By on September 20, 2017

2017 Subaru Impreza sedan and hatch - Image: SubaruThrough the first eight months of 2017, consumers across America have acquired 12 percent fewer new passenger cars than during the first eight months of 2016.

That’s a drop of 565,000 sales, a rate of decline that stands in stark contrast to the U.S. auto industry’s 4-percent year-over-year light truck improvement. Cars now account for just 37 percent of all auto sales, down from more than 50 percent as recently as 2012. But it’s not all doom and gloom. Some auto brands are selling more cars this year than last, and a wide variety of cars are accelerating their sales pace. Subaru, for example, has already sold 17,981 more Imprezas in 2017 than in the same period of 2016.

So we’ve compiled a list of every passenger car that’s making meaningful headway in America’s anti-car market — the cars that are selling more and more often even as many of their competitors suffer under the weight of a pro-F150, pro-RAV4, pro-Escalade ESV wave.

The list is not very long.

2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack - Image: VolkswagenFor the Subaru Impreza, or any newly launched model, year-over-year tallies are often aided by the fact that sales had tapered off in the prior year as customers waited for the launch of a new model. Indeed, Impreza sales slowed 17 percent in 2016 in advance of the current model’s arrival. Nevertheless, Subaru is on track to more than meet historic Impreza demand levels. Not including the WRX/STI offshoots, the Impreza sedan and hatch are on track for nearly 85,000 sales in 2017, well ahead of historic rates.

The Volkswagen Golf, meanwhile, is reaping the benefits of a fast-growing SportWagen/Alltrack variant. Golf hatchback sales are up, but only by 2 percent. Yet with the Alltrack bolstering the SportWagen, wagons now account for 41 percent of U.S. Golf sales, up from 21 percent a year ago.

Premium nameplates account for more than one-quarter of the cars on the list. In the case of the Audi A4, sales of Audi’s 3 Series challenger are on track for to rise to a post-recession high. The Mercedes-Benz E-Class, on the other hand, is simply recovering from a particularly low stretch — E-Class sales in 2017 are still on track to be 30 percent lower than they were three years ago.2017 Audi A5 Sportback - Image: AudiAt the opposite end of the spectrum, the Mitsubishi Mirage is up 5 percent, helped by the launch of a blisteringly hot and spicy Mirage G4 sedan. 2017 is set to be the fourth consecutive year of Mirage sales growth.

But it’s at the top of the heap where a 96-percent year-over-year improvement allows Audi’s expanded, second-generation A5 lineup to earn Most Improved credentials. After falling to an eight-year low at the end of the first-gen A5’s tenure in 2016, Audi has already reported more A5 sales in 2017’s first eight months than in all of 2016. Over the last four months, May through August, A5 Coupe/Cabriolet/Sportback sales have nearly tripled. If that rate of growth continues in the final third of 2017, this year will match 2013 as the A5 lineup’s best year ever.

That doesn’t sound like doom and gloom, at least not for this small group of cars flying directly into blustery headwinds.

Car 2017 8 Months 2016 8 Months % Change Real Volume Added
Audi A5 11,597 5,926 95.7% +5,671
Subaru Impreza 58,265 40,284 44.6% +17,981
Volkswagen Golf 49,791 36,513 36.4% +13,278
Mazda MX-5 Miata 8,871 7,088 25.2% +1,783
Nissan Leaf 9,685 7,922 22.3% +1,763
Toyota Corolla iM/Scion iM 14,313 12,079 18.5% +2,234
Volkswagen Beetle 11,404 9,820 16.1% +1,584
Toyota Yaris iA/Scion iA 25,472 21,949 16.1% +3,523
Kia Forte 81,461 71,352 14.2% +10,109
BMW 4 Series 26,629 23,747 12.1% +2,882
Audi A4 22,667 20,496 10.6% +2,171
Chevrolet Cruze 133,966 122,796 9.1% +11,170
Mercedes-Benz C-Class 52,755 49,734 6.1% +3,021
Mercedes-Benz E-Class 31,068 29,326 5.9% +1,742
Mitsubishi Mirage 16,804 15,994 5.1% +810
Dodge Challenger 47,496 45,443 4.5% +2,053

For the purposes of this list, with sales info sourced from automakers and more detailed figures from the Automotive News Data Center, we sought out cars with meaningful volume of at least 1,000 U.S. sales per month (thereby excluding low-volume models more prone to sharp year-over-year percentage swings). We also excluded any models that weren’t on sale throughout the first eight months of 2016, vehicles that would obviously report much higher sales this year than last. 16 cars remained.

