Model Y Defined – Hatchback or Not?


As arguably the leading company in electric vehicles, Tesla is constantly striving to be innovative and efficient with their cars, as seen by their newest release of the Model Y. However, appearance and design-wise, consumers are confused as to what a Model Y really is in terms of body style. Does Tesla define it as a hatchback (rendering it Tesla’s first),  a sedan like the Model 3 and Model S, or an SUV like the Model X?

Model Y is not technically a hatchback. Tesla’s Model Y is defined as an electric compact crossover utility vehicle (CUV) that identifies more closely to an SUV than it does as a hatchback in body style and builds. It does have a high-riding hatchback. It takes more than just the trunk design for any vehicle to be officially considered a full-on hatchback.

Knowing the body style of a car helps consumers better determine what lifestyle and preferences that car is better suited for, which is why it is important to know whether the Model Y is a hatchback or not. We’ll answer this question by not only defining the Model Y’s body type but what elements set various body types apart and where the hatchback stands in Tesla’s future.

Is the Model Y a Hatchback?

The quick answer to this question is no, Tesla’s Model Y is not considered a hatchback. Instead, the company defines it as an electric compact crossover utility vehicle (CUV).

This term is often used interchangeably with SUVs, but SUVs are usually larger and better equipped for rough road conditions, while CUVs are more compact and fuel-efficient. Regardless, many like to consider CUVs a subcategory of SUVs.

Therefore, comparatively, the Model Y is more similar to Tesla’s other SUV model, the Model X, than any other electric vehicle created by the company.

Many confusion arises regarding the Model Y and its hatchback status because the electric car is equipped with a high-riding hatchback, referring to the car’s trunk design. Because of this feature, consumers can’t seem to agree on whether the car is a hatchback or an SUV. 

Although it might have hatchback elements, the Model Y is an SUV, albeit a small one is closer to a mid-size or even compact SUV than the full-sized vans people are used to picturing.

The reason hatchbacks and SUVs are so similar, and therefore confusing, is that an SUV takes many design elements from hatchbacks and simply increases them in size. However, there are other factors that differentiate an SUV from a hatchback and even a sedan in terms of body type design.

Hatchback Versus SUV and Sedan

To better understand why the Model Y is considered an SUV and not a hatchback, we’ll detail the differences between these two body types in addition to sedans, since two of the four electric cars created by Tesla are defined as sedans.

Size

The first overarching difference between a hatchback, SUV, and sedan is their size. Of all these body types, the sedan is technically the smallest vehicle, with average measurements of about 14 feet in length, 6.14 feet in width, and about 5 feet in height.

Hatchbacks usually sit right between sedans and SUVs in terms of size. On average, they measure 14.5-15.5 feet in length, 4.6 to 5.2 in height, and 5.6 to 6.1 in width. A lot of these measurements are pretty close to the sedan, but the hatchback is almost always longer than this body type and usually a bit taller. The width, however, usually stays pretty consistent, around 5-6 feet.

Finally, you get to the SUV, which is the largest body type of the three listed here. The average SUV measures 16.13 feet in length, 5.7 feet in height, and 6.31 feet in width, making it larger than both the sedan and hatchback on all accounts.

So, how do Model Y’s measurements compare to the averages of each body type? Looking at the Model Y, there’s no doubt that it’s small for an SUV, which is partially why people are hesitant to define it as such.

The car’s official 2021 measurements are 187″ L x 76″ W x 64″ H, so it is 15.6 feet long, 6.3 feet wide, and 5.3 feet tall.

Compared to the average measurements of a hatchback, the Model Y is larger on most accounts, but barely. Height and length are usually the biggest measurements that set all of these body types apart, but no one can deny that looking at a Model Y, it’s pretty close to a hatchback on both accounts. This is why other elements are taken into consideration for their defined body type.

Trunk Design

Considering the Model Y has a high-riding hatchback trunk, this element won’t really help differentiate it as an SUV versus a hatchback, but it’s important to note, nonetheless.

When comparing a sedan to a hatchback or SUV, one of the most recognizable differences is actually found in the trunk design of these vehicles.

