Is the British motorists’ clear preference for small hatchbacks over similarly sized saloons down to lacklustre four-door offerings, or just an ingrained bias for practicality?
Mazda, of all people, is about to find out. Its new three-box 3 is no hatch, with an unbalanced rear-end extension, but a sleek stand-alone style that shares not one exterior panel with the hatch. The only bits common to both are windscreen, door handles, wipers and exterior mirrors.
Because saloon and hatch were designed simultaneously (largely in Europe), each has its own distinctive visual character. And each is built on the same 2640mm wheelbase as Volvo’s new S40/V50 – which, along with this year’s new Focus and the Focus C-Max, are all underpinned by Ford’s C1 platform.
We’re not alone in preferring the looks of the elegant, more cohesive saloon. Since, engine-for-engine, trim-level-for-trim-level, they’re priced identically, buyers face a clear choice, or will, when the saloon goes on sale in June. Style has been allowed to take precedence over practicality, too, the fast-falling roofline reducing rear headroom compared to the hatch. Yet the saloon has the bigger boot – 413 litres versus 300 litres – and, despite being 70mm longer, weighs 15kg less.