Competition and new choices in the hatchback segment

C-SegmentGeneva - Car makers are launching a spate of new models in the hatchback or c-segment this year with practical family saloons and station wagons pitched against affordable sports cars and luxury models.

Volkswagen's Scirocco sports car will be available in European showrooms soon at prices starting at 21,750 euros (34,419 dollars). The car maker has combined the new design of the three-door car with VW Golf technology such as the transmission and engines in the range 88 kW/120 hp to 147 kW/200 hp. New is the adaptive chassis.

Renault plans to present a concept study of a coupe with gullwings, possibly as a sporty successor to the current Megane at the October Paris Motor Show. It is unlikely that a production model will feature gullwings, but all-in-all the flowing lines are less provocative than with the predecessor model.

Peugeot and Hyundai on the other hand are more practically orientated. Both car makers are offering station wagon versions. The Peugeot 308 SW will be available as a conventional loader with fold- down rear seat while the lifestyle variation features a panorama glass roof and seven seats in three rows. Customers have a choice of five petrol engines and three diesel power units in the range 70 kW/90 hp to 128 kW/175 hp.

Hyundai is offering the i30 CW with two diesels and two petrol engines in the range 85 kW/116 hp to 105 kW/143 hp. In comparison to the five-door version, the vehicle has been increased in length by 23 cm to 4.48 metres.

But there are several more new models hotting up the competition in the hatchback class. Lancia, which belongs to the Fiat stable, presented in Geneva the new Delta, closing the gap between the mini Ypsilon and the luxury sedan, the Thesis. Instead of the rectangular and wide flanks of the predecessor, the new model has softer lines. Only the basic coupe design has remained.

In addition the new Delta comes with a panorama roof and an adjustable rear seat. But underneath the skin the Delta is not really new, built on the platform of the Fiat Bravo. The turbo petrol and diesel engines in the range 88 kW120 hp and 147 kW/200 hp come from popular models within the concern.

Saab meanwhile is also looking at the hatchback market. Saab's CEO Jan Ake Jonsson recently pointed to the Saab 9-X Biohybrid as an example of how a Saab in the segment could look like.

The entry model is a sporty three-door with room for four passengers. It measures 4.42 metres and has a wheelbase of 2.71 metres, a little bigger than its main competitors. It is possible however that the vehicle could be a little smaller if it comes to serial production.

Mercedes Benz is giving its A-Class and B-Class a makeover while Peugeot is bringing out later in the year a convertible coupe of the 308.

By this autumn at the latest, the newcomers in the hatchback sector must show their mettle against the new Golf that still dominates sales on the European market. (dpa)

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