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Mazda Kai concept will morph into the 2020 Mazda 3 hatchback

7 of the Best 2020 Hatchbacks

You Might Just Find Yourself a Hatchback Among These 2020-year Models

Published October 2, 2018

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 still move 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. 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.

07. 2020 Mazda 3

Arguably the most beautiful compact hatchback on the market at the moment is nearing the end of its short-lived third-generation. Judging by the Kai concept car unveiled at the 2017 Tokyo auto show, which serves as a preview of the next-gen Mazda 3, the new models 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 will be built on 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 multilink rear suspension in favor of a cheaper twist-beam option. Don’t expect the new model’s prices to drop, however, as we all know that’s not how things work in a greedy corporate world.

It’s still unclear whether the fourth generation Mazda 3 will retain a two-engine lineup, but that’s the last thing that should keep us occupied amidst all the Skyactiv-X hype. 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.

Mazda Kai concept will morph into the 2020 Mazda 3 hatchback

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 this 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, but the 2020-year model should fix that by the time it arrives.

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 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.

Twelfth-generation Toyota Corolla hatchback front 3/4 view

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 and the next-gen model. It’s no secret the Japanese are working on the all-new sixth-generation Impreza which is mainly intended as 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 was 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 2020 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.

Subaru WRX hatchback rendering

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.

Current Lexus CT 200h front 3/4 view

Refreshed overseas Lexus CT 200h pictured

03. 2020 Volkswagen Golf GTI

The eighth-generation Volkswagen Golf is due to arrive in time for MY 2020 and finally replace a car that’s been soldiering on since 2012. While the Germans have already started sorting out the outdated conventional current-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. The hot versions of the most popular hatchback in the world will wait for the general overhaul before debuting the revised lighter MQB platform. Despite relatively insignificant changes in that department, the new models will still get a completely revised electrical system which should serve as a platform for a correspondingly revised infotainment system with a large touchscreen display. The Germans are promising this’ll only be the centerpiece of a completely overhauled cabin that should push the Mk8 Golf further upmarket.

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 should make its first official appearance at one of the upcoming major auto shows in 2019 while its sales are scheduled to commence later that year or in early 2020 from $28,000 or thereabouts. More info will be revealed correspondingly.

Volkswagen Golf Mk8 test mule rear 3/4 view

VW Golf Mk8 test mule should morph into one of the best 2020 hatchbacks out there

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 anything other 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 lowered prices would do wonders for the meanest of Civic hatchbacks, price-wise. 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.

2020 Honda Civic Type R test mule

Honda Civic Type R test mule with a smaller wing

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 should share 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 had 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.

Honda Fit front 3/4 view

Current-generation Honda Fit pictured

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Nikola Potrebić
About Nikola Potrebić

Despite driving a piece of junk, Nikola still manages to survive the harrowing experience called "A road trip in a Yugo," day in, day out. On the other hand, precious few things move him as muscle cars do. Especially those from the bygone golden era, which makes him wonder why wasn't he born a few decades earlier? Well, at least he's been given the opportunity to enjoy the likes of the Pontiak Aztek, Chrysler PT Cruiser, Fiat Multipla, and other lovely millennials, right? Come to think of it, I'll stick with my Yugo. Thank you very much.

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