By on April 6, 2011

Despite the media’s on-again-off-again love affair with the “OMG SMALL CARS ARE TAKING OVER!” storyline, the US-market B-segment isn’t exhibiting many signs of serious competition (at least in comparison to the C- and D-segments). The Versa has ruled the segment largely unchallenged for years, with only the Soul posing anything resembling a serious threat. Former rivals like the Fit, Accent, Yaris and Aveo are getting old and losing momentum, although most have replacements waiting in the wings. A new Versa is about to debut as well, but because it’s based on the smaller, cheaper Micra platform, it may give up the Versa’s value-size advantage. We’re still waiting for American consumers to flock to subcompacts, but maybe they’re just waiting for some serious competition in the segment…

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51 Comments on “Sales: Subcompacts, March 2011...”


  • avatar
    vvk

    Wow, go Fiesta!
     
    Fit sales are poor, considering it’s by far the best car in this segment.

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    With the Fiesta nipping at the Soul’s sales numbers why is only the Soul posing a serious threat?

  • avatar
    cdotson

    I disagree that the Fit is “by far” the best B-segment offering.  I wouldn’t argue if one said it was “in their opinion” the best, but on the whole it’s just competitive and not dominating.
     
    The Fit’s space utilization is excellent.  Fit and finish, handling, styling, and interior are all quite good.  It’s interminably buzzing/droning engine and lack of anything resembling acceleration or ability to merge onto a highway condemns it to buzz-box hell for me, and apparently for an awful lot of other segment shoppers.  I would take a Versa over a Fit in a heartbeat if I were forced to buy in this segment today despite it’s small penalties in cargo flexibility. The Versa’s passenger space is probably a little better than the Fit’s, but it’s interstate worthiness (at least with the 1.8) is undeniably superior.
     
    Plus, the Versa is available as a sedan.  You can’t forget that by not offering a sedan Honda abandoning the market for cheapskate mirror-foggers that won’t look at a hatch.

    • 0 avatar
      vvk

      That’s strange, because my test drive impressions basically match every review I have seen.
       
      Versa was a big disappointment, with pretty terrible 6-speed gearbox and gutless, droning engine. Yes, it was quieter and more comfortable on the highway but these are primarily city cars.
       
      I test drove two Fits: one with manual, one with automatic. I did not feel the engine as weak or inadequate in any way. In fact, it felt far sportier than Versa’s 1.8, no doubt due to its short gearing. The engine was very rev happy but also very flexible and easy to drive in traffic. The gearbox was delightful and the clutch was practically weightless and pretty much perfect. What really stood out was the steering. I am sure it is great for autocrossing — short and sharp. But it was too sharp, too darty for normal driving. That and the so-so braker were really the only negatives.
       
      Interior of the Fit is what really makes is so much better than anything else. I have a HUGE stroller that does not fit most cars. It easily fit the Fit :-) Versa — not so much. The back seat in the Fit is amazing, too. It is much better suited for a family with kids, IMHO.

    • 0 avatar

      In the late 90’s I had a 67 Mustang that ran high 17’s, just a bit slower than the Fit, and never had any issue merging onto highways.
       
      There is a sedan version of the Fit, sold in Asia and South America as the Fit Aria/City/Saloon.  My guess is that they would rather have buyers move up to the more expensive Civic in the US and Europe.

    • 0 avatar

      I have an 08 versa hatchback with the 6spd and haven’t had much to complain about in the engine department. Sure, under 4k rpm its a dog, but between 4500 and 5500 there is fun to be had. That’s par for the course in this segment.

      My issues with the versa are the interior layout and the suspension. I somehow convinced myself that I could get an aftermarket armrest for less than the option price when I bought the car and 3 years later I’m still armrestless and hating it. Who makes an armrest optional?

      Its far too easy to get the car moving faster than the body would like you to on back winding backroads. A quick downshift and slight braking helps bring it line, but its not a comfortable maneuver for passengers (although my 2 year old loves it). Its far easier to motivate than my wife’s 06 xB (5spd with the TRD cool air intake), but less sure of itself in the corners. Thats counter-intuitive to me given the xB’s height.

  • avatar
    Kosher Polack

    “We’re still waiting for American consumers to flock to subcompacts, but maybe they’re just waiting for some serious competition in the segment…”
    I love me a fine subcompact, but it will always be easier to convince people that “bigger cars are safer” and “yes, you do need all that space” than it is to endorse frugality…for now.

    • 0 avatar
      baggins

      Bigger cars are safer, ALL OTHER THINGS EQUAL.  Surely you wouldnt argue that a Fit is as safe as an Accord?  You do realize that the safety ratings for frontal collisions are only comparable within the class of car.  Both NTSA and IIHS note that.

