Today, hatchback family cars are universal: every company makes them, and every marque features them, they are a pillar of the modern automobile industry, and its easy to forget that things were not always as such. When the Austin A40 Countryman was introduced in 1958, it was in a class of its own; it’n not that it was better than everything else, there just wasn’t any equivalent model! The little family car was designed by Pininfarina, which gave it a clean look, and was one of the first vehicles to feature an horizontally split rear hatch, with the bottom part coming down and the top flipping up.
Mechanically speaking, the Austin A40 Countryman was nothing special or exceptional, and shared many components with the Austin A35. It was powered by a 950cc four-cylinder engine that produced, at best, 34 horsepower, so it was hardly a weekend racer. Dedicated motorists who enjoyed white-knuckles driving could reach a top speed of 72 miles per hour, and acceleration to 60 mpg was a pathetic 35 seconds, but speed was hardly the point.
The Austin A40 Countryman holds its place in automotive history as the first true family hatchback, and nothing can take that away from it; besides that, it was a very ordinary car with sub-par performance. This is unfortunate, because out of the 340,000 cars that were produced before it was discontinued in 1967, very few remain.