By on November 6, 2013

new-2014-renault-logan-for-brazil-first-photos-69640-7 Recently, as to the attention given by TTAC to the spy shots of what might be or not a future Ford Ka sedan in southern Michigan, commenter Kenmore asked, “Has any other sad little runt of an econocar ever received so much attention on TTAC?”. Since you asked, I’ll offer up a brief pictorial explanation. Renault unveiled its new Logan this week. The Logan, which reintroduced this kind of car to parts of the developed world, has really shaken things up in the developing one, where the compact or subcompact sedan has never really gone away. In reality the small sedan segment is split into two groups: The more basic and simple one and the so-called premium sub-segment. To confuse the issue even further, size is a determinant, but not the only one in consideration when classifying such cars. Other criteria are date of launch or perceived modernity of the project, design and finishing, and in the Brazilian market, product placement by the maker in a market still pliable to this kind of machination. fiat-siena-2011-05   Let’s start off with the smaller, or better said, cheaper side of the sub-segment. In this one, you’ll find cars starting off at around 25 thousand reais (USD$12,500) and topping off at about R$33,000 (USD$16,500). They tend to be smaller and older and share front fascia and interior with their hatch brethren. Prime examples are the Chevy Classic (below) and Fiat Siena (above). th The (older) Classic is an offshoot of the 90s second generation Corsa, while the Siena is nothing more than a Palio with a big ole butt. For a while there, they were the sole survivors in this segment and carried the torch forward. Typically, they have a short wheelbase of less than 2.4 m though the Siena will hold more luggage than a Civic or Focus sedan. This would be the natural place of residence of a future Ford Ka sedan due to size. renault-logan The Logan, when it arrived 7 years ago, really shook up the segment. Having a wheelbase of almost 2.6 m, wider and taller than the aforementioned cars, it straddled the market from R$29,000 (USD$14,500) to upwards of R$40,000. It rocked the market not only for its size, but also for its relative modernity. Sitting on the BO variation of the Renault’s B platform that underpins everything from a modern Clio to a Nissan Livina (and many in between), it offered buyers a thoroughly competent ride, simple but sturdy finishing and low maintenance costs. As to those who might say the Logan is based on an old platform, all you have to do is compare where the wheels go on it. It is the same placement as in a Focus or Civic. Now look where the wheels go on a Siena. The older cars were really nothing more than a hatch with a trunk added on and driving dynamics suffered. volkswagen-voyage-2013-04 The Logan was such a big hit that others scrambled to get into the game. Ford offered up the (old) Fiesta sedan, VW, after an 11 year hiatus, revived the Voyage name by putting a trunk into the Gol. Size-wise these cars were closer to the original Siena and Classic. The first to offer some competition on the Logan’s terms was the Chevy Cobalt. No relation to the American one, it sits on a Sonic’s platform, has a love it or hate it design, a nicer interior than the Logan. Chevrolet Cobalt 2012 The Cobalt consolidated and proved there was a higher end to this market, in which a hypthetical Ford Escort would compete. The Asians took note and wanted in and Hyundai was able to cook up the HB20 sedan while Toyota half-baked the Etios, not to mention Nissan and its Versa. Much like Ford’s new Fiesta, these cars are entirely up-to-date, split the difference between the smaller cars’ 2.4 m wheelbase and the Cobalt’s and Logan’s 2.6 m and offer modern amenities not seen in the segment even a couple of year ago. In their case the sales pitch is different. toyota-etios-sedan-06 Ford and Hyundai are banking on the design while Toyota tries to focus on the brand by mentioning the Corolla in every piece of Etios advertising. Results have been mixed showing that in this higher end of the sub-segment design is all important. While a hot seller at launch, sales of the Hyundai have slowed as the novelty factor wears off, while the Fiesta’s are taking off due to that same factor. Toyota meanwhile languishes and the car has just received an interior redesign after less than 2 years on the market. You can’t turn on your TV or computer without seeing the sad little Toyota’s face. 1948-Gand_Siena_Tetrafuel Not only those strive for consumers’ checkbook though. Tired of seeing sales slip away to the bigger cars, Fiat was able to hodgepodge together its Grand Siena. Not quite Logan size, it offers a smart interior and more size than the old Siena, not to mention bigger engines. GM decided there was place in it line-up for a 3rd small sedan and developed yet another variation on the Sonic platform, the Prisma using the Onix hatch as a base, which is aimed squarely at the Asian completion. Hyundai-HB20S-sedan-traseira A very important segment indeed. One in which the makers have pushed up to previously unimaginable heights the price of lowly hatches. They sell, sell well indeed. With that long wheelbase, they offer room for families with teens. With the big trunk they offer space for families with babies. Being sedans and not quite the same looking as the hatches, they offer the buyers the illusion they’ve stepped up in the car market. Riding on modern platforms and offering bigger engines, they truly compete with the likes of Civic, Fluence and others for more rational buyers. They have found a sweet spot in the market where consumers are happy to pay more, and makers are happy to provide. They’ll be around for a long time.