    • 0 avatar
      Strippo

      Ceteris paribus is not a Latin vocalist in the band Chicago. Bigger cars are easier to crash, all other things being equal. It’s easier to avoid crashes in a smaller car, all other things being equal. So if you don’t have a knack for avoiding mayhem, then by all means choose the bigger car, all other things being equal.

    • 0 avatar
      baggins

      Strippo – how about a motorcycle then?
      Dont be daft, its a minuscule small number of accidents that one can avoid in a Fit that arent avoidable in an Accord.
       
      But if it makes you feel better….
       
       

    • 0 avatar
      Strippo

      I may be daft, but I’m 49, I drive 23,000 miles a year and I’ve never traded paint. Ever. Momentum kills. The smaller the car, the faster you can drive without trading paint.
      So yes, it makes me feel better.

      PS – Four wheels good, two wheels bad.

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        I may be daft, but I’m 49, I drive 23,000 miles a year and I’ve never traded paint. Ever. Momentum kills. The smaller the car, the faster you can drive without trading paint.
         
        I see.  I was wondering why a Smart car has such great braking and handling performance compared to a car with twice its mass that pretends to be sporty, such as an Audi S4 or BMW M3.  Now I know: momentum is the key.  There’s no good way to change the speed or direction of that extra weight.  You can have better weight distribution, bigger brakes, bigger tires, and a better suspension setup, but if the car is heavier, it’s just not going to do well in emergency situations.  Phyziks will simply not allow it.

  • avatar
    AKADriver

    All I seem to learn from these charts month after month is that:
    – Critical acclaim (Fit, Fiesta) is a sure recipe for mediocre sales, and,
    – If I like it (Mazda2), it’ll flop like a barrel of rotten fish.

    • 0 avatar
      srogers

      I’d hardly call the Fiesta’s sales mediocre. It’s only 2% away from 2nd place.

    • 0 avatar

      I would be willing to bet that subcompact buyers are extremely leery of American-made subcompacts and are watching CR data on the Fiesta very closely.
       
      The fact that the Fiesta outsold Scion, Chevy, Suzuki, Toyota, and even the incredibly good Honda Fit in spite of all the bad subcompacts American firms have sold in the past is a triumph. If it turns out to do well in reliability, it’s got a very strong chance of taking second or even first. It’s way too early to call Fiesta a bust.

    • 0 avatar
      Demetri

      The Mazda2 should sell better when it isn’t hamstrung by an ancient drivetrain anymore.  It will be getting a Sky engine, just like the Mazda3 is getting for the upcoming model year.  It isn’t clear when the 2 will get the new engine.  2013 MY seems likely.  It may even be a full redesign for 2013, as the current 2 is coming up on its 5th MY worldwide.  Once they get that new engine in there, I’ll probably be buying one.  It’d be nice if they could bring the 2-door over as well, but I’m pretty sure that that isn’t happening.

  • avatar
    redmondjp

    “You can go with this, or you can go with that . . . dip . . . dip . . . dippity”

    Looks like a lot of folks are going with this, ten times as often as they are going with that.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      The Soul has consistently been outselling the other 2 “toasters” by a comfortable  margin, but this explosion in sales is a bit puzzling (maybe some good deals on the Soul for March?).

    • 0 avatar
      jj99

      I see a lot of Soul on the east coast.  Very nice.  Lots of Fit also.  Mostly young drivers.

      Have only seen a couple Fiestas.  Both piloted by old women.

    • 0 avatar
      GuernicaBill

      Funny story about the Soul, Alamo tried to rent one to me last week as a “Standard” car — when I went back to the desk and said it was too small BECAUSE IT’S A SUBCOMPACT they acted surprised but then rented me one of their other “Standard” cars, a Sonata. NO HAMSTA GANGSTA FER ME LOLZ!!!!111

  • avatar
    Mullholland

    If you’d like to see more competition in this segment, I’ll arrive soon via Hyundai’s all-new Accent. Coming in both a 4-door and a 5-door hatch. Not edgy enough for you? The Veloster follows up in the fall.
     

  • avatar
    Dr.Nick

    I test drove the Soul, Fiesta, Versa and the Fit, among other things (and ended up with a used Legacy, go figure). The Soul is substantial- much bigger seeming than the Fit.  Not as cavernous on passenger space as the Versa, but I think the Soul has a bigger cargo area than the Versa as well.  The Soul has mild NVH with the powertrain, but it was an impressive and great value package.  The Fiesta manual I drove was zoomy and fun, but with front seats in normal positions, there was almost no rear leg room. I’m impressed it’s doing that well, though.

