They're a first car for many younger adults, a dependable vehicle with moderate leg room and more cargo space inside than expected. Moreover, fuel mileage numbers tend to be in the high 30s and even the 40s mpg.

Set above the car's rear bumper and resembling the tight doors on boats and airplanes, the hatchback dates to the late 1930s but got its boost in the past 40 years as gas cost rose and smaller cars caught on in the U.S.

"Do you ever find yourself wishing for a little more storage space in your car? For most everyday trips and errands, you really don’t need an SUV. A hatchback will boost your cargo capacity without making you feel like you’re driving something that’s too big," according to a June article on hatchbacks in U.S. News and World Report.

Such versatility keeps the brand, basically a coupe or trunk with a cargo bay instead of a trunk, in the public eye. 

In U.S News and World Report's list of top 23 hatchbacks, the gas-powered models all garner at least 30 mpg highway and as high as 43 mpg. The list also include electric vehicles such as the Chevrolet Bolt and Nissan Leaf. Models already out for 2019 include the Honda Fit and the Hyundai Veloster. New car prices on the magazine's list range from $13,050 for the 2018 Chevrolet Spark to $41,120 for a well-equipped '18 Ford Focus.

"Most of 2018’s best hatchbacks come from the subcompact and compact car classes, which is to be expected. Still, there is a lot of variation among these vehicles, even within those confines," U.S. News and World Report points out. "You’ll see models from a variety of manufacturers and across a lot of price points. There are even high-performance, hybrid, and EV options."

According to Edmunds online auto information guide, 19 carmakers count at least one hatchback model in their lineup. A few are luxury brands: Edmunds lists the Audi 2018 A5 and S5 as hatchbacks while BMW high-end hatchbacks include the i3 electric vehicle, 3-series Gran Turismo and the highest-priced 6-series Gran Turismo at $70,300.

"Ah, the hatchback: the love child between a sedan and a wagon," Edmunds quips on its website. "Or perhaps you could think of them as short SUVs."

The auto marketplace continues: "However you see them, hatchbacks are slowly making a comeback in the United States as car shoppers come to realize that their added utility doesn't have to equal dowdiness or cheapness. Indeed, some of the most appealing cars on the market now have a hatch for a back.

"Some are body-style variants of sedans, others are stand-alone models, and some are even available in two- and four-door variations. We also call out performance and hybrid and EV versions, so there should be a recommended hatchback for everyone, Edmunds notes.

For more information and photos, go to www.postandcourier.com/automotive.

Reach Jim Parker at 843-937-5542 or jparker@postandcourier.com.