Geo Prizms have featured prominently on these pages – they’re regarded with nearly godlike status around these parts. Reliable, flexible, economical and surprisingly quick, the Prizm represented a good value when new, and due to it’s lack of a Toyota badge, a fantastic value on the used market.
But lets face it – most Prizms were used as a transportation appliance – poorly maintained then discarded with little life left. So when one in nice shape shows up for sale, it’s a fairly rare occurrence – and usually those nice rides are hobbled by the truly horrible 3-speed automatic. But for today, when Lee from Portland Oregon left a comment on a post here, letting us all know of his well kept, 5 speed Prizm… and again caused your humble correspondent much angst.
So yeah, it’s been a while since there’s been anything new here on Hatchtopia. But I do have a bit of an excuse – I’ve been helping out with the construction of a truly insane twin-engined hatchback known as the FX32 below. The FX will be racing in an upcoming 24 Hours of Lemons event – if you’re unaware, that’s a racing series for cars costing less than $500, and quite a riot.
If you’re a long-time Hatchtopia reader, you may have been wondering – when are we going to get an explanation of the nebulous Golden Age of Hatchbacks. You may have Googled it, Wikipedia’d it, looked at your local library or landfill – nothing. Today is your lucky day, hatchback historian.
It’s not very often I get to take a sweet hatchback out and really get some good photos – most of the time, I’m making due with whatever’s in the background, foreground and floating around in front. So when my buddy Jon told me he’d be happy to let me use his new Fiat 500 as a model, I jumped at the opportunity. The fact that Jon lived in a cool new neighborhood with lots of interesting architectural backdrops sealed the deal.
The diminutive stature of the 500 is hidden from straight on. Inside, it’s narrow, but the front seats are quite comfortable. Mirrors du jour – mounted on stalks are most visible at this angle.
Today is a very special day. The 20th anniversary of the purchase of my first car – damn I’m old.
A lot has changed in those twenty years. Used to be, I’d fill up the tank for less than 10 bucks and just burn it off driving aimlessly around, the suspension straining under the load of 5 unruly teenagers. It was fun. Now, a fillup costs 40 bucks or more and the bulk of my travel is commuting. That’s a chore I leave to a train conductor – because one thing hasn’t changed. I still want driving to be fun.
The 2012 Utah International Auto Expo is not a big-time event like Detroit, rather a more down-home affair along the lines of what your meat-and-potatoes American experiences every year about this time. I remember going to the Kansas City show back in high school and this is about the same – row upon row of everyday vehicles that you can get some seat time in while in a brightly light room. A showroom on steroids if you will.
Along these lines, the UIAE reflects the auto industry pretty well. The first thing that I noticed was the Jeep indoor test track. Sign up, show your driver license and you get to take a Jeep up and over a massive incline, over an obstacle course and back to the start. A cool event to be sure, but in years past, that space was taken by cars. The auto industry has shrunk and what used to be relegated to the north parking lot of the South Towne Expo Center is now in the north end of the hall.
But the reason we’re here is the hatchback. And there’s quite a few of them in many different classes – from basic econoboxes to the most exotic of exotics. This recap should be in no way be construed as a be-all, end-all overview of what’s available, more just what caught my eye. In that vein, I’m going to organize this post not by manufacturer and list off a bunch of boring stats, but rather into some more… esoteric categories. Special thanks goes out to Scott from needthatcar.com for setting some rather nasty picks on unsuspecting people, allowing me clear space for the (camera) shot.
Click on the photos for hi-res goodness. Let’s begin…