By on January 20, 2015

2015 Nissan Versa Note redWith the hatchback Note available for the duration of the 2014 calendar year, Nissan’s Versa lineup posted huge year-over-year gains in the United States in 2014.

Total Versa volume jumped 19%, or 22,429 units, to a class-leading 139,781 sales in 2014.

• Segment grows in a stagnant car market

• Fit ranked second in the category in 2014 Q4

New Mazda 2 arrives this year

Had Versa volume declined 19%, it still would have ended 2014 as America’s top-selling subcompact. The Versa’s market share in the strict confines of this nine-car subcompact category grew from 23.3% in 2013 to 26.8% in 2014.

The latter stages of 2014 were slightly more difficult for the Versa, as interest in the Honda Fit continued to build and even Toyota’s revamped Yaris generated far more sales activity than is usual. The Versa’s December share slid to 22.9%.

The subcompact segment as a whole was surprisingly strong given the tendency of consumers to veer away from cars in 2014. The total car market was up less than 2%, but subcompact volume increased nearly 4%. Strong growth from the second-ranked Chevrolet Sonic was a big help. An all-new Fit produced year-end gains of nearly 6000 units.

On the flip side, the Hyundai Accent’s improvements were not sufficient to overcome the losses of its platform-mate, the Kia Rio. The ST halo hatch has not provided the Fiesta lineup with any boost: sales fell 11% in 2014, and the Fiesta fell from third place in the category in 2013 to fourth in 2014. The Fiesta ranked fifth in U.S. subcompact sales in the fourth-quarter.

% Change
Chevrolet Aveo

2 -100%
Chevrolet Sonic
85,646 9.2%
Ford Fiesta
71,073 -11.1%
Honda Fit
53,513 10.9%
Hyundai Accent
60,458 4.7%
Kia Rio
40,742 -11.8%
Mazda 2
11,757 15.8%
Nissan Versa
117,352 19.1%
Toyota Prius C
41,979 -3.4%
Toyota Yaris
21,342 -37.8%
503,864 3.7%

Theorists may suggest that low fuel prices would hamper subcompacts, yet December’s 10% year-over-year improvement stands in stark contrast to that message. That said, subcompacts remain rare cars in the U.S. The larger siblings of just these nine cars – Cruze, Focus, Civic, Elantra, Forte, 3, Sentra, Corolla – combined for more than 1.7 million U.S. sales in 2014, more than triple the total number of sales achieved by these subcompacts.

Back at Nissan, the Versa’s strong performance was representative of a brand which grew at a rate that was far above average in 2014. Moreover, Nissan possesses a car lineup which expanded its sales in spite of the fact that the U.S. auto industry sourced much of its growth from SUVs and crossovers. Total Nissan brand sales jumped 12% to record highs in 2014 as industry-wide volume rose 6%.

Combined, the Versa, Sentra, Altima, and Leaf were up 17%. The Altima was America’s fourth-best-selling car; the Sentra ranked twelfth; the Versa 18th. The Altima and Versa broke their own sales records.

Timothy Cain is the founder of, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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39 Comments on “Cain’s Segments: Subcompact Car Sales In America In 2014...”

  • avatar

    Surprised to see the Mazda2 posted increased sales (greater than the segment growth) when the model is old and due to be replaced soon. Admittedly they had low absolute sales numbers.
    Interesting contrast to the Yaris which posted similar numbers but had a new/updated model released in 2014. Why did that do so badly?

    • 0 avatar
      Timothy Cain

      Yaris declines are nothing new. U.S. Yaris sales have decreased in six consecutive years. 2 volume was up YOY but only after 2013’s 39% decline. Compared with 2012, 2014 sales fell 30%. Nearly half of Mazda’s 2014 2 volume was generated in March, June, and July.

      • 0 avatar

        Tim, I agree they are nothing new but typically a new or heavily revised car increases sales (especially in an increasing market). Declining over 35% is severe. I suspect the Prius C fueled a lot of the recent decline (since the C was released) in the Yaris.

        I agree it has the Corolla to compete against but all the manufacturers listed have a compact car in the same showroom which would also compete against the appropriate sub-compact.

        • 0 avatar
          Timothy Cain

          Keep in mind, the refreshed Yaris wasn’t able to have a full impact over the full course of the year. (December’s 167% increase was substantial.) Moreover, the switch from XP90 to XP130 did nothing to slow down the decline a few years ago, either.

      • 0 avatar

        Yup, the Yaris has been kind of neglected by Toyota. 4-speed automatic, same engine soldiering along. The previous generation had an interior by Coleman and Playskool – my understanding although I have yet to sit in a new one is this is much improved.