    • 0 avatar
      jaje

      I’ve gotten to test drive a Fit and the Soul.  I had a rental Versa once and it was ok – little more low end torque and bigger inside.  The real surprise was the Soul on how good it was an overall package – a little blind spot here and there but it was by far my favorite and when we go looking for a new car this year it’ll be on our list.  The best subcompact to drive is still the Mini but it costs a lot more and you will want the S model.

    • 0 avatar

      Mini S only comes with run-flats. Sorry, no deal.

    • 0 avatar
      aspade

      Of all the things the manufacturer can get wrong bad tires are about the easiest thing to fix there is.  If 250 bucks and two hours – and that’s only if the dealer won’t swap them before you even pick it up – kill the deal you didn’t want the car much to begin with.
       
       

    • 0 avatar

      Hi aspade, the major issue with changing the Cooper S to regular tires is that it does not have a spare, and you can’t simply buy one, the S has a center exhaust and rear-located battery which deletes that rear storage compartment.  That leaves you with either a spare on the roof or a can of goo with a AAA membership.

    • 0 avatar
      jaje

      You’ll laugh but most people with MCS throw in a space saver tire in the back cargo area when going on long trips or use good and accessory powered air compressor.  I’ve even seen several mini’s with hitches towing a small trailer for vacation trips.  Seems to work quite well and negates the need for a large car / truck for long trips with storage space needed.

    • 0 avatar
      aspade

      On the roof?   Just throw it in the back seat, it’s not like you’d put people back there.

    • 0 avatar

      I would be wary about being crushed by the flying spare in case of an accident. I drive a jeep and take care to tie everything down (especially the hi-lift!)  with oversized straps and put a folding table to partition myself from flying junk. But jeep has pretty good tie-down points with rear seat folded.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    How long has the current Versa been around? Seems like almost as long as the Fit. I drive a subcompact (’05 xB), but when I test drove all of them, they ALL are too buzzy on the highway.
     
    Cars today are fitted with gearsets to guarantee a sub 10 second 0-60. In subcompacts, that guarantees buzziness on the highway.

  • avatar
    MarcKyle64

    Hyundai needs to advertise their Accent as much as they do the Elantra and Sonata.  It really is a capable little hatchback.  For once, nothing currently offered on the market in my price range appeals as much to me as just keeping my 2010 accent, I have zero buyers regret.

  • avatar
    SV

    I’m thrilled to see the Fiesta doing well after a slow start. Seems poor rear seat room and a relatively high price aren’t enough to overshadow its other merits (of which, IMHO, there are many).
     
    The 2 isn’t looking so hot, but it’s doing much better than in previous months. It deserves to do better; personally it’s in my top 3 in this class, alongside the Fit and Fiesta.

  • avatar
    Doc

    What happened to the Kia Soul? I am also continually surprised by the low sales of the Scion xD.
    At the Detroit Auto Show, the Scion area was the most crowded area there (it was however high school student day). The area that was the most empty was Acura.

  • avatar
    HoldenSSVSE

    Surprise for me:

    Fiesta is getting stronger, go Ford go! And they said it wouldn’t sell due to price.

    Weakness of the Honda Fit

    The pitiful sales of the Toyota Yaris. Either buyers aren’t cross shopping or they are rejecting.

  • avatar

    I’m more surprised at the lack of Qube power. That thing is terrific.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      I agree.  We’ve had Cubes and Souls traded in, and the Cube has a much nicer interior.  Plus, I kind of like the asymmetric rear window treatment.

    • 0 avatar
      Roundel

      The Cube is really a much better car than the Soul. Its an aquired taste though.
      Its Versa bones make it a roomy and comfortable vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      colin42

      Nullo – I thought the Soul & Cube had been out for less than 2 years – who in there right mind trades in a car within 2 years?

    • 0 avatar
      Banger

      Pete Zaitcev
      I’m more surprised at the lack of Qube power. That thing is terrific.
       
      Hear, hear!
       
      We bought a 2010 Cube in December, and we’re loving that thing. It’s absolutely a terrific little driver in town because of its unparalleled visibility– even the Soul can’t touch it. My wife, who is 5’3″, loves that aspect because most cars make her feel blind, with their low seats, high door sills, hoods that disappear seemingly immediately after the windshield (even though you know fully well they don’t) and trunklids that obscure rear visibility. The excellent visibility from any seat, comfy lounge-like seats that don’t grow tiresome on longer road trips, better-than-EPA highway mileage (getting lots of 37 mpg tankfuls on the highway lately), and a surprising ability to swallow more cargo than it has a right to make it one heck of a deal for roughly $16,000.
       
