Why aren't hatchbacks popular in the Philippines?

There is a debate among many enthusiasts about which is better, a sedan or a hatchback? Which is better? What would you prefer? The question alone highlights how there is a clear preference bias towards one, and whether or not a market succumbs to either body style is just that: A matter of preference. 

You may also make this a three-way bout with the inclusion of the hatchback’s longer cousin, the wagon. It will be mentioned in passing throughout the article, but we will primarily focus on either a sedan or a hatchback in this piece. 

Why Filipinos prefer sedans over hatchback counterparts. Based on our data collected from the myriad of leads that come from Filipino car buyers, the subcompact segment is where a bulk of the numbers are made in the market. In Q2 of 2021, the segment continued to lead above the rest of the segments, accounting for about 20% of all leads generated. In the top three for the category, the Toyota Vios lead followed by the Toyota Wigo, then supplanted by the Mitsubishi Mirage G4

With the popularity of the Vios, it’s a little odd that we’re didn’t see the Yaris pop up right behind it, which leads us to believe that there could be a few more factors that come into play here. 

Even in the compact car space, it’s an all-sedan lineup. The Mazda3 sedan, and not the Sportback is in second place. 

Throughout every price range in the mainstream market of the Philippines, sedans are more affordable on average compared to a hatchback. Typically, manufacturers like Honda or Toyota will allow customers to avail of a hatchback, however, with a slight price increase regardless of if it is a locally-manufactured model or an import. Take the Honda City as an example. Honda Cars Philippines, Inc. announced in 2021 that it will not be producing the Honda City nameplate in the country anymore, instead opting to import the Thai-produced models and selling them in the country. Even with both body styles being imported, there is still a disparity when it comes to price. 

At the time of this article’s writing, we’re seeing a difference of P57,000 between the two body styles, with the hatchback, priced higher at P1,115,000. 

The differences are still apparent when looking at other brands like Mazda and the ‘3’ sedan and Sportback. Both models have similar specifications across their many trim levels, but the ‘3’ Sportback is a whopping P73,000 more expensive than the sedan. 

Toyota also follows the same pattern with its Vios and Yaris, two identical models based on the same platform, but in differing body styles. The Yaris tops out at P1,114,000 at the time of this article’s writing, and the Vios goes for P1,020,000 for the GR-S variant which is complete with sports seats and as well as a few more additions over the Yaris. 

It’s clear that the preference is skewed towards sedans on a price level, but is it skewed because of other things? That could be the case here in the Philippines and brought about by a bunch of different factors. 

Sedans tend to be the longer cars if you were to compare them to hatchbacks. While we can’t say for certain that this is the determining factor, at least on the specification sheet the sedan is the bigger option among the body styles. The stigma could have come about thanks to other popular cars back in the day like the Honda Civic in its fifth generation. Otherwise known as the EG, Honda offered a hatch and a sedan, with the sedan being the more sensible version because of its 4-door saloon look. The hatchback wasn’t as popular as the sedan because it only had two doors. For most people, the bare minimum is four, and two is a hassle for rear passengers any day of the week. That’s why in the sixth generation Civic, the main focus was on the sedan, with the hatchback only available in the grey market. Fast forward to the tenth generation of the Civic and Honda Philippines once again decided not to bring in the hatchback version of the compact sedan save for the Type R. Honda’s reasoning was because of low demand for the hatch body style. 

One place where the sedan also has a hatchback beat, at least in the practical sense is the trunk space. While a hatchback can be modularly configured, a sedan will tend to have an outright bigger flat loading area compared to a hatchback, as illustrated by our video on the Mazda3. While this is a trait we found during our time with the pair, it’s not always the case with all manufacturers. This is where the wagon comes in since it has the added length and height to load taller and wider parcels should the need arise. However, since the rear of hatchbacks has little to no overhang compared to sedans or wagons, they lose out on that extra surface area. 

On average, you also get a little more headroom in a sedan compared to a hatchback. There are exceptions like the now-discontinued Honda Jazz, but apart from that most other hatchbacks have slightly compromised headroom. 

Given how practical a lot of people are in the Philippines, and considering how it’s a requirement for cars to be do-it-all machines, a sedan makes quite a lot of sense. Starting out with how hatchbacks were in the past culminating to today, we can’t say for certain that one is more popular than the other just because of added dimensions or a few models in the past. What we can say, however, is that the popularity of the sedan body type in the Philippines can also be attributed to the success of nameplates. Good sales of these practical four doors have moved people to prefer these body types over time should one be available over the other. 

However, if only a hatchback variation is available, then you’re not left with much choice now, are you? Still, there are hatchbacks that we deem better-looking than their sedan counterparts like the Suzuki Swift and the D-zire, but the idea of more length and a trunk seems to resonate more with Filipinos than outright style. Plus you don’t share the air with your cargo either, and if you take many trips to the wet market, that smell may build up over time. Add to that the added cost of a hatchback, and you may start to see the favor tip heavily towards the sedan. 

There is also a reason why Toyota produces the Vios within striking distance of Metro Manila in Santa Rosa Laguna. There is a reason why Mitsubishi and their new Mirage G4 also do the same. It’s all good business sense. When your most popular models are sedans, and when a majority of the population would rather have a trunk than a hatch, then it just makes sense. 

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