By on April 8, 2015

2014 Ford EcoSport

What do Ford and Toyota have in common as far as subcompact crossovers go? They’re the only ones without such a thing in their respective USDM lineups.

Detroit Free Press says that while “city-sized” crossovers like the Fiat 500X, Jeep Renegade and Buick Encore — the last one being the catalyst for the current mini-CUV boom — are doing well for themselves in the United States, Ford and Toyota are nowhere to be seen. Kelly Blue Book analyst Karl Brauer explains:

The small SUV trend is undeniable. These vehicles are hot, with the potential to easily sell in the tens of thousands or more. Neither Ford nor Toyota has shown any plans to jump into this space, which seems crazy given the revenue both companies generate from their other SUV lines.

Though Toyota is tight-lipped about its product plans in this segment, Ford has the EcoSport to consider. That said, the latter is taking a “wait-and-see” approach in bringing the subcompact to the United States, according to Edmunds.com analyst Jeremy Acevedo, adding that Ford could bring the EcoSport up to USDM spec if it made sense to do so.

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54 Comments on “Ford, Toyota Missing Amid Subcompact Crossover Boom...”


  • avatar
    raph

    Seem odd they don’t mention Honda, the CR-V seems like a popular small CUV.

  • avatar
    niky

    Don’t quite think the EcoSport is US-market material. Not unless it’s sold standard with the EcoBoost 1.0 or even an EcoBoost 1.5.

    At the very least it has more useable legroom than the Fiesta, but I can see it getting a round drubbing by road testers Stateside.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Nissan and Hyundai/Kia don’t have anything either. I think the bigger opportunity for growth is the small luxury CUV segment, where both Toyota and Ford have pretty strong entries.

    • 0 avatar

      Kia has the Soul, which may be getting an AWD option soon.

    • 0 avatar
      udman

      You know, you are really wrong here…

      Nissan has that cute little Juke, which was really the one who started the trend in the first place.

      Hyundai has a CUV that is smaller than the Santa Fe, and that’s the Tuscon, while Kia markets the smaller than Sorrento Sportage CUV.

      • 0 avatar

        The Sportage is compact, although it’s on the smaller size of that spectrum. So is its Hyundai counterpart, the Tucson. The Soul is Kia’s subcompact entry.

        • 0 avatar
          bd2

          Both the Tucson and Sportage were “Euro-sized” and hence a bit smaller than the other compact CUVs.

          The new Tucson and Sportage are larger and more “American-sized”, but still a little smaller than say, the CR-V.

          Hyundai does have a subcompact CUV, but like the EcoSport is only for certain markets (like China), but they are working on one for the NA/European market.

          Kia might do their own version of that, just bring the Trail’ster (Soul variant with e-AWD) to production or possibly do both.

          And let’s not forget the CX-3, Trax and Juke, and considering that Toyota seems to be adding to the Lexus lineup with a smaller model (most likely a CUV to slot underneath the NX), most likely will see one for Toyota or Scion.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    I don’t think this segment is gonna stick around much when people start noticing lower mpg numbers than the cars these are based on.

    • 0 avatar

      If that were the case we’d see alot more station wagons.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      How is that different than any other CUV segment?

    • 0 avatar
      Xeranar

      If you’re still getting close to 40 on the highway there really isn’t that much to argue about.

    • 0 avatar
      eManual

      The problem with MPG is that people think in terms of a linear scale instead of logarithmic. The difference between 30 mpg vs. 35 mpg isn’t really that important, as shown in the following.

      The key numbers in mpg are 20, 25, 33, and 50, which corresponds to 5, 4, 3, and 2 gallons per 100 miles. So if you have a trip of 1000 miles, each increment subtracts 10 gallons from your trip, or about $25 at present prices. Tire replacement, oil changes, wear and tear, etc. have always been more important than gas prices. Once a vehicle makes about 30 mpg highway, that’s efficient enough for most people. Comfort, utility, and original cost should rate higher than mpg.

  • avatar

    Window stickers matter. Where Ford is hurting the most IMO is not offering a 4×4 on their base model Escapes. You could also use the same market argument to say this leaves open a price gap for the Ecosport. If it’s like the Fiesta, there won’t be much profit for dealers, but if it offered them a low $20s window sticker 4×4 then I think it could be justified, and keep Escape how it is.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    people that buy that size of vehicle are looking for the most mpg’s they can get and these subcompact CUV’s are not that good on gas

    • 0 avatar
      Xeranar

      Eh, if anything market research suggests people are paying for ‘higher driving visibility’ and essentially cache in the form of a CUV. A fiesta is low-rent, an HR-V is stylish young professional. It’s all how you spin these vehicles and get them out the door. Also really, you can repackage the same space of a Versa into the Juke and add 5K to the bottom line pretty fast.