        Never mind that there is a Corolla LE sitting next to it for very close to the same price, and the Scion xB (which although dated as more get up and go and better packaging). The Yaris doesn’t exactly offer up great mileage considering the package it’s wrapped in either.

        It’s over 50% fleet sales, and honestly I just don’t understand why Toyota is playing in this segment anymore unless they need the CAFE credits.

        • 0 avatar

          In 2013, about 60% of Yaris sales was to fleet.

          The Versa has the Sentra in the same lot; the Fit has the Civic; the Accent has the Elantra and Veloster; the Rio has the Forte and Soul, the Sonic has to compete with the Cruze and Spark; etc. – so the Corolla excuse doesn’t really hold up.

    • 0 avatar

      I think the Yaris’ greatest failing is that there’s a Corolla in the showroom and the Yaris is out on the lot.

      • 0 avatar

        The Yaris is just a bit too expensive for what it is, especially when Corollas hold their value so very well and can be leased for not a lot more than the Yaris.

        It was a compelling package in 2000, when it offered better space than the contemporary Corolla, but as the Corolla improved (and got taller) there’s less case for the Yaris.

        Toyota really ought to cut the price, or just give up and sell it as a Scion.

        • 0 avatar

          Completely agree.. if you’re already cons1dering 16K why not go 18-ish for a Corolla or a Fit?

          • 0 avatar

            I didn’t realize that the Yaris had gotten so expensive. My brother’s ’07 3-door hatch went out the door for right at or just under $13k.

        • 0 avatar
          heavy handle

          In Canada, the Yaris has a reputation for being a more reliable Corolla that’s fun to drive. Interior space is a toss-up: you’re not going to get 5 people into either car comfortably. 4 is OK, as long as the two in the back aren’t too tall.

          • 0 avatar

            “a more reliable Corolla”

            A faster Usain Bolt.

          • 0 avatar
            heavy handle


            You are probably thinking of 1990s Corollas. This century’s Corollas have been good, but not exceptional under Canadian conditions.

            For instance, the shop I use has replaced several master cylinders on Corollas under 100,000km (or sent them back to the dealer for warranty work). That’s unusual for any recent car.

          • 0 avatar
            formula m

            In Canada people prefer Corollas over Yaris for sure. They get the same mileage and Carolla is way nicer with longer wheelbase and better ride. Most new Yaris I have seen were rentals.

        • 0 avatar

          I’m considering a Yaris. I wouldn’t get a Corolla, because no hatch.

          Soon comes the Scion iM, which purports to be a Corolla hatch (mostly). Could change the game.

          • 0 avatar

            “Soon comes the Scion iM, which purports to be a Corolla hatch (mostly). Could change the game.”

            Doubt it; if that were the case, the cancellation of the Matrix would have bumped the Yaris’ sales.

          • 0 avatar

            …I’m considering a Yaris. I wouldn’t get a Corolla, because no hatch…

            Given that over 50% of Yarii built go to fleet, most of that rental – I would look for a 18 month old one coming off of rental duty from one of the majors versus buying new.

            Given the price point and who the “typical” buyer is, it at least will have received it’s standard maintenance and likely suffered no more indignity than the average purchased Yaris.

    • 0 avatar

      This is entirely conjecture, but with the Mazda2, they spent most of 2014 with decent incentives, while the Mazda3 they share dealer space with is new, and Mazda isn’t working as hard to push them (while in 2013, they were still clearing out the last gen). Since the jump to the larger car was bigger, it was likely a harder upsale this year.

  • avatar

    It could be as simple as cosmetics. I’ve always thought the Mazda 2 has interesting and appealing styling consistent with the brand, and my even my wife–who wouldn’t notice a red F-Type parked on the front lawn–has pointed them out as “cute” several times. Even the latest Yaris still looks like a nondescript jellybean econobox.

  • avatar

    Nissan is aggressively seeking market share w/ aggressive discounting on somewhat questionable wares, leading to poor consumer scores:

  • avatar

    Not surprised about the Versa. I actually think the Versa Note is a good looking little hatch, even though it is probably boring to drive. I have a new appreciation for the Versa sedan. Over the summer my family (wife and two kids) took a trip to South and North Carolina. I rented a car through Avis and they initially gave me a VW Beetle even though I reserved a Camry (no cars in that category were available). We kept the Beetle for a couple days while in Charleston but the size was just not conducive to our family and luggage, so I returned the car and received a Versa sedan for our drive to Top Sail, NC. That car was surprisingly roomy and really comfortable for the 4+ hours of driving. I am 6’6″ and there was still plenty of room for my kids in the backseat. Plus the trunk was huge and held out luggage easily. It may be ugly (sedan) but that little car is surprisingly practical for a family road trip!