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34 Comments on “Dispatches Do Brasil: Small Sedans...”


  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Marcelo you should take some live pictures when you’re out and about in order to do an article on the cars of Brazil and their owners.

    • 0 avatar

      Yesterday I was behind an old Fiesta from the 90s. The car certainly had no shocks as it jumped and heeved about on the not very smooth asphalt. Would’ve made a very interesting video!

      To be honest, I have thought about that. With your interest I just may take you up on it. Yes, there are some things on the road here I’m guessing ou wouldn’t see in the First World.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Marcelo, do you see any imported used Toyotas like from the US over there? I know they take them from here in So Fl, when their owners don’t want them any longer and ship them over to the Caribbean and So America to be reconditioned

    • 0 avatar

      Hey Volt! Not meaning any disrespect, but I know many First World-ers think Brazil is a lawless den of coke dealing bandidos. Not really the case. The State is quite strong and willing to use its powers of police. Used cars can only be imported when they’re older than 25 years and are assessed by a government agency of being of “worthwhile historical importance”. So no Japanese secondhand, RHD cars or stolen or not American cars to be found. I remember reading that in South America, Peru and Ecuador had some problems with Japanese cars, but not here. I guess stolen or not American cars find their way relatively easy into Central America but they don’t get here.

      Just so you know, I used to know someone at the Italian consulate. Being a diplomat he could and did import a Fiat Punto for his personal use here. After a while, he sent the car back to Italy and bought a Brazilian Fiat. Why? Because even though he had special plates, he got tired of the police pulling him over every other day to check over his documents.

      • 0 avatar
        olddavid

        Marcelo- I understand the viewpoint, as here we see the pageantry and spectacle of Carnivale and the opulence of Ipanema contrasted by the brutality of the favela. It’s the same thing you’d get were you to picture the hovels in Appalachia or the camps of migrants side by side with Star Island or South Beach at night. We all know the reality of truth is far more complex than these extreme examples. It doesn’t make them any less deplorable, however. On a positive note, I am in awe of the accomplishment your country achieved by alternate fuel strategy. You remind me of us after WWII, on the brink of something new and optimistic.

        • 0 avatar

          Hey olddavid! I understand completely. I remember here the tragedy of Katrina, how the media almost lovingly portrayed the victims. Whispers of, wow!, that looks like us and not the America I see in my mind’s eye…I digress, but rest assured that secretly, most Brazilians envy you guys!

          As to being on the brink of something…that’s Brazil’s promise and its folly, a selling point and a travesty. We have been the country of the future since at least the end of WWII. Problem is, that future never comes!

          • 0 avatar
            olddavid

            The hard part is finding selfless humans able to see the big picture and manage the resources for the betterment of society as a whole. An ancient problem. It is why we revere the few of history who have actually accomplished this. But, this is a car blog, and I digress. When I googled Brazilian auto sales, I was astounded. Almost 4 million. No wonder the majors are in tune. You must get some interesting offshoots, like the unique VW’s I’ve seen on Curbside Classic.

    • 0 avatar
      Onus

      All us territories are subject to FMVSS. Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Northern Marianas islands. They amended it at somepoint to include the territories as “states.”

      Puerto Rico is treated like a state by federal agencies.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Marcelo I often visit Puerto Rico and they have an affinity for old Toyotas where you see a very large, much larger percentage of old ones than you do here in the states, perhaps it’s a Latin thing, but we tend to hold on to our old cars a lot longer than Americans and yes Brazil is no 3rd world hole, but just like in the US and other countries there are plenty of poor folks who still need to get around and don’t have the means of buying new or almost new wheels and they must do with cheap, basic transportation. BTW I never said these were stolen at all, I meant that they are bought off salvage yards and made to run again. Car thieves don’t bother with old cars for export, no money in that.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m not knocking you at all! The stolen thing probably got into my mind as here in Brazil we suffer with our next door neighbor Paraguay, which has very lax registration standards and quite a number of Brazilian cars get robbed here and resold there.

