By on January 24, 2019

In a less-than-shocking turn of events, Toyota has confirmed to CarsDirect that its Yaris Liftback, a slow-selling model that managed to score itself a facelift a few years back, is dead in the United States.

Official confirmation of the model’s discontinuation came from Toyota spokesperson Nancy Hubbell. Starting at $16,565 after destination, the diminutive hatch’s sales paled in comparison to that of its Mazda-based namesake, the Yaris sedan. To all observers, the Yaris hatch was a dead car … driving.  (Read More…)

By on April 23, 2018

Rumors of the Ford Fiesta‘s American demise have swirled ever since the 2016 launch of the seventh-generation model in Europe. On sale for the 2017 model year, the current-gen Fiesta overseas is not the current-gen Fiesta we see here. No, the older model continues on in North America, as whispers of its impending execution come and go.

Most recently, a Wall Street Journal report claimed the Fiesta would end production this year, with the Taurus sedan following it to the grave not long after.

That’s not what VIN decoder document obtained by TTAC claims.  (Read More…)

By on April 10, 2018

I nearly bought a Suzuki Swift once. If memory serves me correctly, and who knows if it does, it was a 1991 model. Or a 1993. Black, with two doors and the big, honkin’, pavement-pounding 1.3-liter inline-four. A real brute!

Alas, without much money in my pocket (I was, what, 18?) and a pressing desire to not be seen as the guy in the Geo Metro, I made a fateful choice. That Swift stayed exactly as I found it, slowly decomposing in the back corner of a sketchy used car lot, and I turned my attention to another. Sadly, the affordable object of my affection turned out to be a total lemon that soured me on Chrysler Corporation for many years.

But enough about the Plymouth Sundance.

Once in a blue moon, I wonder how different my life might have turned out had I purchased that Swift and become a card-carrying member of the subcompact crowd. Maybe you don’t have to imagine the experience, though. Maybe a very small car wormed its way into your heart and never really left. (Read More…)

By on March 26, 2018

Image: Toyota

With Monday’s announcement of a refreshed 2019 Yaris sedan comes the last shovelful of dirt heaped on Scion’s grave. Toyota has an updated version of the subcompact four-door ready for an official unveiling at this week’s New York International Auto Show, but don’t go looking for that tell-tale “iA” model nameplate. It’s gone.

The complicated history of Toyota’s smallest sedan begins with the automaker’s defunct youth brand, Scion. As the brand grew more confused (and mainstream), Toyota borrowed the recently introduced second-generation Mazda 2 sedan, slapped a Scion badge on it, and rolled out the iA. Mazda had second thoughts about offering the car in this market, making the iA and the CX-3 the only domestic adopters of the car’s platform.

For Scion, grafting a large, unusual grille onto the wee car proved sufficient in de-KODO-ifying the model. During the inaugural 2016 model year, however, Toyota grimly loaded a single round into its shotgun, took the Scion brand behind the barn, and did what it had to do. The two newest Scion models — iA and iM — kept their model names and took up residence in the Yaris and Corolla lineups for 2017, adopting their sibling’s name as a prefix (despite not sharing the same architecture).

Now, both models enter 2019 free of vestigial Scion badging. (Read More…)

By on October 20, 2017

2018 Honda Fit LX - Image: © Timothy CainSubcompacts, if they ever were in favor, have quickly fallen out of favor in the United States. In 2017, sales in the first three-quarters of the year plunged by more than a fifth, year-over-year. The Honda Fit, modestly updated for the 2018 model year, is on track in 2017 to fall to a five-year low of around 50,000 sales, a far cry from the nearly 80,000 American Honda sold a decade ago.

The Honda Fit, not now in third-gen form nor in any prior iteration, has never sold on the strength of style. There have always been less expensive subcompacts, faster subcompacts, and better-equipped subcompacts, as well.

There have not, however, at least not during the Fit’s tenure, been any subcompacts that offer the flexibility of the Honda Fit. But does the fact that the 2018 Honda Fit is likely the only current subcompact that could operate as my family’s lone vehicle make up for the fact that the Fit lags behind rivals in key areas? (Read More…)

By on October 9, 2017

2018 Kia Rio EX 5-Door - Image: © Timothy CainDuring a year in which Kia is about to drop a BMW 3 Series-rivalling sports sedan with a price tag that rises above $50,000, it’s not hard to see why the arrival of a new Kia subcompact hatchback goes relatively unnoticed.