    • 0 avatar
      Rob

      Subcompact have a lot more to do with out the door price than they do cost of ownership.

      A marginal improvement in mpg coupled with an affordable but decently equipped cabin and a price better than the now loaded compact CUVs in the 30k range is enticing.

      It’s impossible to oversimplify the car buying public with your comment or even mine.

      MINI isn’t selling cars here for affordability, reliability, or even MPG. Some people want a small car that’s fun to drive. You’re going to be surprised how this market explodes if the manufacturers offer fun options over something as exhausting as the Versa or Fit drivetrains.

    • 0 avatar
      baggins

      Volt

      I think you are projecting how you want the world to be vs. how it is. People who are looking for most MPG they can get buy Prius(s).

      This mini CUV are, as Xenanar notes, seen as more upscale.

      A Versa is cheapo, a Juke is fun & quirky.

      Marketing, my man.

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    Help me out here. Except for ground clearance I can’t see much difference between a baby CUV and a 5 door hatch. I have a daughter with a five door fiesta and despite my doubts it has turned out to be great and it seems they are selling. If it would tow a teardrop it would be ideal IMO.

    • 0 avatar
      Rob

      Mazda seems to think so. The Mazda CX3 is so much like the 3 that it’s weird the didn’t do more to differentiate.

      However, Mazda doesn’t have to I guess. When people are told it’s a crossover and not a hatchback, I’m sure most will buy one despite the cramped interior with no arm rest.

      I can’t imagine test driving a 3 and cx3 and not opening for the hatch though.

  • avatar
    Fred

    I have yet to see a subcompact SUVs around Houston, maybe that’s the bigger is better attitude common here in Texas.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Yup, I’ve got a brother who lives there and he and his wife own an F150 4-door 4X4, a Suburban and a Navigator. They don’t seem to have any problem navigating around the roads of Houston or finding parking spaces wide enough to accommodate them.

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    Can swear I see headlines across the internet throughout the week and then, as if they were dreamed p here at TTAC, they come as big news on TTAC.
    This has been on WSJ MarketWatch all week.
    I suppose this is OK IF TTAC is filled with such limited news awareness participators and I guess somebody needs to give them their daily dose of news…But I am really wishing for more n depth auto news finding and reviews here. At least more than just scrolling and rewrites.
    Sometimes this site I like Reuters, CNN and USAToday…everybody has the very same headline news and pictures.

  • avatar
    udman

    The small baby CUV is really catching on here in the Northeast. Yes, they can’t town a bloody thing (The Juke only has a tow rating of 500 pounds!!!), and they get pretty dismal fuel mileage with AWD. But they are popular across the automotive spectrum.

    They seem to be the go to vehicle for people who used to buy the traditional old midsized SUV’s of the 90’s or the 00’s like the Blazer, Pathfinder, or the Explorer. The customers really don’t want to give up on AWD, nor do they want a lower riding vehicle.

    I for one have an older Envoy, and am seriously considering a Buick Encore.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    I looked at the Buick Encore. It was cute but zero room behind the 2nd seat for stuff. With the Cruze I got a good sized trunk for another foot of vehicle length, and better fuel econ. Don’t get the appeal of these mini-SUVs at all.

  • avatar

    One thing I think is interesting is the fact that the Germans get away with fielding entries that are a class-size smaller than the other cars at a particular price point where luxury crossovers are concerned. The NX and MKC, for example, are compact. Yet, they reside in the same pricing territory as the subcompact GLA-Class, Q3 and X1. Meanwhile, the mid-sized SRX, MKX and RX go up against compact cars like the GLK-Class, Q5, and X3.

    And even with non-luxury brands, Volkswagen manages to do this. The Tiguan offers no more space than a subcompact crossover. I know this because I had a Tiguan loaner and when I parked it next to my grandmother’s Soul, the only thing that was longer on the Tiguan was the front-end. Yet the Tiguan is put in the same league as the Escape, CR-V, Rogue, Equinox, Forester…etc. And my base-model Tiguan S loaner had no rearview camera, MP3 connectivity, Bluetooth streaming, touch screen radio, leather or power-adjustable seats–nothing except 4MOTION and the 2.0TSI (which is on par with premium engines from other such crossovers)—yet had a sticker price of $28,000 and change.