      As to Puerto Rico, well I guess it’s “part” of the US so I don’t know if there are any restrictions in commerce in auto vis-à-vis the US, but I’d guess not. So why not have a lot of older Toyotas right? People hold on to the cars longer because they don’t have money to upgrade.

      Comparing Puerto Rico to Brazil is impossible. Even though Brazilians are classified as Hispanics in the US, they’re not. There are subtle, but also large differences between our Luso-Brazilian culture and that of our Hispano-American neighbors. I don’t have any doubt that older Japanese cars would have a large following here though, that is if they were allowed to get here at all. As is, they’re not, and Japanese makers presence here in Brazil is recent. That means that as the cars get older, there’s not really that much support for them and they’re not available in any great number. I think poorer people make do with Brazilian makes and that’s strike two against Japanese makes ’cause many still don’t know they’re Brazilian built. As imported means very expensive in Brazil, that means that once a Japanese car is older than say 8 or 10 years, or is moving on to its fourth or fifth owner, the harder it gets to find a home for it. Most poorer people here make do with what are perceived as Brazilian, that is VW, Fiat, Ford and GM.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    No problemo Marcelo, I always enjoy reading your articles and your perspectives in TTAC. Keep it up!

  • avatar
    juicy sushi

    Marcelo, thanks for the clarity on this market. How’s your little Ka by the way? I really enjoyed the piece you wrote on it before…

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks Juicy Sushi! The Ka is doing what it’s always been doing. Losing a little water, turning the lights on the instrument cluster on and off. Last week end I went throught it with a fine comb. Took some of the finishing pieces off of it and reassembled them, cleaned some of the internal parts. It’s still a good ride, though if I can’t get those issues fixed, it’ll probably go when I have some money. I’ll then inherit my wife’s Logan that in 5 yrs has had minimal issues (none of which were not fixed at first try with minimum cost and hassle), while a car like the ones pictured above will be bought for her.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    The Etios just looks like an old Echo we had here in the late 90s. The Hyundai one looks much better, and has an Accord-style rear end. I’m very offended by the face of the Sonic, as it’s hideous.

    Question for Marcelo: Didn’t you say Toyota and Honda are much more aspirational makes than Hyundai/Renault/Dacia? I recall you saying something how the CRV is a luxury model.

    But seeing new car offerings like this (2.4-2.6m!) makes me glad to live in a place where large cars are very plentiful. And I can drive around in my 4.93m car.

    • 0 avatar

      2.4 m and 2.6 m are the wheelbases. You got that right? In total length I think all of them are closer to 5m, though the Chevy Classic and the old Siena would be shorter. The Cobalt (that i’m assuming you’re calling Sonic) is the longest here. It has a very nice road presence and though like you many here are offended by that face, I’m not. In fact, when it’s time to change cars, it’ll be under consideration alonside the new Logan. Those would be prime candidates for my garage.

      The Etios is a sorry looking affair. Take the old Logan pictured above. imagine it melted and shrunken in the sun, and there’s youe Etios. even in the 90s this car would look offensive. The hyundai really doesn’t do it for me, though I understand why people like it.

      Honda and Toyota I guess are tired of being aspirational brands I think and are chasing volume, Toyota more actively, Honda in a roundabout way. Honda has a car named City that fits right in with these cars, size and engine wise, though they price it at over 50k reais. If you value the honda badge that much it’s a valid option. The City is a Fit sedan by the way and competes with Fiat Linea and VW Polo, and some other cars.

      There are other cars in our market in this price range. Such cars as Fiat Punto or Idea, Nissan Livina, Chevy Spin. But they are either smaller or, if not, more expensive than the sedans pictured. Just so you have an idea,the Ford EcoSport or Renault Duster, CUVs based off the Fiesta and Logan, start at around 60k reais. CUVs like CRV, Fiat Freemont (known to you guys as Dodge Journey) start at 80k reais or more and don’t really otperform these cars.

      These cars are by the combination of price, trunk, internal space, insurance and maintenance costs, the best cost benefit in Brazil.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Ok, I was thinking the 2.4-2.6 was the overall length, not the wheelbase. Their overall length can’t be near 5m though, as the 4.92m I cited was the overall length of my car, and it’s quite large. I just checked my wheelbase, and it’s 2.91m.

