Are Sub-compact hatches dead or alive?

There is a difference of opinion about the market for sub-compact hatchbacks. And it’s hard to figure out which way to turn if you are an automaker.

The new 2008 Saturn Astra will come only as a three-door and five-door. It replaces the Ion. The Astra is the second best seller in Europe after the VW Golf. And the Golf/Rabbit has been an awfully tough sell in the U.S.

Then there’s the Ford Focus. Frankly, I think the five door Focus is the perfect version. But the sedan represents almost 70% of sales. When the redesigned Focus debuts in the Fall, there will be no five-door or three-door, and no wagon. Just a sedan and coupe.

Why the hatred for hatchbacks? I’ve never understood it. It’s such a more practical package in a sub-compact. I’m contemplating a new car purchase now, and have the Mazda3 on my list of possibles. But the only package I’m even considering is the five-door.

Is anything emotely wagonish seen as just too dowdy? I’m surprised that the Dodge Magnum hasn’t sold better. But as Chrysler execs have found, there’s a whole lot of people who you can’t make take a wagon if you gave it away.

So, who is going to be right on this one, Saturn or Ford?

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.