QotW: What’s the greatest Japanese nostalgic hatchback?


The hatchback. Loved everywhere in the world but the US. Rather than embrace its practicality, we Americans refuse to date anyone driving one and insist on adding a smaller, shallower cargo area that extends over the rear wheels like a portable bathtub. Luckily, Japan has no such hangups about the hatch, and has created some cracking ones.

What’s the greatest Japanese nostalgic hatchback?

What say you, dear reader? As always, the most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “What’s the best shade of JNC yellow?” 

Toyota Hilux yellow

This week’s winner is ed7_owner:

Why no jdm pickup love??

I choose the Suntan Yellow, found on Toyota Hilux, FJ cruisers and on Peanut or the TE27. This color is just gangster, perfect for color for a cruise down PCH. This color just screams nostalgia, or back when Japanese automakers just had fun, practical ideas. It also ages gracefully… hell, I seen a Suntan Yellow Hilux 1979 being used to carry water inside a nursery down in Azusa, CA, 300k miles on it. I’m sure the Datto 620 comes in yellow but it can’t top the Hilux. Adding to that. I dont see many slammed Toyota pickups like 1980-1992 era body styles. Maybe I don’t get out much, Maybe there are a lot or Maybe its Maybelline…

Omedetou, your comment has earned you a set of decals from the JNC Shop!

JNC Decal smash


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39 Responses to QotW: What’s the greatest Japanese nostalgic hatchback?

  1. Toyota_Tercel says:

    The Toyota Tercel

  2. Kuroneko says:

    Not the greatest perhaps, but one of the earliest:


    Speaking of which, what is the earliest such configuration? Neko.

    • ahja says:

      The S600 fastback and MGB GT both debuted in 1965. I also wonder if there is anything earlier that is a hatchback as we understand it. I don’t think the Mini’s tailgate counts. The E-type (1961) coupe opened sideways, but the shape of the opening is hatchback-like.

  3. Brett says:

    Plymouth Arrow in Nth America; known as the Chrysler Lancer Hatchback in Australia.

    I was 17 and drove a MK 1 Ford Escort (2 dr). My girlfriend, Helen, was stunning and suffered occasional lapses in judgement to maker her susceptible to my charms, which were always frustrated by the cramped and difficult interior of the Ford. I upgraded to the Lancer Hatchback, whereupon I had a much a better car, sufficient room to make Helen my own (although she dumped me not long afterwards) and I was left with a bunch of irreplaceable memories. In my fast approaching dotage, I love the Chrysler Lancer Hatchback ; Helen, not so much.

  4. Dylan says:

    Even though I’m not a big Honda guy, I still believe that the first gen CRX is the best hatch to come out of Japan. They’re sporty, reliable, comfortable, and still manage to look superb despite being well over 25 years old. Most other hatches of that era only carry one or two of those traits. It’s just too bad that most CRXs have either been thrashed to hell and back or are still stuck in the F&F all show no go golden age of rice. Fortunately I’ve seen some quality builds finally emerging as of the last couple years, hopefully people will start treating them right.

    • Andre says:

      That would be a fastback, not a hatchback…if you gonna include fastbacks you might as well as include an RX-7, Integra, 180SX, AE86, etc.

      • Dylan says:

        Technically it’s a kammback, neither hatchback nor fastback. It’s a pretty unique car roofline though, so often times people consider it to be a hatchback.

        • Andre says:

          Maybe so, and maybe it would be considered a hatchback if there wasn’t a hatchback version of it to begin with i.e Civic.

          • 1stgen lb celica says:

            A fast back is a car that has a roof line that stretches to the back but still has a trunk like a coupe other wise it’s a form of hatch back

          • Andre says:

            So are DC2 Integra and FD RX-7 hatchbacks too? In Europe, CRX was referred to as a coupe, not a hatchback, as they already had a hatchback in a form a Civic, on which CRX is based on and draws the name from. Now take the BMW E36 chassis for example, since they already had a coupe version, they couldn’t call the 318ti simply a coupe and therefore it was referred to as a hatchback.

  5. Bart says:

    I’m partial to the Isuzu Impulse, of course. Rarely did you get a hatchback that looked so cool and was so practical at the same time.

    And on a side note, I have a friend who is into old Volvos. I told him one day, “you know, I wouldn’t mind having an old Volvo wagon”. He said, “no way, I need a trunk! I don’t want thieves to see what I have in my car.” This makes me wonder if this is partly why hatchbacks were never favorable in the USA, as (I would think) we have a lot more petty theft problems here in the States compared to Japan.

    • ahja says:

      No, because station wagons used to rule the streets of North America, and their modern counterparts – minivans, SUVs, and “crossovers” aka station wagons with short wheelbases and giant wheels – still do. I would also suggest that the supposed “unpopularity of hatchbacks in America” is greatly exaggerated. Its basically something car magazine editors fall back on when they lament all the hot hatches Europeans have available. And that has to do with those cars not being able to pass US federal crash and emissions regulations, not because Americans wouldn’t want them. But that would involve pointing out the idiocy of the US government, and the magazines don’t want to do that.

  6. Angelo says:

    I’d be nominating the Toyota Starlet, sa they’re common here in the Philippines… And because they’re sporty, with that light body and RWD.

    I find them cute too, I don’t know… Maybe because a neighbor of mine used to own one, and i used to stare at it when I’m outside with my friends.

  7. Jim Daniels says:

    Um, the Z.

  8. MikeRL411 says:

    That’s why later models added the “window shade” deployable trunk area cover. Even later models like the 240SXSE added a fixed luggage cover attached to the hatch so that the cover lifted when the hatch was opened.