        Sounds like everything is just so expensive there. The Freemont sounds overpriced – and the Journey here isn’t a good car (very few people buy them)!

        And I did mean Cobalt, yes. I got distracted by the huge headlamps and said Sonic instead.

        • 0 avatar

          Yep sorry, got confused too:
          Lengths:
          Cobalt – 4.479 m
          Versa – 4.47 m
          Logan – 4.28 m
          Grand Siena – 4.29
          Voyage – 4.215
          HB20 – 4.2 m
          Etios – 4.265 m
          Classic – 4.152 m
          Siena – 4.14 m
          City – 4.4 m
          Prisma – 4.275 m

          For comparison’s sake:
          old Corolla – 4.54 m
          Civic – 4.525
          Ford Focus sedan – 4.53 m

  • avatar
    nomandamarinero

    “Even though Brazilians are
    classified as Hispanics in the US, they’re not.
    There are subtle, but also large differences
    between our Luso-Brazilian culture and
    that of our Hispano-American neighbors” please elaborate on that, i’m from Argentina and would like to know how Brazil is different from us, less “third world”. I find interesting in your posts you allways forget to mention Argentina (nr. 1 commercial partner of Brazil) and our idiosincracy

    • 0 avatar

      I never said we were less third world than Argentina! If somehow you read that…If anything we are much more third world than Argentina. Uruguay is also much more civilized than we are. As Chile is too (possibly :)!).

      We are further along though than most Andean nations or Central American ones. With the exception of Costa Rica. They’re probably better manged than us. I’m tinking economically and in terms of government control over society.

      But again, we are much below Argentina. Plus your soccer is better than ours.

      I was talking in terms of culture. Being descended from Portuguese makes us a bit more flexible than Spaniards, less religious, less formal. Possibly less passionate too. As these are cultural and not economic differences, they can’t be graded really. Don’t forget we also have a much stronger African influence, and much less of a Native American one.

      As to Argentina car buying, I think it has changed over the years. There you get even more choice than we do, and you pay much les.. Traditionally, I also think Argentinians were much more into small sedans than Brazilians. Is that still true?

      • 0 avatar
        Onus

        Chile is doing good. They are rated top on many many useful metrics.

      • 0 avatar
        nomandamarinero

        We are very close in everything car related, our markets came from being totally independent in the early 90s to being ours totally dependent of what Brazil produces, that’s one of the reasons of the fewer and fewer diesel cars especially in the lower end of the market :/ But Brazil I can tell you socially has grown in a way that is amazing, and we are stuck in a rut of corrupt governments that makes us miss chances to grow.
        Regarding small sedans we are more inclined to hatchbacks as a principle but economy-wise a small sedan makes more sense if you can only afford one care per household

        • 0 avatar

          Yeah, yet somehow just to cite Renault they manage to offer the Koleos and Latititude there but not here. All makers do it really. You also don’t get 1.0s, except for the Ka right?

          BTW, corrupt governments are in no way exclusive to you. Pobre Latinoamérica!

    • 0 avatar
      Viquitor

      In reality Brazil has outgrown Argentina in the past 20 years. It’s a much smaller market that exports more that 70% of its domestic production to Brazil. And on the topic of “why Argentina gets the Koleos and other cars we don’t get”, mind the gap between Brazil and its 27 growing States,and Buenos Ayres. Most imported brands don’t have real representation in Argentina outside Buenos Ayres.

      In Brazil VW alone has over 600 dealerships. Also there’s no ethanol to be dealt with in Argentina.

      Also, there’s no Ethanol to be dealt with in Argentina.

  • avatar
    Autobraz

    Marcelo, last time I bought a car in Brazil (6 or 7 years ago) I remember considering one of the small sedans available back then (Fiesta, Corsa, Siena). But when optioning them with the minimal amenities I desired such as air conditioning, power steering and electric windows, the price would be a little higher than buying the base model one class up, which already included all the amenities and more on a much better chassis. That’s how I ended up with a Focus (base) instead of a Fiesta sedan (loaded) to be specific.

    Is this still the case? How does the group of premium small sedans compare to a “medium” sized car like a Focus or a Cruze?

    Abraços!