It’s not hard to see why the arrival of any subcompact goes unnoticed. In the United States, subcompact car sales are a pittance, forming just 2 percent of the market after losing one-fifth of their collective volume so far this year. Kia’s entry, meanwhile, fills only a narrow gap in America’s subcompact niche, suffering from a 51-percent year-over-year sales drop to only 11,952 sales in 2017’s first nine months, equal to just 4 percent of the subcompact market.

This is nothing new. U.S. interest in the Kia Rio, valued at over 50,000 annual sales way back in 2002, perked up with the dawn of the outgoing third-generation model half a decade ago but quickly diminished. Kia USA averaged fewer than 30,000 annual Rio sales over the last three years.

But you can forget the Stinger for a moment, you can set aside the K900, ignore the Cadenza, and temporarily dismiss the Sorento SX Limited. This is the 2018 Kia Rio. Kia won’t even let you spend more than $20,000 on this subcompact hatch. (Read More…)

By on September 28, 2017

2018 Ford Fiesta sedan and hatch - Image: FordAt TTAC, we’re big fans of Ford’s 1.0-liter three-cylinder EcoBoost engine. In the right application — the sixth-generation Ford Fiesta — the EcoBoost triple is a happy revver, a fuel miser, a torque manufacturer, a smooth operator.

In fact, we’re such big fans of the EcoBoost three-cylinder that our editor-at-large bought and paid for a Fiesta 1.0 EB long-termer with his own money. That’s a strong recommendation. Recommendations don’t come any stronger than that.

With the existing, aged, increasingly antiquated Mexico-built Ford Fiesta continuing as a 2018 model year subcompact whilst much of the world benefits from the launch of a new generation of Fiestas, Ford is trimming the Fiesta lineup. The standard 1.6-liter four-cylinder persists; the Fiesta ST forges on.

But the Ford Fiesta’s 1.0-liter EcoBoost three-cylinder is signing off. (Read More…)

By on September 19, 2017

2018 Ford Fiesta ST three-door - Image: FordOver the last seven years, America, you didn’t buy many Ford Fiestas. Fewer than 430,000, in fact. For perspective, in the much smaller United Kingdom market, Ford sold over 500,000 Fiestas in just the last four years.

But the Fiesta’s lack of popularity — and its dramatic loss of popularity in America — is not a unique-to-Ford situation. U.S. sales of subcompact cars plunged by more than a fifth, year-over-year, during the first eight months of 2017. That tumble comes after U.S. sales of subcompact cars declined in 2015 and 2016, as well.

Nevertheless, it comes as no surprise that Ford, after exploring America’s affordable avenues for one generation of Fiesta, isn’t bringing the seventh-generation version to America. And now we have confirmation that there is absolutely no hope the next-gen Ford Fiesta ST will come stateside, either. (Read More…)

By on September 12, 2017

2017 Volkswagen up - Image: VolkswagenThe global auto industry is not a place in which small car production is as straightforward as it was a decade or two ago.

Brought closer to home, Americans are buying roughly 30-percent fewer subcompact cars now than they were just three years ago. With next to no fuel economy advantages; limited payment upside; and less refinement, power, and space, why would a car buyer choose a subcompact over a compact sibling? Most buyers don’t. In the United States, compact car sales are five times stronger than subcompact sales. August’s top three compacts (Civic, Corolla, Cruze) outsold their subcompact brethren (Fit, Yaris, Sonic) by more than seven-to-one.

Many automakers don’t even bother selling their smallest cars in North America. Mazda’s latest 2 never saw U.S. import. FCA has left the compact market, having long since left the subcompact sector to rivals. Subaru doesn’t dive below the Impreza platform. And Volkswagen stops at the Golf, leaving the subcompact Polo for more small-car-friendly countries.

But how keen on small cars are those other countries? In some instances, not keen enough. Volkswagen boss Herbert Diess tells Autocar, “Selling small cars is not easy.” And he’s clearly not just talking about F-150-loving America. “It’s a very European problem,” says Diess. As a result, the Volkswagen Up city car, a Lupo successor, may pull out of Europe in favor of emerging markets only. (Read More…)

By on August 30, 2017

2017 Ford Fiesta Vignale - Image: FordRemember Antonella?

Antonella was a 28-year-old Italian, living in the heart of Rome in the latter part of the last decade, who needed a nimble and stylish Ford.