Both hatchbacks and SUVs have boot compartments that aren’t separate from the rest of the car’s interior but rather open directly into the car itself. Because of their shared trunk design, many consider an SUV to be a type of hatchback in regard to its trunk, which gives many Tesla Model Y supporters grounds for claiming the car is, in fact, a hatchback.

When comparing this design to that of a sedan, it’s easy to see the difference between the two. Sedans are smaller cars in general compared to hatchbacks and SUVs, which, of course, translates to their trunks being smaller. However, this isn’t the most significant difference.

As we stated previously, the trunk in a hatchback and SUV is connected to the car’s interior so that you can increase your storage capabilities. On the other hand, a sedan has a built-in barrier that separates the trunk from the car’s interior unless you can fold down the rear seats.

Although there might be some debate for the Model Y being a hatchback instead of an SUV, you certainly can’t argue that it’s a sedan considering its size and trunk design.

Ground Clearance and Ride Height

A common feature consumers like about SUVs is that these vehicles usually have higher ground clearance and ride height than hatchbacks and sedans.

This makes the cars much more suited to off-roading, as the increased ground clearance prevents the car’s underside from scraping on rocks and other obstacles. It also helps drivers feel safer and more secure when they are sitting higher than most cars on the road, with the exception of the traditional truck.

With a ground clearance of 6.6 inches, the Model Y definitely isn’t the best choice if you aim to go off-roading since the standard is actually 8.5 inches.

However, it is significantly taller than the majority of sedans and hatchbacks that typically have a ground clearance closer to 5.5 inches. The best ones on the market will have around 6 inches, with only a handful having clearance as high or higher than the Model Y.

Style

We’re actually going to throw a curveball in here and discuss the Model Y’s design and how many like to argue that, considering its size, ground clearance, and smooth exterior, it’s really more of a minivan than an SUV.

SUVs are usually pretty distinguishable by their boxier exterior design, which gives them a sleeker and sportier aesthetic versus minivans with more of a curvaceous exterior. This is part of the reason why this body type is assimilated with family comfort and ease.

Looking at the Model Y, you’ll notice that its rounded exterior design doesn’t really reflect the sporty, clean-cut lines of traditional SUVs. Instead, it looks more like all of Tesla’s other sedans, but since it’s larger than them, people like to argue it should be considered a smaller minivan instead.

However, there is a reason behind the Model Y’s curvy exterior, aerodynamics. CEO of Tesla, Elon Musk, wanted extra emphasis placed on the Model Y being exceptionally aerodynamic. To do that, it had to be built with a smoother exterior to limit air resistance, especially considering its increased size.

By having a lower “Cd” or coefficient of drag, the Model Y requires less energy to move forward than it would if it sported the classic boxy SUV design.

Why Does the Model Y Have a Hatchback Trunk?

The hatchback trunk on Tesla’s Model Y seems to be a common source of confusion regarding its SUV versus hatchback status. However, as we stated previously, it is standard for most SUVs to have this design versus the separated trunks you’d find in sedans.

Although the hatchback was incorporated into the Model Y to follow SUV standards, there was another reason why Tesla was intent on this rear design over others.

One of Tesla’s motivators for moving away from a sedan body type and towards an SUV for the Model Y was actually because of consumer feedback on the Model 3.

As a crossover, the Model Y incorporated a number of elements from the Model 3 as well as their other SUV, the Model X, but reports on the Model 3 being cramped and uncomfortable are what really pushed Tesla to upgrade the Model Y to a larger, more spacious body type.

The Model 3 is arguably Tesla’s most popular electric vehicle because it is the most affordable, costing about $39,000 in its standard form. While this is still a significant sum for a new car, it is far more accessible to the everyday person than Tesla’s other sedan, the Model S, available for about $79,000 in its base form.

As a sedan, the Model 3 measures 185″ L x 73″ W x 56-57″ H, which converts to 15 feet long, 6 feet wide, and 4.7 feet tall. This left the Model 3 feeling particularly cramped in the back seat and left users with limited trunk space.

With a comparative size of 15.6 feet long, 6.3 feet wide, and 5.3 feet tall, Tesla upgraded every measurement from the Model 3 and incorporated the hatchback to provide consumers with that extra storage capacity they didn’t have in previous sedan models. 

