The Subcompact segment shrank by 6%, a slightly faster decline than the 4% at which all the mainstream segments shrank compared to the first half of 2014. This is goes against the trend in recent years when subcompacts have been growing in popularity, and is probably driven by factors such as an aging line-up for most carmakers and lower gas prices compared to last year. It also seems like it might get worse for the segment before it gets better, seeing as there are no new models on the horizon beyond the Scion iA, a Mazda2 sedan in drag.
H1 2015 sales figures suggest there are three tiers of cars in the Subcompact segment. First, there are the market leaders – Kia Soul retains its position at the lead, though its lead over the second-placed Nissan Versa shrank to just around 1,000 units. It should be noted that while the Soul is only sold as a hatchback, the Versa comes in two flavors – a modern hatchback (Note in Europe) and an ugly, cheap 4-door sedan whose USP is that it offers the largest amount of interior space for a car in this price bracket.
The Chevrolet Sonic in #3 is leader of the second tier – its an aging design that used to play with the “big boys” but whose sales fell by 27% year-on-year. A new model is around the corner, too, though it remains to be seen if the consumers embrace the new design as well as they did the current model. The Hyundai Accent in #4 and Ford Fiesta #6 are both holding station. The Honda Fit is the new addition to the group, with sales up 63% year-on-year as the new model gains steam.
The third tier consists of the Kia Rio in #7, followed by Toyota Yaris in #8 and Scion xB in #9. The Kia model once again lags in sales compared to its Hyundai cousin, much like in the compact segment, despite arguably being the better-looking and better-reviewed model. It may be that consumers considering the Rio end up buying the Soul instead? The Yaris, which underwent a facelift in 2015, is gaining sales quickly, though it still sold only around a third of what the similar Honda Fit sold in the same period. The Scion xB and Nissan Cube are good reminders of how fickle trends can be. Their previous generations rode the erstwhile craze for Japanese-imported “boxes on wheels”, but both went wrong with the latest generation: the xB became too big (much like the Beetle) and the Cube became too funky. The Soul proves that, with a careful approach, it is possible to retain the “cool” with a new generation.