[Images: Subaru, Audi, Volkswagen]

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

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26 Comments on “These 16 Cars Are Bucking America’s Anti-Car Trend in 2017...”

  • avatar

    The A5 is a sublime automobile, pity its not a Lexus.

  • avatar

    Call it a “hatch” if you want to Subaru but that Impreza looks very wagon-like and I like it. :-) Especially with the roof rack.

    • 0 avatar

      This was the car I settled on after intensively cross-shopping compacts. The 2017 is brilliant, it’s not a standout in any one area (except interior room and packaging), but it does many things well. Steering and road manners are surprisingly good in light of its weaker engine, the WRX will be nice on this platform.

      • 0 avatar

        I did the same. The Impreza is a great little car. My only issue with it is the arm rest (too damn low) and the dashboard material – soft but also kinda tacky-feeling. Great for holding onto dust.

        • 0 avatar

          Another satisfied Impreza buyer here, (with TDi payout money). I also did a lot of cross-shopping before landing on it. Very happy with the chassis, ride/handling, controls, overall interior. My biggest living-with-it gripe is pretty minor: the up-scale audio system (HK branded) sounds thin and underwhelming.

      • 0 avatar

        I’ve got Mazda6 for way less than people pay for Impreza

        • 0 avatar

          @slavuta – For comparison, with very little shopping around I can purchase a new well equipped mid-sized Nissan Altima for way less than a new all-wheel drive compact-sized VW Sportwagen S with 4Motion. This may have a lot to do with the real value of the vehicle being purchased.

          • 0 avatar

            You get what you pay for. Especially In this segment of vehicles.

          • 0 avatar

            In the case of the Impreza, feature for feature it’s competitive with the 2L Civic and has better real-world ergonomics. If you look at the Civic’s turbo and the Impreza’s awd as extra’s, it’s price competitive, but not equivalent.

  • avatar

    8 of those 16 autos comes with standard awd or has it as an option. Top two has standard awd, and the third one sells probably 50% with awd. This could be part of the trend.

  • avatar

    I can’t speak for all these cars, but I shopped the Golf and its variants, the Impreza and the Cruze as replacements for my TDI. These three come with a lot of nice features like Apple Car Play, heated seats and available driver assistance at reasonable prices compared to CUVs and SUVs. If you ever have to park in a city and are willing to admit to yourself that you, in fact, don’t need an SUV and that you’re stuck in the same slow, crappy traffic as everyone else, these are no-brainers.

  • avatar

    Not sure if it’s the angle, the color, or the wheels, but that Audi pictured above is one damn good looking car. Toyota designers should take notes.

    • 0 avatar

      This. Audi has pretty much nailed the conservative/stylish design ethos.

      (VW too.)

      • 0 avatar

        I must be the only one thinking that it looks like an Audi copying a Genesis that copied an older Audi. I think it’s the way the hood slopes down to the grille.

        I was just in Seoul last week, and that’s why it looks familiar. The front looks very much like the new Hyundai Grandeur, which won’t be coming here as an Azera this time.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Several of those cars are nearing the end of their current life cycle, so their sales bumps may be a consequence of clearance offers.

  • avatar

    The list is a good indicator of the market. On this list are special vehicles most with 2 or 5 doors.

    The mass market for appliance transportation has moved from small or midsize sedans to CUVs. With the exception of the Kia Forte, which is super cheap, making it the exception that proves the rule.

  • avatar

    How much of Corolla/Yaris growth is due to the death of Scion and the combining of Yaris/iA and Corolla/iM numbers in this model year.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m seeing a quiet but steady proliferation of the Corolla Sedan in my area, only a handful of IM’s. (Maybe 20:1 if I were to guess.)

      Whatever they are doing with the Corolla, it’s resonating with the intended audience.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m not a Corolla driver and probably never will be. But , it is a nice looking sedan and they hold there value. In my area 5 yo ones with 100k are still going for $9-10k

  • avatar

    At some point we need to update the vocabulary. I usually say “There’s Bob’s car”, not “There’s Bob’s SUV” or “There’s Bob’s crossover”.

    Maybe the what we now call a CUV is the new “sedan”, while the traditional sedan is a lower, sportier sedan, a “sport sedan”.

    • 0 avatar

      The traditional sedan is now a “4-door sports coupe”. Mercedes started that, everyone followed, and that’s why sedans are dying off – no leg room, head room, or ease of entry/exit for the back seat. That means your mother in law has to sit in the front passenger seat, and I darn Mercedes all to heck for it.

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