US sales analysis Q4 2017 – Subcompact segment

Sales of subcompact cars fall fastest from among all mainstream segments

Sales in the US subcompact segment fell by 23.0% to 104,268 in the fourth quarter of 2017, getting dangerously close to 100,000, a level above which sales have been every quarter in the last decade. For 2017 as a whole, the segment shrank by 20.7% to 480,998, the steepest decline from among all mainstream segments. However, there may be good news on the horizon, as the vast majority of the segment is likely to be renewed in 2018, starting from the already-revealed new Hyundai Accent and Kia Rio, through the upcoming Chevrolet Sonic, Kia Soul and Nissan Versa replacements. Less good for the segment’s prospects will be the fact that Ford seems to have decided not to replace its aging Fiesta with the new model, which is already in sale in Europe.


  • The battle at the top of the segment was once again fought by Kia Soul and Nissan Versa, with the Korean model triumphing over the Japanese hatch/sedan duo; it managed this despite losing over a third of its sales in the final quarter of the year, as Q4’16 was a bit of an outlier for the model – despite the drop it still outsold the Versa in Q4’17
  • Selling less than a half of either the Soul and Versa ahead of it, the third-placed Hyundai Accent also lost sales at a faster pace: 26.7% for the year, compared to about 20% for the two segment leaders
  • The fourth-placed Honda Fit finished the year on a sour note, recording sales decline of almost 30% in the fourth quarter; this dampened what was already a performance that was, at best, moderately good for a new model in the segment, with the model losing 12.7% of its sales compared to 2016
  • The poor performance of the Honda was brought into sharp focus by the relatively good performance of the aging Ford Fiesta, whose sales were only down 5.2% for the year, boosted in large part by a modest 1.1% sales growth in the fourth quarter, driven quite possibly by the sellout of the discontinued 3-cyl EcoBoost mode
  • The only model to see its sales rise in 2017 was the Toyota iA, a thinly-disguised version of the Mazda2 sedan, which was sold as the Scion iA until the demise of that brand; unfortunately for the Japanese carmaker, the iA’s newfound popularity seems to have come at the expense of its older (and Toyota-engineered) Yaris cousin
  • The models at the back of the segment standings are also the ones that put in the worst performance in 2017 – Chevrolet Sonic, Kia Rio, and the Yaris’ hybrid cousin, Prius C, all saw their sales fall by more than 40%, although the new Rio saw a 6% rise in sales in the last quarter of the year, suggesting that the latest generation may lift itself from the back of the pack

Note: “AP” designates models that are classified in the Alternative Power segment, presented here for comparison; 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