Americans won't buy hatchbacks, or so goes the hoary old conventional wisdom.

That may no longer be true, as Ford found out, but most compact cars are still four-door sedans.

With the 2013 launch of its Elantra GT hatchback and Elantra Coupe, however, Hyundai has expanded its compact line to offer more body style variants than any other maker.

The original Elantra sedan, introduced as a 2011 model, has been a big hit and anchored the model firmly among the top-selling compacts in the U.S.--helped by its highway rating of 40 mpg for all models.

At times, the Montgomery, Alabama, factory has struggled to build enough Elantras to keep dealers stocked.

And offering sedan, coupe, and hatchback variants should further set Hyundai apart from other compact makers--none of whom offers more than two styles.

[UPDATE: An astute reader points out that, in fact, Volkswagen does also offer the low-volume Jetta SportWagen, so Volkswagen is the exception to this pattern. Our apologies, and good catch, Kurt!]

There are other options in the broad class of compact cars, of course, from various dedicated hybrids to "small box" models like the Kia Soul and Nissan Cube. The Hyundai Veloster is also a sportier three-door coupe.

But for the high-volume compact class with gasoline engines, here's the lineup of competitors:

2013 Hyundai Elantra GT, Chicago Auto Show, Feb 2012

2013 Hyundai Elantra GT, Chicago Auto Show, Feb 2012

  • 2012 Chevrolet Cruze: sedan only
  • 2013 Dodge Dart: sedan only (thus far)
  • 2012 Ford Focus: sedan, hatchback
  • 2012 Honda Civic: sedan, coupe
  • 2012 Kia Forte: sedan, hatchback ("5-Door")
  • 2012 Mazda Mazda3: sedan, hatchback
  • 2012 Nissan Sentra: sedan
  • 2012 Subaru Impreza: sedan, hatchback
  • 2012 Toyota: Corolla sedan, Matrix hatchback
  • 2012 Volkswagen: Jetta sedan, Jetta SportWagen wagon, Golf hatchback

While six of the Elantra's 10 competitors offer a hatchback alternative, only one offers a coupe: the Honda Civic.

We think the addition of both a hatchback and a coupe will continue to boost the Hyundai Elantra's sales, perhaps taking it toward the top positions currently occupied by the all-new Honda Civic and the aging but evergreen Toyota Corolla.

Hyundai i30 wagon (Euro spec)

Hyundai i30 wagon (Euro spec)

Of course, what we'd really like to see is a fourth Elantra: a wagon version to replace the 2012 Elantra Touring model that's being discontinued.

Hyundai says the Elantra GT hatchback effectively replaces the Touring, but we'd love a proper wagon model of Hyundai's swoopy compact.

Buyers, however, apparently wouldn't--or so Hyundai believes.

While Europeans can buy a Chevrolet Cruze Wagon, and Hyundai offers a replacement for the Elantra Touring there too (known as the i30 wagon), U.S. buyers are out of luck.

Is a five-door hatchback a proper replacement for a "real" station wagon? Would you like to buy a compact wagon, or do you (like most buyers) prefer a taller crossover utility vehicle?

Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.


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