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Italian designers were the first to introduce rear hatches to compact family sedans, realizing the huge benefits they had in terms of cargo capacity. Previously the style had only been seen on some exotic fastback coupes, but cars such as the Austin A40 Farina showed the way forward in the 1960s, and as the 1970s progressed, the world’s manufacturers increasingly turned to hatchbacks.

Austin Maxi 1750, 1969


Engine1,748 cc, straight-four
Top speed97 mph (156 km/h)

Alec Issigonis’s packaging skills were at their best in the transverse-engined, hydrolastic-suspended Maxi. An extremely spacious sedan, it sold well into the 1970s.

Chevrolet Vega, 1970


Engine2,286 cc, straight-four
Top speed95 mph (153 km/h)

Chevrolet’s all-new sub-compact for the 1970s was conventional, with an aluminum overhead-cam engine and three-speed manual gearbox. It sold 274,699 in its first year.

Ford Pinto, 1971


Engine1,993 cc, straight-four
Top speed105 mph (169 km/h)

Ford’s sub-compact, two-door Pinto of 1970 was joined in six months by the three-door hatchback. It had British 1,600 or German 2,000 cc engines, and four-speed gearboxes.

Honda Accord, 1976


Engine1,599 cc, straight-four
Top speed94 mph (151 km/h)

Introduced as hatchback only, and joined by sedan versions in 1978, the Accord was a sophisticated car with five-speed manual or optional Hondamatic transmission.

AMC Pacer, 1975


Engine3,802 cc, straight-six
Top speed92 mph (148 km/h)

Short and wide, the Pacer was a development of AMC’s pioneering Gremlin hatchback of 1970. Its rounded form contrasted with the boxy shape of its contemporaries.

Reliant Robin, 1973


Engine848 cc, four-cylinder
Top speed80 mph (129 km/h)

This plastic-bodied three-wheeler was popular in the UK during the 1970s oil crisis. It was thrifty, due to its low weight, and could be driven on a motorcycle license.

AMC Gremlin, 1970


Engine3,258 cc, straight-six
Top speed95 mph (153 km/h)

This first U.S. sub-compact car was cramped in the back and had a column-change three-speed gearbox. It posed little threat to European imports, though the V8 model was popula

Volkswagen Passat, 1973


Engine1,470 cc, straight-four
Top speed98 mph (158 km/h)

First of the modern front-wheel-drive VWs, the Passat was based on the Audi 80 and styled by Giugiaro. Known as the Dasher in the United States, it sold 1.8 million by 1980.

Volkswagen Golf GTI, 1975


Engine1,588 cc, straight-four
Top speed112 mph (180 km/h)

The original “hot hatchback” that started a whole new sporting trend was famous for its black trim. It had 110 bhp from its fuel-injected engine and handled beautifully.

Volvo 340, 1976


Engine1,397 cc, straight-four
Top speed94 mph (151 km/h)

Volvo’s DAF plant in Holland needed a modern small car. Volvo’s answer was this long-lived, rear-drive hatch fitted with Renault engines and De Dion rear suspension.

Chrysler Horizon, 1977


Engine1,118 cc, straight-four
Top speed95 mph (153 km/h)

Chrysler’s compact hatchback, intended for sale in Europe and the United States, was derived from the Simca 1100, and so had a European style. It had front-wheel drive and all-independent suspension.

Renault 20TS, 1975


Engine1,995 cc, straight-four
Top speed104 mph (167 km/h)

Renault adopted the hatchback style right across its range, up to the big luxury 20 and 30 sedans, which had 1.6-2.7-liter engines, central locking, and power steering.

Opel Kadett, 1979


Engine1,297 cc, straight-four
Top speed93 mph (150 km/h)

General Motors’ compact hatchback finally adopted front-wheel drive in this version, sold as the Vauxhall Astra in British markets from 1980. It had 1.0-1.8-liter engines.

Renault 14, 1976


Engine1,218 cc, straight-four
Top speed89 mph (143 km/h)

Renault sold almost a million of this bulbous 5-door hatch. It featured a transverse, canted-over Peugeot 104/Citroën Visa-type engine with its transmission in the sump.

Fiat Strada/Ritmo, 1978


Engine1,585 cc, straight-four
Top speed111 mph (179 km/h)

Fiat was eager to stress that this car was built by robots. Some suggested it had been styled by them too, but the tuned Abarth versions were great fun to drive.


It is a quote. The Definitive Visual History Of The Automobile 2011