2020 Golf GTI parked in front of mountain

What’s the difference between a hatchback and a compact crossover?

Hatchback vs Subcompact SUV: What’s the difference and which should I get?

A couple years back, an article by Popular Mechanics stated that “cars, in case you haven’t heard, are dead. More specifically, cars are crossovers now.” And while that statement is hyperbolic, as they are still many cars on the market today, it does have a kernel of truth to it. As the article suggests, fewer hatchbacks are being produced, while an army of small, eerily similar subcompact crossovers are taking their place.

So, is a subcompact crossover essentially just a hatchback or is it just a similar vehicle that taps into the same part of the market? Let’s take a look at some of the differences between the two.

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Hatchback vs Subcompact Crossover Major Differences

The following lists are traits that each type of vehicle usually possesses. Each comes with trade-offs.


  • Sportier, nimble
  • Lower to the ground
  • Cheaper base prices
  • Usually FWD
  • Available performance variants

Subcompact Crossovers…

  • More rugged, sluggish
  • Higher ground clearance and seating position
  • More expensive base prices
  • Around 50% of segment have available AWD
  • More likely to have fold-flat rear seats
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Which should you get?

If you prefer to have an engaging driving experience, then the hatchback is much more likely to deliver. The term “hot hatch” exists for this reason. For instance, the 2020 Golf GTI (once again) won the spot compact car/hatchback spot on Car and Driver’s 10Best list. While it is pricier that a typical hatchback, it and other hot hatches like it, offer performance that no subcompact crossover can match.

However, if you want something that might be a little more capable in poor weather or harsh terrain, then you should look into one of the subcompact offerings that has available AWD. Thanks to that drivetrain and the typically higher ground clearance, the subcompact crossover segment is more likely to conquer things like big snow drifts or muddy roads.

Looking for a new vehicle?

If you’re in need of a new ride, give Hall a call. We have a big selection of new Volkswagen models, as well as many affordable used vehicles, to choose from.