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Hatchbacks conquer the world

2007-04-13 08:13

Kia Cee-d

Lance Witten

It is with great sorrow that this article is written, lamenting the passing of a staple on South African roads for as long as I can remember - that of the affordable mid-sized sedan.

Gone are the days when almost anyone could buy a Toyota Corolla or a Volkswagen Jetta. These vehicles have become real "family cars" with the predator-like rise of the humble hatchback.

What about those of us who have families, but still want to maintain that "young" image while saving up for nappies and Fortis juice?

Affordable sedans?

A sporty sedan in the mould of the Alfa 159 or 3 Series BMW should suffice, I hear you say? We're talking easy on the pocket, my friend, and these options certainly aren't.

Both these models tip the scales from around R250k, and after Toyota determined that we should have a mid-sized sedan as uninspiring as a glass of prune-juice, and Volkswagen decided that its name no longer means "people's cars", we've ended up having to contend with the likes of increasingly decent Korean pretenders.

Enter the hatchback - Europe's revelation to manufacturers, presenting the obvious choice for decent progression while contending with the increasingly difficult task of making things smaller. Incidentally, making things tighter on the inside of cabins, while increasing overall dimensions is a feat of Herculean note, but for another article entirely.

Let's deal with the usual suspects. Considering VW has lost the plot slightly in building cars that barely get a pace-maker going these days, Toyota and its upcoming Auris (set to replace the hatchback RunX) are probably worth a glance. Toyota has opted to retain its Corolla name, though it may resemble an outdated Honda Accord knock-off.

Shaking that - erm - bum...

Citroën has completely forgotten about sedans, settling instead on the uber-sexy three- and five-door C4. These come with drastically different rear ends to boot - a good thing too, judging by the frumpy C5 sedan.

Citroën's hit another nail on the head, striking a bold difference between its hot-hatch VTS and the more sedate three- and five-door models. Some people need to be reminded that hot hatches are for those who want to look good in their cars, while five-door sedans are for those who want decent loading capabilities and freedom from the burden of that jutting boot.

Renault's Megane was first launched in all its derriere-heavy splendour before its practical sedan sister was made public. Similarly, the Kia Rio, with her heavy European styling influence looks as though the designers added a booted model just to satisfy those die-hard fans of an extra 100 litres of bootspace.

On their way

Continuing the trend is Hyundai's upcoming i30, a sexy little "I, Robot" number as well as Kia's Cee'd - only seen thus far in hatch and sportswagon guise, with an afterthought of a sedan on the cards.

The presence of these hatchbacks revolting and with every unit that rolls off a production line, they are steadily driving a nail into the coffins of sedans all over the world.

Not that I'm complaining. Even now, there is no car more versatile or spacious than the humble VW 1.4 Citi Chico.

Incidentally, if you happen to spot a dirty Jazz Blue Chico tearing down the N1 at the breakneck speed of 80 km/h loaded with my dad's foldaway ladder, a fresh-water paddle-ski and a Staffie-Pitbull cross that answers to the name "Pilate", that would probably be me. This happens to be more than I can say for VW's (much bigger) Jetta...


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