model, but that’s not all. It’ll also be based on a hybrid, or possibly even full EV technology (or both) in order to rival the likes of Mercedes-Benz A-Class and BMW 1 Series hybrids, or Tesla Model 3 and other upcoming affordable EVs respectively.
The new Lexus CT will be built on the company’s TNGA platform and should share much with the Euro-spec Toyota Auris/U.S.-spec Toyota Corolla. It’s still uncertain whether the new CT hatch will make it back state-side, but a Tesla Model 3 competitor would likely fare better than the previous generation’s plain entry-level luxury compact hybrid hatchback.
Considering the next-generation Toyota Auris/Corolla sports a 168-horsepower 2.0L 4-cylinder engine as its sole option, the upcoming Lexus CT will likely do the same. Of course, being a hybrid, the luxury Corolla counterpart will be bolstered by an electric motor for more power and better efficiency.
As far as the EV version is concerned, nothing tangible has leaked from the Japanese automaker’s headquarters yet. Although the TNGA platform still doesn’t boast a single EV offspring, the company says it’s compatible with their electrification plans. In that regard, the all-electric Lexus CT hatchback shouldn’t come as a surprise.
It will likely start its journey in China which has been emphasizing on zero-emissions technology lately, before migrating westward to Europe, and hopefully across the oceans to North America as well.
03. 2020 Volkswagen Golf GTI
While the Germans have initially sorted out the outdated conventional outgoing-generation Golfs by replacing their base engines with a more efficient option taken from the all-new Jetta sedan, the GTI’s have carried over mostly unchanged. All that is yesterday’s news now that the eighth-generation Volkswagen Golf has finally replaced a car that’s been soldiering on since 2012.
Despite relatively insignificant changes in terms of overall design, the new models still get a completely revised electrical system which has served as a platform for a correspondingly revised infotainment system with a large touchscreen display. This, however, is only a centerpiece of a completely overhauled cabin that pushes the Mk8 Golf further upmarket.
However, nothing still has been officially revealed as far as the U.S. market is concerned. We do know that we’ll get the performance GTI and R models, but there’s a possibility we won’t be seeing the conventional models at all.
The 2020 Volkswagen Golf GTI will likely retain its current 2.0L turbocharged inline-four mill. Currently making 220 horsepower, it’ll be uptuned to around 250 ponies in order to keep the Mk8 Golf competitive in a steadily-growing performance compacts market. Like before, The GTI version of the popular German hatchback will be available either with a proper 6-speed stick or a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox.
The next-gen Golf GTI’s sales are scheduled to commence in early 2020 from $28,000 or thereabouts. More info will be revealed correspondingly.
We also know that the range-topping Golf R continues to offer all-wheel drive and that it’ll have more than 295 ponies the outgoing models have offered.
02. 2020 Honda Civic Type R
The Tenth-generation of Honda’s versatile compact car is neither fresh nor outdated enough in order to warrant a full makeover. Being rather limited and highly sought after, the high-performance Civic Type R doesn’t necessarily have to worry itself with these trivial matters, but it’s still in for a mild facelift and a possible price cut for MY 2020.
The mildly-masked and beefed-up Civic test mules have already been caught ripping the Nurburgring and they can’t be nothing else than the questionably styled Type R hatchbacks. This is some good news for everyone contemplating actually snapping one up since their supply obviously won’t dry up anytime soon.
The upcoming Civic Type R’s will sport some subtle bodywork revisions up front and around the back, together with a new wing that’s much smaller than one from the outgoing models. However, the 2020 Honda Civic Type R will likely retain the large wing as standard equipment, while offering a smaller spoiler as an option.
The upcoming hot hatch will also retain its high-revving 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. It currently develops 306 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of twist, but it could easily be uptuned a bit as well. A 6-speed manual gearbox will remain the Type R Civic’s sole transmission option.
Although the current model’s MSRP starts from under $35,000, you’d be hard-pressed to find one for less than $50,000 thanks to dealers’ markups right now. Additional models coming off the assembly lines in combination with lower prices would do wonders for the meanest of Civic hatchbacks, sales-wise. Moreover, the Japanese are apparently looking to produce a more tame version of the Type R hatch that’ll be less powerful and less expensive at the same time.
This is the main reason why the upcoming 2020 Honda Civic Type R is arguably the most important hot hatch from the prestigious Japanese automaker to date. Not to mention it’s also one of the best 2020 hatchbacks we can expect to see.
01. 2020 Honda Fit EV
It’s stylish, upscale, tech-savvy, and spacious, and all that in a subcompact package available from just over $16,000. The conventional Honda Fit has always been a bargain and one of the best vehicles in its class, while an all-electric version of the car is expected to greatly boost the subcompact’s efficiency, albeit at a heftier price.
This wouldn’t be the first time Fit had been marketed as an EV, as the Japanese already tried a similar approach back in 2012. Unsuccessful back then, they’re poised at making the next-gen Fit a success this time around.
The 2020 Honda Fit EV shares both the current model’s body and underpinnings, accompanied by the standard revisions present in every zero-emissions vehicle out there. The Japanese are aiming at selling more than 100,000 units a year worldwide, with prices starting at around $18,000.
In order to keep the price down, the new Honda Fit EV will be offered with a comparably smaller battery pack capable of traveling up to 190 miles on a single charge. The exact specifications are still unknown at the moment, however. It’s expected the subcompact’s powertrain will be bolstered by one electric motor driving the front wheels, though.
The previous Fit EV had sported a 123-horsepower motor and a 20 kWh battery pack capable of around 80 miles of travel. It also took around 15 full hours to recharge which is something the Japanese will likely address before pushing the new Fit EV on the market.
At the moment, Honda is offering only one full-electric car in its U.S. lineup – the Clarity electric. An additional smaller model would certainly be welcomed with open arms provided it meets the quality standards and other requirements of U.S. market buyers.