  9. Eric says:

    1976-1978 CVCC Hatchback bar none. Especially when equipped with som old school Jackson Racing body panels!

    • Yoda says:

      Seconded, first generation Civic. Sure you could get a sedan with the identical same profile and cat-flap trunk access, but the only reason to was to save money.

  10. Tom says:

    I’ve got to put my hand up and say the AE82 Corolla FX-GT with its sharp 80’s angles and in-your-face ‘TWINCAM 16’ decals. I love seeing well-maintained examples on the road, but with their numbers thinning its proving quite hard nowadays. Likewise with it’s younger brother the AE92 FX-GT – a recent nostalgic graduate.

  11. Jova says:

    Nobody mentions the 82-83 Toyota Corolla SR5

  12. indy510 says:

    Datsun F10 or 120a cherry coupe

  13. Acubra says:

    For me it will always be the first generation of Integra/Quint. Living in Hiroshima in 94-95, I wanted that thing badly. However, the only option readily available was a 87 Civic Si, a happy little revver, bought for all of 500 bucks off a student friend’s dad, who was a Honda dealer in a neighboring town of Mihara. Funnily enough, his last name was Toyoda.

    The other two would be of a much fresher vintage, both around 93-96 and coming from Mazda:
    Lantis hatchback
    Ford Telstar hatchback (same as EU Mazda 626)

  14. Kuroneko says:

    Let’s try that again:


    A kammback with a liftback or a hatchback? Neko.

  15. Banpei says:

    I would vote for the AE86 hatch. Apart from its practicality it offers space to four persons (a bit tight tough), great mileage, great handling and top of that great performance.

    We all know the AE86 is a great tofu hauler and had great following in the drift culture. Especially due to this following many of the cars are being cherished and pampered (and transformed into panda paint scheme) and kept alive. If you compare the vast amount of AE86s surviving it is way higher than the number of surviving cars from competing models (or even the Corolla FX AE82!). The car itself has become an icon instead.

    Naming the AE86 a hatchback would be debated in some countries. Officially the AE86 was sold as a coupe and hatchback body style in Japan and US, but for instance in the UK only the three door version was sold and they sold it as the “Corolla coupe” to note the difference between the fwd AE82 and rwd AE86. At the same time the two door AE86 was sold as the “Corolla coupe” all over the European main land.

    Also the model code on the vin plate has a different interpretation: the hatch is identified as “coupe” and the two door as a “hardtop” which both in reality are not. At the same time the AE82 is identified by the vin as the true hatchback of the E80 series. Regardless of this I still think the AE86 is the greatest Japanese hatchback built.

    • Yoda says:

      Having mentioned it I have to show some love for the AE82 five-door, I always liked its’ low taillight/high license plate weirdness.

      The successor model (Sprinter Cielo/Corolla Seca/Geo Prizm hatch) just looked stunning in its’ day, particularly for the four-door family compact it was.

    • ahja says:

      Yeah the AE86 hatchback is definitely a hatchback. Everybody knows exactly what you are talking about. And yes, its the greatest one. The Civic hatchbacks of the EF/EG/EK glory years are in a strong 2nd place.

    • Spinnetti says:

      +1 still have one 25 years later
      We had a starlet which is kinda cute, but was not a very good car in stock form

  16. invinciblejets says:

    I gotta give it to the mazda 323/glc love these things!
    Rwd… plaid seats and unsuspecting look.
    with a 12a or 13b swap it would be insane fun.
    To bad you never see them anymore and if you do its most likely the fwd one beat to hell on its way to a drug deal:/…
    Save the glc!!!

  17. Chris says:

    I would have to say the Mazda 323 GTX.

  18. alvin says:

    Sometimes the weirdest things can seem like a good idea…like ironing your clothes while wearing them. Maybe putting your breakfast, lunch and dinner into a blender and drinking it all at once. Or, simply buying a car with interchangeable rear ends so that you could switch between driving a coupe and a small hatchback-wagon. I nominate
    the Nissan Pulsar NX Sportback. The greatest hatchback of all time, or is it?

  19. Censport says:

    My vote is for the Honda City, especially the turbo versions, and definitely with the Motocompo. Did any other hatchback offer the option of a spare form of licensed, road-legal transportation?

    • Elston Gunn says:

      ^ This ^ The Honda City was very cool. What other car comes with folding
      motorbike? Get as close as possible to your office then break out the Motocompo
      and arrive in style.

  20. Steve says:

    I thought that our R30 Skyline hatch was great. It its day it had space , modern technology such as ‘fast glass’, fuel injection and was ultra reliable. It was a great car around town or doing the long trips we have here in Australia. Vote one for the R30 Skyline Hatchback.

  21. Jason R says:

    I think the original 1976 Honda Accord is a worthy contender. It should have been the car to make hatchbacks accepted in mainstream cars (not just cheap econo-cars) here in the U.S.

    Personally, I’ve owned hatchback when given the choice. My 1991 Civic was a hatchback and I’ve had a 2006 Mazda3 s 5-door Hatchback (not a freakin’ Wagon) for almost 10 years now.

    The funny thing is, crossovers and SUVs are basically hatchbacks and we love those in the U.S.

    • Yoda says:

      If only Honda had “made it simple” for themselves for once and done an Accord 5-door hatchback instead of the sedan as a followup. They probably could’ve had it on the market a year sooner at that…

  22. Ramón Mora says:

    Starlet KP-61 from 1978 to 1983. No doubt about it !!!

  23. Andre says:

    Maybe JNC should do a separate QotW for fastbacks? I feel like the comment section is over saturated with said bodystyle.

  24. josh says:

    I’d say the 79-85 mazda glc.

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