Hatchbacks are hip and hot -- even for those of us not in our 20s

My best friend from college is always very stylish. She prefers to wear a lot of black.

So when she drove in from Washington, D.C., for a visit this past weekend, I wasn't surprised to see her pull up in a hatchback.

We stood in my driveway admiring our hatchbacks, vowing to never drive a sedan again. She demonstrated the ease with which she stowed her three suitcases as I cooed.

Then she cooed at the comfort of my hatchback's seats and the ease with which we toted around a 94-pound dog, yet still enjoyed a fun, sporty drive, smooth ride and great fuel economy.

I've now owned two hatchbacks. Credit the Europhile in me for my fondness. Across Europe, hatchbacks account for about 99 percent off all compacts sold. In the United States, though, hatchbacks accounted for 8.3 percent of all compacts sold in 2009, according to published reports.

But Ford Motor Co. discovered last year, counter to conventional wisdom, that hatchbacks make up 50 to 60 percent of all Fiesta subcompact sales.

Ford didn't see that coming. Company executives assumed U.S. consumers would prefer sedan styling.

And now the Focus hatchback accounts for around 40 percent of Focus sales, Ford says.

"American car buyers have grown accustomed to the convenience of hatch body styles after years of owning SUVs and crossovers," says George Pipas, Ford sales analyst.

My friend and I have never owned an SUV or crossover.

We just realize that the hatchback is the new black.

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