  • avatar
    Rob

    Isn’t the real problem that the Ecosport sucks?

    I’ve not read a single international review that doesn’t say as much.

    Mulally worked his tail off to increase profits with world cars that dint suck, and the Ecosport just sucks with little in way of profits when the Escape already can be had for 20k after rebates. Offering a subcompact and then discounting can’t be financially feasible to Ford.

    Now,Toyota is a different story though I believe profit margins are the key driver as well.

    They’d have to go the Scion route to keep it cheap unless they are building in more wage friendly countries like Honda is with the HRV.

    • 0 avatar
      dwford

      The Ecosport was really designed for Brazil and India. Ford brought it to Europe, where the press was unimpressed. I wouldn’t expect the current Ecosport to come to the US, but I’m sure Ford will design a version of the next one for us.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        To me it appears that these tiny sardine-can cars would be less safe in America because of the sheer number of large vehicles in use on the roads here.

        And people buying large vehicles is not going to change, no matter how high the price of fuel gets. When gas was at >$5/gal people were still buying trucks, SUVs and CUVs.

        In case of an accident, these tiny vehicles are going to be at a distinct disadvantage.

        Why would I allow any of my loved ones to scurry around in such mini-mobiles?

        I’d stick myself in debt first and buy them something substantial before I let that happen.

        Size matters! Weight matters! Heft matters!

        • 0 avatar
          heavy handle

          Because they have no trucks in the rest of the world? Have you been?

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Small cars have never been endemic to America. City-sized cars are a new thing derived from the micro-miniaturized examples set forth in Europe.

            If Americans want city-sized cars, that’s what EVs, PEVs and Hybrids should be marketed as. Since city-sized cars rarely go far, all you need is to plug them in to fuel them up.

            But electric cars and city-sized cars are not selling well in America, so why give buyers even more choice?

            If future Ford and Toyota offerings in this segment don’t sell well, some one would ask, “What were they thinking!?”

            I think Ford and Toyota can easily leave this segment for the likes of the small-minded and small-thinkers.

          • 0 avatar
            heavy handle

            HDC, two thoughts.

            First, sales of compact SUVs are booming, hence this article’s title.

            Second, very big cars are endemic to the US because only in the US can you choose to live your life driving only on the flat, wide, straight, low-speed section of highway between the mall and your suburban house. Those big cars are useless in the rest of the world (much of which has significantly lower highway death tolls than the US).

            Also, you seem to confuse the high-desert/big-city differences with the US/rest-of-world differences. I suspect the first difference is bigger than the second.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            HH, as always your thoughts are solid and make excellent points. Let me remind you that I am a “The More The Merrier” guy.

            The article pursues the thought that Ford and Toyota are missing from the choice provided potential buyers.

            My take on this is, they are not missed and may even be loathe to allocate so much money for this already-saturated small segment. Small in size and small in sales.

            Sales of ALL cars in America are booming. That’s because this is the ideal time to buy new.

            After all the shouting, crying and whimpering is done, I believe that pickup trucks will remain America’s best-selling vehicles and the Camry, Corolla, Altima, Accord and Civic will still rate as America’s favorite sedans.

            (And I say this without prejudice toward tiny cars.)

            I do not see a need for Ford and Toyota to jump into this segment, especially this late in the game.

            If they choose to join the fray, more power to them. But their offerings have got to be special from what is already out there now.

            And I believe that would be too costly for the number of sales generated.

  • avatar
    dwford

    The Chevy Trax is going to sell, but it doesn’t take much to price it up to where you can get a Hyundai Tucson with a 2.4 AWD. Hyundai and Kia both have subcompact CUVs coming based off the Soul (Hyundai ix25). Nissan needs a more traditional subcompact CUV, the Juke is too weird to be a major seller. I’m sure Ford is working on something in the subcompact category, probably alongside the next generation Fiesta. The new Renegade has amazing room for its size, doesn’t feel subcompact at all when you sit in it.

    The subcompact CUV is definitely going to be the next major category. As people trade down a size, the 5 passenger CUVs are going to get killed – Murano, Edge, Santa Fe Sport, etc.

    BTW aside from only offering a downsized motor, the new Hyundai Tucson is really going to eat into the Santa Fe Sport’s sales. It’s very nice inside and out, and large enough that people considering the Sport will likely save the $1000’s and just take the Tucson.

