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The humble hatchback was once the most popular vehicle body style in Australia, but now small and light hatches only represent a fraction of sales.
A bit of a deep dive into last year's new-car sales figures reveals some surprising results. Would you have thought the most popular hatchback in Australia would have been the Toyota Corolla? I probably did.
But the highest-selling hatchback in Australia last year actually was… the Hyundai i30!
That's right, Hyundai sold 16,096 examples of the i30 hatch in 2023, while Toyota was just edged out, selling 15,234 Corolla hatchbacks.
When it comes to combined hatch and sedan sales, the i30 still beat the Corolla - just. It was 20,626 i30s to 19,986 Corollas. Toyota has had continued supply issues through the year, which could partly explain why Corolla sales were 21 per cent down on 2022 results.
That means that the hatchback body style made up 78 per cent of i30 sales and 76 per cent of Corolla sales. Incidentally, 80 per cent of Corolla sales were for the hybrid.
Looking back 10 years, Australian new-car sales data told a very different story. In 2013, the Corolla was the top-selling model overall, recording 43,498 sales. The second-best selling model was the Mazda3 (42,082), while the i30 was fourth, behind the Toyota HiLux and ahead of the Holden Commodore.
How things have changed. In 2023, the top three best-sellers were all utes - Ford Ranger, then HiLux, and Isuzu D-Max in third. In fact, every single model in the top 10 was either a ute or an SUV - no hatchbacks to be seen.
The 2023 sales figures reflect the popularity of the MG3. It is one of the cheapest cars available in Australia, starting from $19,990 drive-away.
Both the i30 and the MG3 will benefit from new-generation models in 2024, however, that doesn't necessarily mean sales will continue at this level.
The i30 hatchback is getting what will amount to a significant late-life update. The sedan has just been facelifted and is on sale now. But the updated hatch will be sourced from Europe - rather than Korea - when it arrives this year.
That means it will almost certainly carry a higher price tag than before. There's also a good chance Hyundai will drop entry grades of the hatch as it will be too expensive to import, leaving the base i30 sedan to handle fleet duties.
Similarly, the next-gen MG3 - due to be revealed at the Geneva motor show later this month - is going to be sold in Europe for the first time, meaning it will get a major uptick in safety and in-car tech. It's also getting a hybrid powertrain for that market at least.
If we get the same MG3 as Europe, it's unlikely to remain at $19,990 drive-away when it eventually arrives.