Why Tesla Defines the Model Y as an SUV

If nothing we have discussed until this point has convinced you that the Tesla Model Y is actually an SUV and not a hatchback, don’t worry. You’re not the only one.

By comparing the Model Y to various car body types, it’s clear that Tesla could not define it as a sedan because it is much too large in its external dimensions and ground clearance. That, in addition to its hatchback trunk design, means anyone could tell it is not the same body type as the Model 3 or Model S.

Although it certainly shares many features with a hatchback, the Model Y is still technically too large, particularly in ground clearance, to really be considered this body type. However, the margin of difference between the two is extremely slim, and it’s easy to see that the Model Y looks much more like a hatchback or even a small minivan than an SUV.

Additionally, despite the hub surrounding its entry into the market, Tesla declined to enter the Model Y for consideration in the SUV of the Year awards. Many found this to be an odd decision considering the publicity it could have afforded the new release. Some wonder if the choice was intentional because the Model Y’s title as an SUV is an arguable misnomer.

In terms of size, the Model Y barely fits even the smallest of SUVs, and its title as a “crossover” only seems to aim at making the vehicle’s true identity more ambiguous. Pair that with the fact that the Model Y doesn’t aesthetically match traditional SUVs, and it’s no wonder why people are confused by its body type label.

So, why does Tesla label the Model Y as an SUV? Most people like to pin the answer down on sales.

From a business standpoint, SUVs are extremely popular vehicles on the market that appeal to consumers searching for a reliable vehicle that offers:

  • Off-roading capabilities
  • Decent towing capabilities
  • Extra seating
  • Ample interior space and storage
  • Has a reputation for safety and comfort

While minivans are a close second, they still have that soccer mom stigma versus the sporty SUV. Because the Model Y is too large to be a sedan and fewer people intentionally purchase minivans and hatchbacks, the theory is that Tesla defines their newest release as an SUV to hopefully increase its sales and overall success on the market.

Is There a Hatchback in Tesla’s Future?

Hatchback enthusiasts might be dismayed to hear that Tesla’s Model Y isn’t technically defined as a hatchback but rather an SUV instead. Although the line dividing the two is a bit hazy, they can’t purchase a Model Y and claim they have a Tesla hatchback, but that might change very soon.

Despite Tesla being hard at work on their newest electric vehicle, the Cybertruck, there are some whisperings that the company is also working on a legitimate hatchback they hope to release in 2023.

The new electric vehicle is meant to appeal to European markets since consumers there seem to prefer hatchback models versus the Chinese market favoring sedans and the US favoring the SUV. Clearly, Tesla aims to be a pivotal force in the industry worldwide.

Not only is the company intent on making a hatchback that will please European drivers in terms of efficiency and aesthetics, but the goal is to make it affordable as well. The number currently on the radar for the new Tesla hatchback is a starting price of $25,000. This would make the hatchback Tesla’s most economically accessible car to date, handily defeating the Model 3 by nearly $15,000.

This demonstrates that Tesla is making a significant push to becoming more and more accessible to the public worldwide, considering their newest invention, the Cybertruck, set to be released in late 2021, also comes with a shockingly low sticker price starting at $39,900.

Tesla has always held a gold standard when it comes to electric vehicles, but drivers worldwide are now pleased to see that these luxurious and eco-friendly vehicles are slowly coming down to their economic level.

If they can pull it off, the Tesla hatchback would be a significant addition to the market, both for Europe and America, considering the consumer appeal for these spacious but compact vehicles.

Final Thoughts

If you still have your doubts about Tesla’s Model Y being defined as an SUV rather than a hatchback, know that there are plenty of others who join you in this debate. However, for the sake of sales and American consumer appeal, the Model Y has and always will be considered an SUV, albeit a compact one.

Luckily, for those of you who really wanted an official Tesla hatchback, you might be getting one and relatively soon. With a hatchback currently in the works, Tesla is eager to release their most affordable electric vehicle in 2023, so keep your eyes peeled for news on the hatchback’s development.

Greg

Hi, I'm Greg. My daily driver is a Tesla Model 3 Performance. I've learned a ton about Teslas from hands-on experience and this is the site where I share everything I've learned.

Recent Posts