Quick Question: What Do We Call a Hatchback With a Side-Opening Door?

I’m here in Detroit, doing my pre-auto show motor-oil-and-papaya-juice-cleanse, which forces me into the bathroom for long periods of filthy, noisy time. Luckily, our own David Tracy is here, and was willing to talk to me through the door. While talking, we stumbled onto a fascinating question: what would you call a hatchback-like car that, instead of a hatch that swings up, swings to the side?

As far as I can tell, there does not seem to be a name for this particular kind of car. It’s possible that this is because I’m not even sure there are cars that fit this description. Sure, there are plenty of cars that have side-swinging rear doors, but they tend to be cars other than hatchbacks.


For example, take the adorable Fiat 500 Giardiniera, a small little car with a swing-out rear door:

Even though this is a tiny car, it’s technically a wagon, according to my strict and scientifically-proven* Rules of Wagonhood. A wagon can have a swing-out rear door or a hatch or a tailgate or whatever—it’s still a wagon.

There’s also the early Jaguar E-Type, which had a steeply sloping fastback design and a novel side-opening rear door:


But, door or no door, the E-Type is very clearly a sports car. No confusion there.

There’s also more recent cars like the impressively disappointing Ford EcoSport:


...but that’s a crossover-thing.

No, what I’m wondering about is a car that’s like a conventional hatchback in size, market position, etc. but instead of a door that swings up, like a hatch, swings to the side. Think a Volkswagen Golf with a side-opening rear door.


I’ve been wracking my brain to try and think if there’s been a car ever made and sold like this, but so far I haven’t been able to come up with one. But that doesn’t mean such a vehicle shouldn’t have a name, right?

Even though a side-opening door could technically be a “hatch,” “hatchback” is a word is so associated with a lift-up hatch that I don’t think it makes sense for something else. Maybe a Swingback? Flipback?


Now’s our chance to pick this name, people! This is an opportunity, if and when anyone ever decides to build a little hatchback with a side door instead of a hatch, for some reason that, I’ll be honest, I can’t quite imagine.

Well, you could mount a spare tire on a side-opening door, so there’s that. That’s the big advantage I can see.


Also, if anyone knows of a car that exists like this, please let me know, because I bet there’s something like that out there, even if I can’t think of it off the top of my head. And I know you geeks know one.

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Jason Torchinsky

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus • Not-so-running: 1973 Reliant Scimitar, 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!)