Thanks to a flood of redesigned models, the compact car segment has grown faster than the overall market and has closed in on subcompact cars as the continent’s biggest segment. However, with no more new products in the pipeline until the end of the year and ever-more competition from premium compact rivals as well as small crossovers, 2015 may prove a difficult year for compact cars.
Volkswagen Group is still ultra-dominant, increasing its share of the segment to 44% with over 1 million units sold. Of these, 865.000 are underpinned by VW’s new modular MQB platform, a number which increases to over a million units when we include the Audi A3, the premium compact segment leader, which would rank in fourth place overall if the two segments were to be combined.
Possibly even more impressive than the record 23% share of the Volkswagen Golf is the first-ever top-3 ranking of the Skoda Octavia, not that far off the second place of the Ford Focus. In fact, the Octavia outsold the Focus 7 out of the 12 months, including each of the last three, proving the Focus’ facelift hasn’t come a day too soon.
After losing its third place in 2014, the Opel/Vauxhall Astra look set to lose another spot this year, as it’s been outsold by the Peugeot 308 in each of the last three months of the year as well, while the new generation Astra won’t become available until the end of the year.
The Seat Leon has a record year, becoming the best selling Seat for the first time since the Ibiza took that title almost 30 years ago, and cracking the compact segment top-6 for the first time ever. The new generation and the addition of the Leon’s first ever station wagon have surely helped, especially considering almost a third of all compact cars sold in Europe are of that body style.
Both the Renault Megane and the Toyota Auris have been overtaken by the charging 308 and Leon and the former is in danger of losing another spot to the Auris if deliveries of the new generation Megane don’t hit showrooms in time in the second half of 2015.
With the Octavia on a compact car platform, but actually sized between the compact and midsized segments, Skoda has room for another model between it and the subcompact Fabia. And especially the hatchback version of that model, the Skoda Rapid Spaceback, has struck a value-for-money chord with European consumers. As a result, Skoda is the only brand to have no less than two models in the segment top-10, and the Rapid is moving dangerously close to the Hyundai i30, at which it is obviously aimed. In fact, only 1 sale separated those two models in the last quarter of 2014.
The Citroën C4 is suffering from cannibalization of the successful C4 Cactus, which outsold the regular C4 in each of the last five months of the year. The Cactus indicates a new direction for the Citroën brand, making clever and useful technology available for an affordable price as opposed to stuffing cars full with expensive gizmo’s just for the sake of being a technology leader. Being on an older and smaller platform and using various weight-saving inventions, the C4 Cactus needs smaller engines and is more fuel efficient than most of its competitors. With a 16th position in the segment after just 7 months of sales, the Cactus is surely aiming for a top-13 position in 2015, and if the minor facelift of the regular C4 in the beginning of the year doesn’t help the model stabilize its sales slide, it may be caught by its quirky sibling.
The Nissan Leaf continues its strong performance in the European market, becoming the first EV to sell more than 15.000 units in a single year as well as the first to reach 30.000 cumulative sales already in October. However, it may be threatened by the subcompact Renault Zoe, which outsold the Leaf in each of the last three months of 2014, including by almost a 2-to-1 ratio in December.
Nissan’s all-new conventionally powered compact hatchback Pulsar has seen its sales steadily improve every month, and breaking into the December top-15, but at 2.600 sales, it’s still far off Nissan’s target of 64.000 annual sales for the model.
The fastest growing model of the segment is the Kia Soul, thanks to the introduction of its second generation. The Soul finished 800 units off the top-20 at just over 10.000 sales, which is still half of the 20.000 sales the first generation racked up in its first year on the market before plunging quickly.
The only all-new compact car to reach showrooms in 2015 will be the Astra, as the next gen Renault Megane won’t become available until early 2016 as Renault first will focus on the Kadjar midsized crossover and Laguna midsized car. A few other models will be updated this year; in the first quarter the Citroën C4 and Hyundai i30, followed by the Honda Civic around the summer and the DS4 in Q4.
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