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Hatchback Guide

What hatchbacks have in common is that they have a door that opens up in back for commodious storage and access, making a two-door car into a three-door and a four-door into a five-door. Most are not only easy to pack but easy to afford.

Chevrolet Volt

Year: Starting at $39,145 MPG 35-40 Chevrolet’s Volt five-door hatchback EV, so long in the making and so eagerly awaited only a few years ago, is now in its second model year and has become a solid, if less than captivating, citizen in the Chevrolet lineup. Yes, it runs only thirty-eight miles on electric power alone—which is three miles more than last year’s model—and its rear seat is best suited for children, but consider the fuel economy: 98 mpg equivalent, in the EPA’s parlance for electric vehicles. The range-anxious will appreciate a new Hold Drive mode—added to the Volt’s Normal, Sport, and Mountain drive modes—which helps conserve battery life. On gasoline-only power, fuel economy is 37 mpg. Its fuel economy is aided by a set of Goodyear Fuel Max low-rolling-resistance tires, but they don’t appreciably hurt the ride quality. The Volt will hit a top speed of 100 mph—perhaps not the consideration uppermost on Volt buyers’ minds, but still—and, probably a number more of interest, it has a ten-to-sixteen-hour recharge time using standard household current. Option packages add such amenities as heated front seats, perforated leather seating and steering wheel, a rear-view camera, and parking sensors at front and back. Lane departure warning and forward collision alert are other options, as is Chevrolet’s MyLink system with navigation. All that, and a range between fillups of 382 miles, if you take both the battery life and the fuel tank’s capacity into account. …
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Chevrolet Spark

Year: Starting at $12,185 MPG 32-38 It’s a car for a small planet: the Chevrolet Spark is tiny and adorable. It also has a five-door hatchback body style with a reasonably sized back seat area, making it an unusual choice in the minicar category. Priced starting at just under $13,000, it’s a logical alternative to cars like the Fiat 500. Unfortunately, the Spark doesn’t astonish with great fuel economy: it makes 28 to 32 mpg in town and tops out at 38 mpg on the highway. Since 40 mpg has become the number to beat, that’s not a brilliant figure, especially considering the Spark only offers 84 horsepower from a 1.2-liter four-cylinder engine. Five-speed manual and four-speed automatic transmissions are available, and despite its diminutive size, the Spark has a grown-up set of ten standard airbags. Chevrolet is aiming this, its first U.S.-market minicar, at city dwellers, which explains in part why it offers MyLink information and entertainment with a seven-inch color screen, Bluetooth streaming audio, and Pandora and Stitcher compatibility. It may not be the greenest of the small cars, but it’s a pretty colorful choice for a starter car. …
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Chevrolet Sonic

Year: Starting at $14,785 MPG 26-35 Sometimes you shop for a subcompact because you’re looking for a cute first car or a nimble city transporter. Sometimes you are motivated by concern about fuel economy and a small carbon footprint. And sometimes you are just plain too broke to buy anything bigger. Don’t feel deprived: the Chevrolet Sonic is actually pretty good. Available in both sedan and hatchback body styles, the U.S.-built Sonic weighs a pretty imposing 2,600 pounds and has ten standard airbags, so it’s no lightweight either literally or figuratively. Its four-cylinder engine choices are the same as those on the larger Cruze. There’s also a turbocharged RS sport hatchback, new this year, which will go on sale in late 2012. The RS’s sportiness is telegraphed by four-wheel disc brakes, a lowered ride height, more assertive chassis and transmission setups, and a leather-trimmed interior, plus red accents and aluminum pedals. You could actually plan to carry back-seat passengers without apologizing, thanks to a relatively roomy interior. An optional Connectivity and Cruise package adds a USB port, Bluetooth audio, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, and cruise control, and Chevrolet’s MyLink information and entertainment system is available on the uplevel LTZ model and the RS. All in all, you are sure to feel less penalized than you might have expected. …
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Lexus CT 200h

Year: Starting at $32,050 MPG 40-43 Lexus has a slew of hybrids in its fleet, and most unique of the bunch is the funky CT200h hatchback. Six grand less expensive than the next-cheapest Lexu-brid, the ES300h sedan, the CT200h blends Lexus luxury, value, and high fuel economy together in equal measure. While its overall rating of 42 miles per gallon is nowhere near that of Toyota’s iconic Prius, it represents a far more comfortable and sexy way to get your green on, with its nicely padded interior rendered in premium materials and the slew of available premium upgrades such as LED headlamps, radar-based cruise control, and an updated navigation system operated by Lexus’s innovative “Remote Touch” interface. Lexus calls the CT200h fun to drive, and for a hybrid, it kinda is, so long as your notion of “fun to drive” does not make acceleration a big priority. Even with the gas pedal pushed to the floor, getting up to highway speeds is a leisurely and noisy affair. The CT200h does have somewhat lively handling (again, for a hybrid), particularly with the tighter F-Sport package, which adds a snug suspension, sportier wheels, a mesh grille, metal pedals, and available black leather seats with white perforations. And the seats are decidedly sporty in the way they cup one’s bum. Still, the CT200h is for hybrid shoppers more interested in gaining access to Lexus-grade luxury and cachet than sportiness or hypermiling. …
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