Sales of subcompact cars in Europe are up just 4% in the first half of 2016, compared to 8,8% for the overall market, as the best sellers are starting to age. Still, it remains the biggest segment of the continent in terms of volume. There’s been a change of leadership in Q2, with the Renault Clio grabbing the lead from the Ford Fiesta, which is due to be replaced later this year. The Fiesta has been around since 2008, and so has the Volkswagen Polo. The Opel/Vauxhall Corsa is even older, having been developed in 2006, but at least it had an extensive update in 2014. That leaves the Clio and the Peugeot 208 as the freshest models in the top-5, both being introduced in 2012. And it shows: the Clio is the best selling model in Q2 and the first half, while the 208 is the fastest growing model in the top-5. The Fiesta has been the segment leader since 2012 but is now relegated to third place by the Polo. It has even come under threat from the Corsa, which outsold it in May and was just 2.000 units behind for the quarter. Outside the top-5, the Toyota Yaris keeps improving slowly but steadily, although the Dacia Sandero and Skoda Fabia weren’t far behind in Q2. In fact, the Sandero grabbed 7th place from the Fabia, despite the latter being brand new in 2015.
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The Citroën C3 will also be renewed this year, its new generation has already been revealed (with a mild version of the Airbumps from the C4 Cactus), but the outgoing model is still going strong, gaining 11% in the first half and staying ahead of the Seat Ibiza. The Spanish hatchback is also in desparate need of a replacement on VW’s MQB platform, but having had a second facelift last year, that’s unlikely to happen within the next 18 months. In the meantime, Nissan will replace the Micra and start production in a French factory operated by Renault. The new Micra will be larger than the current one, which falls between the Minicar and Subcompact segments in terms of size. Design-wise, it’ll take cues from the good looking Sway concept car in Geneva 2015. Its Japanese rivals Honda Jazz and Mazda2 have been renewed in the past twelve months and are making nice inroads, but remain niche players in the segment with just 20.000 sales in the first half. Suzuki is also working on a replacement to the Swift, which will arrive early 2017. The current Swift is down 16%, also because it might suffer from some cannibalization by the Baleno, which is the brand’s less sporty and more practical entry in the subcompact class. We also welcome the Ford Ka+ to the ranking, with a single sale in June. As long as the current generation Fiesta is still in sell-out mode at discounted prices, buyers may prefer to get the older but better equipped and arguably still better-looking alternative than the budget vehicle, but having the Ka+ at the bottom-end of the subcompact segment gives Ford some room to raise the content and price of the new generation Fiesta. We’ll have to wait until next year to see if this two-pronged approach to Ford’s most important segment in terms of volume pays off.
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