Drew Dowdell - January 26, 2012 - CheersandGears.com
Yesterday on Facebook, Aaron Bragman a new friend I met at NAIAS, and I got into a friendly back and forth over whether the Audi A3 was a hatchback or a wagon. I insist that it was a wagon and Aaron insists it is a hatch. My original position is that the A3 is a wagon because of the third rear window. Aaron says no, it is an identical car to the Volkswagen GTI which couldn't be called anything but a hatch.
Now before I go on, I'm going to preempt some of the old timers here. For the sake of this argument, we are going to use body style definitions that apply to cars post.. oh... 1980 or so. That means a sedan is a 4-door and a coupe is a 2-door regardless of the existence of b-pillars or not. For the sake of sanity, we are going to leave out anything that would be considered a cross-over..... yes, I'm looking at you BMW.
2007 Volkswagen GTI - VW N.A.
2008 Audi A3 - Audi N.A.
Aaron further explains that the distinguishing factor is "...rear cargo room. It should be longer than it is tall. Which is not the case with the GTI or the A3."
While I begin to agree, I don't think that is the entire answer.
I started to doubt my "third window makes a wagon" criteria when I realized there were vehicles out there that were most definitely hatches yet still had a third window in the rear. The two examples that immediately come to mind are the Subaru Impreza and the Pontiac Vibe. That defeat in hand, I set out thinking how to define a hatchback opposed to a wagon.
My next thought was about the slope of the rear of the car, thinking that a more gradual slope could be a hatch and a flat back would be a wagon. That idea immediately got torpedoed by the 1996 Roadmaster with its sloping rear glass and the Chevrolet Sonic hatch or the original GTI with their flat backs.
I thought more about the Roadmaster as it was one of the last of the true big wagons from back in the day. What if it had been a hatch? What would a Roadmaster hatchback looked like? Had GM built a Roadmaster hatchback, they would have needed to cut the car off just behind the rear wheels! That would have made the Roadmaster hatch much shorter than the sedan; and there in was the answer.
1996 Buick Roadmaster Estate
So, the definitions I came up with are these:
Wagon - a sedan that had the enclosed passenger area extended around the trunk of the vehicle losing no length in the process.
Hatchback - A coupe or sedan that had its trunk, truncated, typically losing length.
Going back to the A3, this definition holds true. We recently ran an article on the potential A3 sedan coming in the next generation. That sedan would end up being 6 inches longer than the A3 5-door that started this whole debate. The Impreza hatch? 173 inches compared to the 180 of the sedan. The Vibe? 171 inches compared to the 178 inches of the Corolla it was based on.
While there may be some exceptions to the rule, I'm fairly confident that this rule will hold.
So what do you think dear readers? Is my definition fairly sound?