While minicars rebounded in Q1 of 2017, the subcompact car segment started the year deep in the red with a loss of 15.7% compared to the first quarter of 2016, for a total of 117,995 sales. The segment top-3 all lost with double digits, as the rise of the subcompact crossover segment undoubtedly plays a role in the struggles of the similarly sized sedans and hatchbacks. Then again, no less than four out of the nine players are due to be renewed this year (Chevrolet Sonic, Ford Fiesta, Hyundai Accent and Kia Rio), while two others are in the second half of their life-cycle (Nissan Versa, Toyota Yaris) as well.
Highlights for Q1 2017:
- The Nissan Versa (including the Versa Note hatchback) already lead the segment in Q1 of last year but lost it to the Kia Soul for the full year 2016. As the Soul lost more than a quarter of its volume in 2017, the Versa’s 15% loss gave it a controlling lead over its rivals, with a 26% share of the segment and a comfortable distance to the #2 Soul, which has finished on top of the segment every year since 2011.
Fellow South-Korean models Hyundai Accent and Kia Rio showed impressive growth figures in the second half of last year but appear to have run out of steam as their replacements are expected in showrooms in the second half of this year. The new generations should give each nameplate a nice boost in volume, but will come to late to make much of an impact in this year’s rankings.
- After taking a significant loss in 2016, the Ford Fiesta shows some resilience in the fall of its life cycle and jumps two spots to the #4 position. The new generation will enter showrooms in the second half of the year, so the model is likely to slow down in the next few months.
- The Honda Fit continues a slow but steady improvement, which in a shrinking segment means a growing share, and it stays well ahead of the Toyota Yaris iA, the rechristened Scion iA. The 19.2% gain after the switch from the wannabe youth brand to the “mother brand” proves once more that the Scion experiment has failed. Then again, a rather boring rebadged Mazda2 sedan with an awkward front-end simply fits better in the Toyota line-up than in that of a brand that was once known for its funky, boxy designs but had lost its mojo since.
- The Chevrolet Sonic not only suffers from nearing the end of its life cycle, but also from intrabrand cannibalization as both the smaller Spark as the larger Cruze have already been renewed last year and are attracting buyers away from the Sonic.
- The Toyota Yaris appears to continue its up-again, down-again momentum as it’s the fastest growing model in the segment at +40.3% after being the biggest loser in 2016.
Note: clicking on the model name opens the sales data page for that model; clicking year in the legend turns the display for that year on/off