Antonella has changed. Antonella has more money. She no longer lives with her parents. She has, say it politely, aged, though she’s “still very expressive,” Ford of Europe’s design boss George Saridakis tells Automotive News Europe. Since Antonella changed, the Ford Fiesta for which she was created (or vice versa) has also changed. Ford of Europe now hopes 10 percent of Europe’s Antonellas will choose the upmarket Fiesta Vignale.

What about Antonella’s cousin, Amy in Cleveland? Ford probably hopes she’ll buy a 2018 EcoSport. But if we’re going to be honest about Amy (a TTAC creation), we all know Ford’s inadvertently pulling her into the leftover 2017 Escape she’s been eyeing, the one with a $2,500 discount and interest-free financing over 84 months. (Read More…)

By on August 23, 2017

2018 Honda Fit Sport 6MT in Orange Fury - Image: HondaThe Dodge Dart is dead. The Ford Fiesta is likely on its last legs in the United States. Ford Focus production is moving to China, off the North American continent where demand for Ford small cars is rapidly declining. General Motors is scaling back production at the Chevrolet Sonic’s Orion Township, Michigan, assembly plant.

That’s the Detroit small car picture, or at least part of it. From Japan’s perspective, however, small cars are entirely worth it, not just because of the sales success enjoyed by the Honda Civic (currently America’s best-selling car through 2017’s first seven months) and Toyota Corolla, but because of the demographic small cars target. (Read More…)

By on July 25, 2017

2018 Toyota Prius C - Image: Toyota.comIt started last year. Toyota, in concert with upgrading the Prius C with Toyota Safety Sense C added a matte black bodykit to the lower portions of the 2017 Prius C.

But for 2018, the Toyota Prius C is a veritable off-roader — a Rubicon-rolling, 4×4 river-fording FJ Cruiser successor.

The 2018 Prius C’s black cladding reaches up and around the wheel arches, and that cladding is interrupted at the Prius C’s chin by skidplate-aping metallic accents, heaven forfend. (Read More…)

By on July 24, 2017

2017-ford-fiesta-hatchback

After months of speculation as to the fate of the Ford Fiesta in North America, as well as months of hazy non-answers from communications staff, Ford Motor Company’s B-segment program manager, Robert Stiller, has stated that the subcompact car segment in Dearborn is dead.

No more Ford Fiesta.

After going on sale in the U.S. in mid-2010 as a 2011 model, the Fiesta’s American seems destined to end this year. Buyers in Europe and overseas — always a reliable draw for itty-bitty cars — are guaranteed a seventh-generation model. Oh boy, do they ever receive a new model. The 2018 Fiesta bows not just as a three- or five-door hatch, but also in luxurious Vignale and soft-roading Active trims.

Over here? Hug your 1.0-liter EcoBoosts tightly and shed a tear, Fiesta fans. The little guy appears doomed for the chopping block. Can Ford interest you in a subcompact crossover? (Read More…)

By on July 18, 2017

2017 Chevrolet Sonic - Image: ChevroletAmerican car buyers are increasingly turning their backs on subcompact cars.

During the first six months of 2017, the subcompact car losing the greatest number of sales is the Nissan Versa, which is suffering as Nissan realigns its dealer strategy to emphasize certified pre-owned cars.

But the subcompact car losing the second-highest number of sales is the Chevrolet Sonic, which has declined 37 percent this year (for a 10,334-unit decrease). In a continued attempt to dramatically reduce Sonic inventory — GM had a 159-day supply at the beginning of June; a 43-day supply at the beginning of July — GM is extending the scheduled plant shutdown at the Chevrolet Sonic’s Orion Township assembly plant north of Detroit, Michigan.

There are side effects from such a shutdown, an aftertaste following the swallowing of a bitter pill, spin-offs from a show nobody was watching to begin with. (Read More…)

By on July 11, 2017

2016 Nissan Versa Sedan - Image: NissanAmerica’s historic subcompact car segment leader, the Nissan Versa, suffered a sharp 22-percent U.S. sales decline in the first half of 2017.

In fact, total Versa sales plunged 45 percent in June 2017. The Versa remained America’s top-selling subcompact nameplate, and by a wide margin. Even in June, when Versa sales plunged by more than 6,500 units, Nissan still owned nearly a quarter of America’s subcompact market.

Nevertheless, it’s odd to see the segment leader, a car that was selling better than ever at this time last year, suddenly dropping like a stone, declining even more rapidly than the segment as a whole.

But after years of using the Nissan Versa as a tool for turning used car buyers into new car buyers, Nissan USA is scaling back factory support for the Versa in lieu of assisting Nissan dealers with their certified pre-owned efforts. (Read More…)

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