There's About To Be A New 2017 Volkswagen Polo, But America's Shrinking Subcompact Market Surely Won't Have Room For It

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
theres about to be a new 2017 volkswagen polo but americas shrinking subcompact

It’s a Volkswagen Golf, only slightly smaller and with a more affordable price tag.

Isn’t this what you’ve always wanted?

Maybe not.

The 2017 Volkswagen Polo is a close relation to the Mk7 Golf Americans can get their hands on, and shares the MQB platform that underpins just about everything at the Volkswagen Group except the factories themselves. But in a U.S. market that’s increasingly willing to pay just a bit more for a larger car with essentially no degradation in real-world fuel economy, would the sixth-generation Polo stand a chance?

Probably not, especially given the speed at which subcompact cars are losing sales.

There’s certainly been no shortage of speculation in the past regarding the Polo’s possible U.S. future. Some five years ago, AutoGuide reported that Volkswagen was “prepared if they wanted to get a product [Polo] out to market very fast.”

Three years before that, Car And Driver said hatchback versions of the Polo wouldn’t make their way to America, but a four-door sedan “is considered a strong candidate for American sales.”

In 2008, the New York Times quoted a Volkswagen of America spokesperson who said, “We have no plans to import the current version of the Polo. Maybe for the future, as we are always considering what is appropriate for the market.”

After U.S. sales of core subcompact cars fell 9 percent in 2015 and 3 percent in 2016, sales are down 17 percent through the first five months of 2017. Only the Toyota Yaris, boosted in part by the inclusion of the increasingly popular Yaris iA (which operated previously as a Scion and is actually a Mazda) has seen sales increase this year.

Combined sales of the Chevrolet Sonic, Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio, Nissan Versa, and Toyota Prius C are down 21 percent, a loss of 37,000 sales over a span of just five months.

Moreover, most of the automakers that compete in the category are distant afterthoughts. Nissan owns 30 percent of the market.

Compact cars, with help from a greater number of nameplates, to be fair, are more than five times stronger and aren’t declining at anywhere near the pace of subcompacts. Kelley Blue Book says the average transaction price for a subcompact car in May was over $16,000, too high a price for many consumers to swallow when a compact car (averaging $20,595 in May) is typically more powerful, more refined, and more spacious.

America’s subcompact market has already lost the Mazda 2. The Ford Fiesta’s future is clearly in doubt. Remaining automakers are struggling to locate buyers.

Of course the sixth-generation 2017 Volkswagen Polo, which will follow the Polo’s historic strategy of looking entirely like its predecessor, isn’t making its way across the Atlantic. You may find it enticing. But most Americans do not.

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and and the founder and former editor of Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

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2 of 35 comments
  • Darex Darex on Jun 12, 2017

    Hell will freeze over before VAG brings it over. In fact, in the oast, they announced it, only to cancel it later. They're such a tease!

  • AG4 AG4 on Jun 13, 2017

    The Mazda 2 is not completely gone from America, the current 2 sedan is sold by Toyota as the Yaris iA.

  • Fred I don't know about those big screens. Is there a way to minimize the display, so it's not so distracting? Especially at night the glow doesn't make it easy for me.
  • Arthur Dailey Toronto Blue Jays' games are only available on AM radio. As I am 'on the road' quite often when the Jays play that is my only option for listening to the game. So an AM radio is something of a 'must have' for me.
  • JMII My brother tracked one of these for several years... it will embarrass other sports cars. He sold it to someone who still rips it around on track days. Given my previous VW experience I wouldn't touch it but these are surprising quick and handle well for hatchback credit going to a decent AWD system. $16k seems crazy, but Rs aren't that common and this one appears to be in great condition and seems well sorted.
  • Arthur Dailey I meant the grille and the profile along the passenger area. Look closely and it is reminiscent of the Journey.
  • Daniel 16500 pesos