The History of Hatchbacks

Hatchback cars are becoming more and more popular, and the folks at Thompson Hyundai in Baltimore, MD can attest to that. The hatchback design has been found on executive cars, family cars, superminis and even a few sports cars. The design is particularly popular in the Americas and Europe, but has made its way to other places as well! Keep reading to learn more about the history of hatchbacks!

Hatchback-Car History

Hatchback Design

As you are probably very aware, hatchbacks have a rear door that swings upward to give people access to the cargo area. Hatchbacks are referred to either two-door (two entry doors and the hatchback door) or four-door vehicles (four entry doors and the hatchback door). They have top-hinged liftgates to allow people to get to their cargo. Hatchbacks have come with single liftgates, but also with complex tailgates that could either be a trunk lid or a full tailgate. This might sound a bit like a wagon, but hatchback liftgates and hatches do not extend to the bumper like on wagons. Hatchbacks have cargo floors with pronounced contours. Hatchback cars are very practical!


Have you heard the term “liftback”? Liftback is a marketing term for a hatchback where the rear cargo door is rather horizontal and has a sharp profile. Toyota’s 4th generation Toyota Celica is a good example of this. Liftbacks are similar to trunks, but liftbacks areas are more sloped than hatchback ones. They are generally found on sports cars.

Examples of Early Hatchbacks

An early example of a hatchback is the Citroën Traction Avant. It all started in the late 1930s when Citroen, a French company, produced a hatchback with a tailgate that was made from 1934 until 1957. Aside from being a hatchback, it set off the production of cars with front-wheel drive, a four-wheel independent suspension and a unitary body that does not have a separate frame. The vehicle came as a five-door hatchback, again meaning with four entry doors and the hatch.

The 1949 model year brought about the Traveler and Vagabond hatchbacks introduced by Kaiser-Frazer. This vehicle had no separate trunk, and instead had its hatchback feature. One accessed the hatchback area by folding down the rear seat to obtain a large eight-foot interior cargo area. The Traveler and Vagabond models have both been described as “America’s First Hatchback.”

From 1953 to 1957 a grand tourer called the “Aston Martin DB2/4” was sold by Aston Martin. This vehicle came with large bumpers and a wraparound windscreen.

Zoom to the late 1960s and we had Nissan’s S30, produced by Nissan Motors, Ltd. of Japan from 1969 until 1978. This car seated up to two people, and its design was lead by Yoshihiko Matsuo who was head of Nissan’s Sports Car Styling Studio.

Then there was the classic 1957 FIAT 500 Nuovo. It came with a shiny grille, tiny mirrors and little headlights that people really liked. It was FIAT’s original 500, which was incredibly popular.

Consider a hatchback when looking for your next new or used car at a local car dealer!

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Published on: June 26, 2016

Filled Under: Autos Articles

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