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August 08, 2022

Hatchback is back

PUBLISHED : July 04, 2022 - 09:15

UPDATED : July 04, 2022 - 09:15

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G70 Shooting Brake (Genesis)

The long, swoopy, not-so-sophisticated designs of the wagon and hatchback have definitely not been popular in South Korea, a country where sport utility vehicles and luxury sedans take up most of the market share. But targeting drivers who seek compact cars with sedan-like driving comfort and spacious cargo space akin to SUVs, automakers are deploying alternatives to lure consumers who prioritize practicality.

According to the country’s largest automaker Hyundai Motor Group, its luxury brand Genesis will start selling the wagon-inspired G70 Shooting Brake from Thursday. With 40 percent larger cargo space compared to the original G70 sedan, the G70 Shooting Brake is the first wagon model in 11 years from Hyundai Motor Group since the i40 launched in 2011. It stopped manufacturing the i40 in 2019, after selling just 213 units in 2018. Despite its compact size, the G70 Shooting Brake can load up to 1,535 liters of cargo, or four golf bags, when the second row is fully folded. 

Peugeot 308 (Peugeot)

For hatchback models, with a much shorter body compared to wagons, French carmaker Peugeot newly launched its Peugeot 308 earlier this month, unveiling the model fully changed after nine years. Earlier this year, Volkswagen also revived the popular hatchback model Golf with the eighth generation of the model, making a comeback to the Korean market after six years.

In Europe, wagons and hatchbacks sell in huge numbers, but that has not been the case for South Korea. Hatchbacks and wagons are in a league of their own, with the BMW Mini and Volkwagen Golf dominating the small market.

Unlike in the European market where practicality is a common yardstick for choosing a car, Korean customers have not felt very connected to wagon models in particular, as design has been a top priority.

But with recent trends of car camping amid social distancing in the pandemic and young Koreans taking more interest in golf, carmakers see potential for wagons and hatchbacks with the advantages of a sedan’s driving performance and SUV’s loading space. Prices are also typically less expensive than SUVs.

“One of the biggest trends in the local automotive market is car camping, and automakers are seeking to launch models that can offer both comfort and large cargo areas. In that context, wagons and hatchbacks can receive consumer attention,” said Lee Ho-geun, an automotive engineering professor at Daeduk University.

According to market data, sales of wagon models Volvo Cross Country and BMW 3 Series Touring in the local market jumped 2.5 times by the end of last year compared to pre-pandemic.

Others say the launch of wagons and hatchbacks is simply part of carmakers’ strategy to complete various lineups to satisfy different consumer needs.

“In the case of Hyundai Motor Group, which rose to third place in global car sales rankings last year, it is time to complete the full lineup of models in its portfolio,” said an industry insider.

“While the sales and consumer feedback (for the G70 Shooting Brake) are still questionable, since it is sold under the luxury brand Genesis it may have different appealing points compared to existing wagons and hatchbacks,” he added.

By Kim Da-sol (ddd@heraldcorp.com)

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