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Hot Hatchbacks – Toyota Corolla Hatchback/Honda Civic Hatchback

The station wagon’s demise left a void in the lineups of most automakers. Enter four-door hatchbacks, combining style, fuel economy and practical interiors.

(Photo: © Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.)

Sexy: There’s a word you don’t generally apply to affordable cars. And yet, it’s an apt description of the Toyota Corolla Hatchback.

Granted, it’s not bright-red Ferrari kind of alluring. Just the same, this all-new hatchback offers a lot more style than just about any other four-door compact you can name, starting with its distinctly muscular stance.

Given the fact that this is the 12th generation of the Corolla nameplate, it’s not surprising that Toyota’s engineers have gotten the substance dialed in as well. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine under the hood of the XSE variant I drove put out 168 satisfying horsepower, while the available continuously variable automatic transmission uses 10 simulated gears to deliver snappy performance.

From the driver’s seat, your eyes will fall on the tablet-style center display which features the slick Apple CarPlay system of smartphone integration. While front seat accommodations are comfortable enough, taller riders might find the back-seat legroom to be tight.

Just the same, standard equipment includes a comprehensive suite of advanced safety features making this a car that buyers will find sexy for years to come.

Base price: $19,990

MPG: 30 city, 38 highway

Crash Test: N/A

 

(Photo: © Honda)

While it’s been offered in both sedan and coupe body styles for years now, the all-new Honda Civic Hatchback is the best of the bunch.

I don’t make that claim lightly. This 10th-generation Civic benefits from a turbocharged 1.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine that produces a healthy 180 horsepower in slightly souped-up Sport models like the one I drove (true performance junkies will want to check out the Si and Type R variants). Combined with its firmer-tuned suspension and nicely weighted steering, this four-door hatchback can still be good fun to drive.

It rides on the same wheelbase as the sedan, but is nearly 4 inches shorter. Those measurements can be deceiving, however, as you can fit more than 25.7 cubic feet of cargo behind the rear seats. There’s also plenty of space – 46.2 cubic feet to be exact – with the rear seatbacks folded down, and a generously sized hatch opening that allows you to cram it all in there.

For some inexplicable reason, it’s been a dozen years since the last highly practical Civic Hatchback model. Asfar as I’m concerned, it’s been worth the wait.

Base price: $21,450

MPG: 32 city, 42 highway

Crash Test: 5 stars

Looking for a new car ride? Find more car reviews online. AAA.com/TestDrive

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