    • 0 avatar

      Wow, so much for “We Try Harder.” If I had reserved and needed Camry space and they gave me those options, I would have raised hell and driven away in something a lot larger and nicer. Impressive that the Versa met your needs, though.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Since the segment increase didn’t track fuel prices, perhaps it is tracking people’s disposable income.

  • avatar

    The Versa Note is a favorite of mine. I rented one in Puerto Rico. It was a base model with manual windows, and locks. But, it was a fantastic package. Ton of room in the front and back. Fantastic turning radius, and narrow. Rides great. Totally on my car buying short list.

    • 0 avatar

      Are there many large cars in PR? I’ve never much considered the car market there, but now I wanna know.

      I feel like TTAC needs a part time PR car correspondent.

      • 0 avatar

        Honestly mostly small cars. I saw tons of Fiat 500’s.

        Rental car companies have tons of Mitsubishi mirages, versa, hyundai/kia sub compacts. Easy to sell on the island afterwards.

        Income is low in Puerto Rico so they get the cheapest car they can get ( if it was a state it would be the poorest. ) They also have some weird car import tariff/tax that is 10% iirc even though they are in the same customs territory as the states so that adds to the costs.

        Cars last forever since stuff doesn’t rust. Saw an old Datsuns floating around in San German.

        A few pickups here in there. Most seem to be used for businesses use and not personal vehicles.

  • avatar

    It’s nice to see the Sonic doing so well! I live 2 miles from the factory in Lake Orion, MI. I cant tell you how many people think this thing is “made” outside the U.S. It’s wierd to see GM struggle to move the Malibu and Impala while the Cruze and Sonic have had great success.

    • 0 avatar

      The Impala does pretty well in a declining segment.

      The problem with the Malibu is that it is too small inside compared to the competition which isn’t the case for the Sonic.

  • avatar

    Does the CT200h not qualify as a subcompact? Maybe it’s a little bigger and just a compact.

    Parked next to one this morning, and I can definitely say the interior has an air of Subaru about it. Didn’t look luxurious.

  • avatar

    After driving a 2015 Sonic LT back in October I have to say, I’m not surprised by the sales volume.

    The other half and I were a bit disappointed when Enterprise handed us the keys to the black Sonic. I was curious as I wanted to drive one, this was only a one day rental, but we were going to drive close to 400 miles and I was really hoping to get the, “oh we’re out of compacts so we’re upgrading you to a midsizer,” speech when we arrived. No such luck.

    Being brand new it was still in its OnStar and LTE trial period. We setup the WiFi hot spot, used OnStar directions and connections. Out in the middle of no where in the Mississippi River delta, the onboard LTE was great to have. The receiver/transmitter built into OnStar is more powerful than the cell phone, so where our phones had weak 3G at best, the car offered fast 4G.

    We were particularly surprised at its highway manners. For a small car it went along at 75 MPH just fine. The engine lacks oompf, but I don’t think that is something I would expect in this class. The automatic transmission definitely did some hunting and pecking and was optimized for fuel economy. A “sport / economy” mode on the tranny would benefit the Sonic.

    The other thing we were surprised – this is a big car inside. A really surprising big car. We had a hatch, which I’ve always thought was better looking.

    The equipment level was great, the iPhone integration worked perfectly, it scanned my library of almost 20K songs almost instantly it seemed, Bluetooth was easy to setup, layout and controls made sense.

    Biggest complaint is the massive c-pillars and the blind spots they create. In mirrors I have to trust.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    So Toyota is gonna bring a French built Yaris here and it’s supposed to do better? I predict Yaris sales will bottom out till the Mazda2-based Yaris comes in 2017.

  • avatar

    I was hoping for one of these at my last rental a couple weeks ago, but I ordered a city car, expecting to be upgraded, but there was still a Chevy Spark available and that’s what I was given. I would hope the engines in these cars are quieter than the 1.2L in the Spark, but GM seems to have figured out how to make smaller cars roomier, in the front at least. The Sonic must be roomier than the Spark. Having ridden in the front of both a Fiesta and Fit, I could see why the Sonic outsells them.

  • avatar

    I expect sales to maintain in this segment, but it will require additional incentive spend to make it happen. That means the deals will be good but resale values will deteriorate.

    • 0 avatar

      I have noticed that we’ve stopped getting the BS “We are out of Honda Fits for our used lot, we want your 2007 Honda Fit” letters from the local dealers about my wife’s car lately. I still get them on occasion for my ’06 Acura though.

  • avatar

    Wonder if Micra will appear to undercut new Fit? Problem is timings a bit off. New Micra due 2016 model year.

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