    • 0 avatar

      Autobraz, the market has changed Fact is a Focus or a Cruze nowadays start of at 60k reais. So it’s a major jump up. Siena, Classic with minimum amenities can be had for right around 30. 35 gets you Etios, Logan et al with all the minimal amenities. Plus most of them, at around 40k will not only have the minimal amenities, but will also sport safety features. I’d think that nowadays all of them come at least with power steering. So for 40 to 45k you get a very complete car with a larger motor, safety equipmet etc. Like I mentioned, the ride in most is quite acceptable and a hair probably under the Focus or Cruze, but that has to do with meaner finishing and sound deadening for example.

      Just so you know, the Cobalt and Logan offer infotainment systems with on line connectivity, real auto trans (in case of Cobalt the same as the Cruze’s 6 speed). It is a very different scenario from the last time you shopped here!

  • avatar
    infinitime

    Thanks Marcelo for an excellent article. I always find these articles to be more interesting than those about the latest Porsche or Range Rover. For the bulk of the motoring masses around the world, the sub-compact is the vehicle is choice and affordability.

    IMHO, the true measure of automotive technological advancement, is when features finally trickle their way down to the most basic of vehicles. In due course, I am sure many of these vehicles will be remembered in the same light as the original Beetle, Citroen 2CV, Austin Mini, and Fiat Pandas of the past.

    I only wish that Nissan/Renault would offer a localized version of the Logan in Canada. Though given that a base Versa sells for about $15,000Cdn here, it is doubtful that they want to venture any further down in pricing, for a lesser model…

    • 0 avatar

      that’s just it though infinitime. The Logan is not inferior to the Versa in any way. I prefer the logan to the Versa. It’s wider, taller, the seats are more comfortable and the interior is more refined. The suspension is better too. More comfortable, yet just as stable if not more at higher speeds. The 1.6 16v Renault engine is superior to the 1.6 8v the Logan gets, though the top of the line Logan uses that engine mated to a 4 apeed true automatic.

      Thanks for the kind words! I prefer to read and write about this kind of car too. Infinitely more interesting to me than the cars you mentioned.

  • avatar
    Viquitor

    Great post, Marcelo!

    On a sidenote, I’ve finally traded in my old Peugeot. Got a mk2 Citroën C3.

    • 0 avatar

      Great purchase Viquitor! Love that car. What model is it? 1.6? Keep me posted, I’m curious about the car, but have had no first hand experience with it. But it is in my sight!

      Thanks for the compliment!

      Abraço.

      • 0 avatar
        Viquitor

        It’s a rouge 1.5 Tendance with that Zenith windshield, got it about a month ago, just turned the first 1000 km. Since I no longer live in Niterói and my commute is 100% underground now I got the manual for a better time when away from the concrete jungle. Great car and great little engine, specially when burning alcohol.

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    i wonder if small CUVs like the Duster, Ecosport etc. will get a look in

    i question the point of sedans given their inherent lack of utility and the general trend of moving towards the hatchback quasi CUVs you see today

    truth be told, i drive a sedan but mine is closer to 2 tons and is v8 powered but i do look longingly sometimes at small SUVs just so i can hop over kerbs and rounabouts and occasional swallow a big screen TV or dryer whole

    besides the Duster i do like the looks of the Logan MCV wagon (as seen on the Dacia UK site)

    based on the Logan sedan but with the 900cc turbo 3 cyl. and a manual box… i do like despite having a long history with rwd cars

    • 0 avatar

      Sadly these small sedans have helped kill the compact SW in Brazil. Only 2 on offer and they sell much less than yrs ago. With the rise of the minivan and CUV, they seem doomed. These sedans sell much better than Duster due to price.

      As to hopping over curbs I’d say it’s more a fantasy than a reality! Don’t know if he alloy wheels will take the abuse. Anyways this is Brazil and cars are nudged up a notch. My brother has an American 1st gen Fusion. We have been to places where he and his wife had to jump into out Logan cause their car was scratching it underbelly and there was a ridge they couldn’t pass. The Logan was unfazed.

      In Brazil, most if not all of these cars’ backseats recline. So they’ll swallow most big screen tvs. A dryer is probably a bit much though! I think an EcoSport can’t do it either due to size while a 4×2 Duster just might take a smaller one. The 4×4 Duster trunk is shallower to accomodate the off road ear so it might be a tight fit too.

  • avatar
    mjz

    Marcelo, that new Logan is a nice looking design. Wish we could get a well equipped basic car like that for $12-$14,000 in the states.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    Oi Marcelo,

    I had to Google that Logan you put there. While keeping the perspective, it is a sharp looking car.

    You brought back to my mind all those econoboxes. Nope, I don’t miss them, my current ride has spoiled me.


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