      The only thing that I’m not a huge fan of is the Cube’s propensity to be blown about in strong crosswinds on the interstate. But we don’t commute on the interstate. In fact, our commutes are on 45-55 mph two-lane highways. Which feel like the Cube’s natural element every bit as much as crowded downtown areas, to be honest.
       
      I think the big problem is Nissan’s refusal to market the Cube. And I think they refuse to market it because it’s one of few U.S.-market Nissans being produced in Japan currently. The Versa, its platform-mate, is produced in Aguascalientes, Mexico for the U.S. market. The exchange rate with Japan is not exactly favorable to profitable sales of what is, at the end of the day, an economy car selling mostly sub-$20K models. This is part of the reason, I suspect, you’ll see the $10,000 Versa “bait car” in front of many Nissan dealers here, but seldom see Cubes selling for less than $15,000. (The other part of the reason would be the comparatively not stripped standard feature list on the Cube and Cube S.)
       
      If the exchange rate with Japan improves in Nissan’s favor (which might happen over a couple years in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami) or if Nissan gets logical and  decides to build the Cube for U.S. consumption on the same assembly line as the Versa in Aguascalientes, I’d say we’d see more Cube sales in the future. It’s too great a daily driver to write off at this point. Everybody I know who has been in one finds a lot to like about it. A few folks (us included) looked at them out of curiosity and ended up falling in love with the practicality of the darned thing. It’s a winner if Nissan can find a way to build it more profitably and start marketing it on the same level they market the Versa.

  • avatar
    Joss

    The Versa (hatch) has been around since July 06. Where is the guy the Fiat?

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    This segment will also be impacted by $4.50/gal gas, and Japanese production problems.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    What’s interesting to me about this one is how much positive press the Mazda 2 and Suzuki SX4 have received, compared to negative press for the Aveo. Yet, the Aveo outsells those to superior cars combined. That just goes to show you, it ain’t about “driving,” … it’s still about “price” when it comes to small cars.

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    In my opinion the car that is truly overpriced in this segment is the Fiat 500. After the novelty wears off and given Fiat’s limited dealer network I fully expect the 500 to be a non contender.
     
    Being that it’s built in Mexico there is no logical reason that it’s priced about $2k higher than a comparable Fiesta hatchback. Personally, if the Fiesta and 500 were priced the same I’d choose the Fiesta as I think it has a much nicer interior and a superior drivetrain.
     
    My guess is that when sales of the 500 flop a multi thouand dollar rebate will kick in to make the car price competitive with others in the class.
     
    It would seem Fiat is trying to take a page out of the MINI’s playbook but unfortunately for Fiat the 500 is no MINI.

    • 0 avatar
      Roundel

      the 500 is not supposed to compete head on with the Fiesta and the Accent etc.
      It is a premium small car aimed at the mini crowd. Its not a cheap econobox by any means.
      It has loads more going for it in style alone over the Fiesta, and that means alot.

      • 0 avatar
        mtymsi

        Style is completely subjective. In fact, I disagree with you, I think the Fiesta has better styling. What is premium about the 500? It certainly isn’t the drivetrain or interior. As far as I can tell there is nothing premium about the 500 as opposed to the MINI which is in fact a premium car.
         
        In my opinion there is no comparison between a MINI and a 500 so if it is the MINI market Fiat is targeting they are done before they get started. To the best of my knowledge the 500 is sold as an entry level economy car in every other market it is sold in and nothing has been changed for the U.S. market version that gives even a hint of a premium offering in this segment.
         
        Maybe I’m missing something, please explain what is premium about the 500.

  • avatar
    colin42

    My issue is that for a modest price increase (if one at all) you can get a compact car which gets better mileage and is a more comfortable drive. I understand that highway mileage is all about drag & gearing rather than mass but the elantra beats may of these cars on city mileage as well. One potential difference is none of the sub compacts have direct injection engines (yet)

    • 0 avatar
      Roundel

      This is the American problem. The fact that people will always think that If I can get bigger for not much more, why not?
      Not everyone likes big cars, and many offerings in this class are far more exciting then the dull as dishwater Corolla crowd.

      • 0 avatar
        colin42

        Roundel – You’re missing my point. I’m not saying that the small price difference is worth the extra space, I’m saying my moving up a class you can get a slightly bigger car with better mileage and better handling i.e. 2012 Ford Focus or Hyundia Elantra. I believe that part of the reason for this is the improved powertrains offered in the compact class. Now if ford offered a direct injection 1.6 in the Fiesta that might be a different matter…..

  • avatar
    Seth L

    Is anyone making deals on xD’s?  I could use an extra set of doors for cheap…


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