The Suzuki Hatch was a Kei car introduced by Suzuki in 1979. These particular cars had to conform to specific Japanese regulations regarding size, fuel economy, and engine power. As a result of these rules, Suzuki was tasked with coming up with a series of cars that were small enough to qualify as Kei cars, but high quality enough to become commercially viable. Their solution? The Suzuki Hatch. Arriving in 1979 straight from the shores of Japan, the Hatch took the car market by storm, impressing with its small size, manoeuvrability, and low fuel consumption.
The Hatch actually went by a different name in Japan and most other international markets. Originally known as the Alto SS30V/40V, the first generation of the subcompact car was rebranded and sold as the Hatch here. This first generation ended up being the only generation for the lovable Hatch, with subsequent models being known under the original Alto moniker. Because of this, the Suzuki Hatch was only available from 1980 to 1984. However, when it was originally sold, the car quickly became a sensation, in part due to its low cost and high fuel efficiency.
A Japanese Kei car, the Hatch isn’t exactly what you’d call spacious; however, the unique styling of the Hatch does provide for a well-laid out interior. Built on the platform of the Fronte passenger car, the Suzuki Hatch features three doors and a folding rear seat for extra storage space. When the rear seat is folded down, the Hatch gains a large boot that can be used to transport luggage or equipment.
Another selling point was the cost. In 1980, a new Hatch could be bought for roughly $1,900, far cheaper than any other new car on the market. This low price was partly due to the construction. Because of the strict regulations, the Hatch was not manufactured with performance in mind. For example, the engine didn’t have twin catalysts, and the two fewer doors translated to big savings for the Japanese automaker, and, in turn, the consumer. However, the smaller engine and diminutive size of the car aren’t exactly ideal, and may discourage some used car buyers from purchasing a Hatch.
Hatches are rare on today’s car market, though they do still exist. Some hatches have been retrofitted or modified to give them more engine power and performance. Whether modified or not, all Hatches tend to be reliable, manoeuvrable, and stylish. They offer comfort and convenience to any driver looking for a subcompact hatch. In general, the Suzuki Hatch makes for a great first car, and the maintenance costs simply can’t be beat.
Upon its launch, the Suzuki Hatch was outfitted with a two-stroke 539cc engine that had 3 cylinders. This engine had an output of roughly 21kW at 5500rpm and 52Nm of torque. Later, in January of 1981, a 4-stroke 543cc 3-cylinder version of the engine was introduced, with an output of 21kW at 6000 rpm and 41Nm of torque. While the Suzuki Hatch was never exactly a powerhouse, it always had a bit of poke that found favour with drivers. Some used versions of the Hatch on the market today may be able to be found with more power.
Export versions of the Hatch, such as those sold here, were available with 12-inch wheels. A 4WD version of the Suzuki Hatch was also put on the market in 1983. This particular Hatch, named the ‘Snow Liner’ also featured an extra 2.5cm of ground clearance. The Hatch ran on petrol and featured an aspirated single-barrel carburettor. In addition, the Hatch featured extraordinarily low fuel consumption, allowing the cars to be run very cheaply.
When other carmakers began to see what a sensation the Hatch was becoming in Japan and abroad, they decided to get in on the action. Subaru followed suit with a subcompact hatch known as the ‘Family Rex.’ The Subaru Rex featured a 490cc engine with an output of 23kW at 6500 rpm along with 37Nm of torque. The Rex was priced similarly low to attract car buyers from the same market. Coming into production immediately following the Hatch was the Holden Barina, featuring a 1.0L 3-cylinder engine with an output of 50kW and 103Nm.