  • avatar
    RS

    Some may want the size, others are shopping them on price. Regardless of size, what does Ford or Toyota offer for SUV/CUV in a similar price range?

    IMO, the attraction of these is ergonomic – with better ease of entry/exit and slightly higher seating positions vs small sedans/hatchbacks/station wagons.

    That becomes more important in smaller vehicles. It’s also why this category of vehicle is here to stay.

  • avatar
    Rental Man

    One would think that Toyota slotted they has the next generation Daihatsu Terios that already sells as a Re-badged Toyota Rush / Cami for this duty.

    The current Ford EcoSport is not ready for 1st world countries. It was set for developing countries.I’m convinced Ford is working as fast as they can on the updated or next generation of this car based on worldwide demand.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Scion has it’s covered for Toyota.

    They’re offering up Scion customers a new C-segment five-door hatch and a rebadged B-segment four door sedan…the exact things their target demographic doesn’t want to buy.

    Subcompact CUV? We don’t need no stinkin’ subcompact CUV

    • 0 avatar
      rdclark

      They had one in the original xB. First they ruined it via bloat, and then they abandoned it.

      This segment (aside from the luxury end of it) is about small-footprint vehicles with tall seating and flexible, capacious cargo areas, and usable back seats. AWD is not important, and city MPG is more important than highway MPG.

      HR-V is based on Fit. CX-3 is based on Mazda 2. Original xB was based on Yaris/Echo, and a successor still could be.

      Original xB sold in numbers to older buyers, not just kids. I think Toyota was upset by this and tried to make xB2 unattractive to grownups, ended up making it unattractive to everyone. In fact, this segment will have wide appeal as second vehicle for empty-nesters primary for many who are urban dwellers. Indeed, I’m contemplating HR-V to replace my 2005 xB.

      • 0 avatar

        I tend to think of the original xB as more of tall wagon vs. a subcompact CUV, and ditto that with the Nissan Cube and the Kia Soul. That being said, I suppose it’s splitting hairs. I guess I equate CUVs with a bit more ground clearance compared to urban runabouts like the original xB and Cube.

        Regardless, I agree with you about the original xB. I had an ’05 and it was great. I just wish Scion/Toyota would’ve imported the current bB as its replacement instead of the xB(loat).

        • 0 avatar
          rdclark

          Exactly what the distinguishing characteristics of this segment will turn out to be is probably the question that will persist the longest.

          Personally, I don’t think it’s ground clearance or AWD, neither of which matter much in the urban/suburban environments where tiny cars thrive. But that perception could be skewed by where I live and work, in and around Philadelphia.

          I see huge numbers of Souls here (and more xB1s than xB2s, even now). Fiat is selling a scary lot of cars; Honda is selling a lot of Fits. I wish I could find sales by model broken down by region.

          Getting in and out of an xB or a Soul is not much different from getting into and out of an Outback. You sit down, rather than fall in. You have plenty of headroom, plenty of room for rear passengers, decent cargo capacity, lots of configuration choices for the interior space. 25-30MPG day in, day out, around town — in a car that won’t accumulate huge mileage anyway. I put 10 gallons into my xB every two weeks, and it’s my DD.

          The HR-V and CX-3 will put an SUV-like veneer on this formula without changing it much, aside from sacrificing some utility (particularly outward visibility) in exchange for sexy styling.

          The company that could kill this segment is Subaru, but they’d have to develop a whole new subcompact platform, which isn’t happening anytime soon.

          • 0 avatar

            Well said. And yes, I agree: Subaru would kill it in this segment. And I’d be first in line to buy one (I have a WRX now). We almost bought a Crosstrek, but decided to get something faster (traded in the Forester).

            I truly wish Subaru would bring over something—anything—for the U.S. B-segment!

            And I don’t know if I’d say Fiat is selling a ton of vehicles. YTD, they’ve moved 11,038 500 and 500L models (7,995 and 3,043, respectively). Kia has sold 30,838 Souls this year—talk about a hit.

  • avatar
    rdclark

    Maybe Fiat is selling all their cars within 50 miles of me, or maybe they’re just eye-catching. Or maybe any number higher than zero is “a scary lot” of them.

    We rented a 2014 Soul when my wife’s Mazda MPV was stolen. I loved it. She didn’t, and drove the Scion. We bought her a Forester and we’re both pretty happy. I don’t need fast but I feel pretty strongly about agile. The Foz’s turning circle is noticeably smaller than the Scion’s, if you can believe it.

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