The B-Listers: January 2013 Subcompact Sales – Nissan Versa Takes Gold

Subcompact cars are not the major market players they are in other markets, but it’s no longer the neglected boneyard of forgotten and stale models it once was. For January 2013, it was a mixed bag, with three models up for the month, and the other eight down. Only one model, the Nissan Versa, broke the five-figure mark for the month, with the next-closest model, the Chevrolet Sonic being 3000 units behind.

Honda, which has two top-ten overall players in the U.S. market in the Accord and Civic, took fifth place with the versatile and tossable Fit. In its first full January of sales, the new Chevrolet Spark racked up a respectable 2408 sales, which combined with the slightly larger Sonic bring Chevy subcompact sales close to the 10,000 mark.

2012 Nissan Versa sedan front three quarter 300x187 imageNissan Versa – 10,270, Up 9.0 Percent

The Versa may not be the flashiest or most powerful subcompact model, but its competitive pricing and generous interior room have proven to be a winning combination for Nissan. The five-door model has carried over as the sedan was refreshed. A new 2014 Versa Note model will bring the five-door up to snuff with more modern style and efficient powertrains.

2013 Chevrolet Sonic1 300x187 imageChevrolet Sonic – 7177, Up 25.6 Percent

The Sonic is leaps and bounds better than the subpar and unloved Aveo, and buyers have responded by buying them up enthusiastically. The bowtie B-car out-sold its crosstown rival Fiesta by nearly 3000 units for January, but trailed the sales champ Versa by nearly the same margin.

2013 Ford Fiesta 300x187 imageFord Fiesta – 4285, Up 22.4 Percent

Fiesta sales were up a healthy 22.4 percent over January 2012, but still well behind its main domestic rival, the Chrevrolet Sonic. A few new developments on the horizon for calendar 2013 that might change the game is a 2014 model-year styling refresh, along with a new three-cylinder EcoBoost engine, and a new hot-hatch ST model.

2012 Hyundai Accent right front 300x187 imageHyundai Accent – 3495, Down 19.49 Percent

Slightly out of the limelight that the Elantra gets, the Accent is a solid entry in the subcompact segment, offering sedan and five-door configurations, and standard four-wheel disc brakes, as well as the most powerful engine in the class. Although January 2013 was a record sales month for Hyundai, it wasn’t for the Accent, with sales down 19.49 percent compared to a year before.

2013 Honda Fit Sport 300x187 imageHonda Fit – 3156, Down 17.8 Percent

On sale in the U.S. since 2007, the Honda Fit is a staff favorite, and one of the best combinations of practicality and driving dynamics in the class. Its 117-hp 1.5-liter engine isn’t exactly a fireball, and its short gearing results in unremarkable highway fuel economy for the class, but when you get behind the wheel and hit the road, it’s hard to deny that Honda’s formula just works. Sales were down 17.8 percent for January.

2012 Toyota Yaris front three quarter 300x187 imageToyota Yaris – 2897, Down 3.8 Percent

Toyota is another name associated with chart-topping sales performances, but the Yaris is definitely a secondary player in the brands U.S. lineup, with the Camry and Corolla stealing most of the headlines. Competent but unremarkable, the Yaris was down 3.8 percent for the month.

2012 Fiat 500 Sport front view 1 300x187 imageFiat 500 – 2503, Up 31 Percent

After a rocky start with a small dealer network and inconsistent availability, the Fiat 500 finally seems to have found its footing. Not exactly a huge-volume player in the subcompact segment, the addition of the new 500 L five-door, as well as the mid-range 500T and Abarth convertible bode well for a strong 2013 for the Italian entry brand.

2012 Kia Rio SX left front1 300x187 imageKia Rio – 2470, Down 4.8 Percent

Once just a two-model brand with the Sephia and Sportage, the Rio is now a smaller player in the Kia brand, with the Optima midsize sedan and Sorento SUV being the strongest sellers. But thanks to the styling flair of Peter Schreyer, the Rio is one of the best-looking models in the segment, and can be spec’d out with a surprising amount of equipment, although full-boat models can easily top $20,000. Sales were down modestly for January at 4.8 percent.

2013 Chevrolet Spark front three quarter motion 300x187 imageChevrolet Spark – 2408 (New model)

Chevrolet’s pint-sized newcomer is off to a respectable start, with 2408 units sold in its first full January. With its 1.2-liter engine, it’s certainly not bowling over customers with its massive horsepower, but its innovative MyLink interface uses apps installed on driver’s mobile phones to add touchscreen functionality in a more streamlined, efficient package.

2013 Mazda2 front side view 300x187 imageMazda 2 – 1543, Down 49.1 Percent

The Mazda 2 doesn’t look like anything special on paper, but Mazda’s “zoom-zoom” DNA shines through when you get behind the wheel. But with a rather sparse equipment list for a somewhat high price tag for the class, the market for the 2 is limited to gearheads looking for a very specific driving experience. January 2013 sales were down a significant 49.1 percent, lending some credibility to the rumors that the 2 may not return to the U.S. market when the model is refreshed, instead coming back as a Mazda-built Toyota subcompact that may or may not be the next-generation Yaris.

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By Edward A. Sanchez