Monday, September 14, 2009

North American Subcompacts: New models on the way ... and the holdouts

It's been great to see the influx of small cars that have come to North America over the last few years, allowing buyers a smaller vehicle option. It's also good that many of them appear to be selling fairly well. Plus, it's neat to see some manufacturers taking a chance on the U.S. subcompact car market.

Below are some of the subcompacts slated to hit the market in the not-so-distant future. However, there are a couple of hold-out brands/models, which haven't been brought stateside, and I'm not sure why.


Volkswagen Polo
VW has a long history in the U.S., and was the king of small cars for quite some time. However, VW hasn't offered anything smaller than the Golf since it stopped selling the Fox in 1994.

Volkswagen's most obvious choice for small cars in North America would be the Polo, and the vehicle is supposed to debut in America for 2010. The car will probably have a 1.4-liter engine making 110 hp, although the TDI diesel version would be awesome if it shows up. The Polo should come in three- and five-door variants, and will no doubt have a fantastic interior like other VWs.

Suzuki Swift
Suzuki is known worldwide as being a manufacturer of great small cars. And, as you've read here, a redesigned Suzuki Swift should be poised to enter the North American market as a 2011.

The current Swift, pictured above, is equipped with 1.2–1.6-liter engines. However, since we'll see a redesigned version, who knows what will be under the hood. Most likely, it'll be under 2.0 liters, since the SX4 already uses that mill. I'm really looking forward to this one.

Fiat 500
With the Chrysler/Fiat merger underway, we've heard the Fiat 500 will be U.S. bound—including the sporty Abarth version. This will also give Chrysler an entry in the subcompact world.

The standard 500 is available in other parts of the world with a 1.2-liter, 75 horsepower gas engine; a 1.3-liter, 73 horsepower diesel; or a 1.4-liter, 84 horsepower gas engine. The Abarth has a turbocharged 1.4 making 135 horses. The 500 should provide some intriguing competition to the MINI, too. I wonder if we'll get the 500C convertible pictured above?

Ford Fiesta
It's already well known that the Fiesta will here in 2011, which is great news. I've been able to drive a European version as part of the Fiesta Movement, and found it an excellent vehicle.

The big mystery is what to expect from the U.S.-spec cars. Will we get the 1.6-liter engine found in the Euro versions? Will the interiors be the class-leading spaces I experienced in the Fiesta Movement vehicles? What we do know is there will arrive in hatchback and sedan versions. We'll have to wait a few more months to get the official word on everything else, though.

Scion iQ
Based on the Toyota iQ, the Scion iQ should show up in the near future. It will probably have a 1.3- or 1.5-liter engine and provide excellent fuel economy. It should also provide a lot of competition to the Smart brand. Already on sale in Europe and Asia, the iQ offers seating for three, outstanding fuel economy, and a small footprint.

The big question with the iQ is whether it'll be offered in standard trim (aka Toyota iQ), or if it'll be gussied up to more closely resemble the iQ concept (pictured above) that had wide fenders, big wheels, and a plethora of "I look fast" parts. It will, hopefully, be able to breathe some new life into the Scion brand.

Chevrolet Viva
The Viva, seen here in a photo from at the Nurburgring in Germany, is slated to replace the aging Aveo for 2011. There isn't a lot known about the Viva at this point. GM is claiming the Viva to be a serious competitor to the Ford Fiesta, and has alleged the car will be built in the U.S. We'll see.


Mitsubishi Colt
Mitsubishi started out in the U.S. offering small vehicles, including the Colt. Yet the company hasn't offered a subcompact since the Expo/Colt Vista/Summit Wagon, which disappeared in 1996.

In other parts of the world, Mitsubishi offers the Colt in a wide variety of trim levels including three- and five-door versions, to a convertible variant. Powertrains include a 1.1-liter three-cylinder making 74 horspower, a 1.3-liter making 94 horspower, and turbocharged 1.5-liter engine making between 147 and 161 horsepower, depending on the market.

I could see a three- and five-door version in the U.S. with either a non-turbo version of the 1.5 (4G15). Of course, I'd love to see the turbo Ralliart model here, but I'd be content with the non-turbo model. The U.S. is already familiar with the Ralliart name, and a Colt Ralliart would be sweet. Mitsubishi used to be a forefront in he hot-hatch market, and as a fan of their earlier products, I'd love to see it happen again. The Colt is the right size, looks great, and you'd think would drop right under the Lancer lineup in Mitsubishi dealerships.

Mitsubishi already gets credit for bringing the Lancer Evolution to the U.S, but you don't hear a lot about their other models. I think the Colt might be a great way to get some new blood into Mitsubishi dealers.

Mazda 2
Never mind ... the Mazda2 is headed to the states! (Click the link to the story).

There are several praise-worthy vehicles in the Mazda line, especially the 3. It's usually acclaimed as one of the better c-class, or compact cars, in its segment. However, there's nothing smaller than the 3 in the North American lineup.

Mazda could easily compete in the U.S. with its "2," also known as the Demio. Available in three- and five-door hatchbacks, as well as a four-door sedan, the 2/Demio shares a chassis with the Ford Fiesta (perhaps the reason why it's not here?). Available engines displace between 1.3–1.6 liters (including 1.4 and 1.6 diesel options) ranging from 74–108 horsepower.

I could see any of the bodystyles above brought to North America, and no doubt the larger-displacement engines installed. However, there might be some toes stepped on with the Fiesta—Ford still owns about a 13% share of Mazda.

Toyota bB (Scion xB)
Toyota took the U.S. market by storm in 2004 when it introduced the boxy Scion xB. When it was redesigned for 2008, instead of offering the Japanese domestic market version above, Toyota increased the xB's size in nearly every conceivable way—including fuel consumption.

With the current xB nearing the end of its lifecycle (assuming it only is offered for three model years, like the '04–'06 xB), I'd love to finally see the JDM bB sold as the xB. It's similar in size to the original xB, and has plenty of room. The JDM version is powered by either 1.3- or 1.5-liter engine.

With increased competition from Kia's Soul and Nissan's Cube, it only seem natural for Scion to spice things up again using the original recipe that brought the xB so much early success.


Unknown said...

What a great time to be a subcompact fanatic in the States! That's a really impressive lineup of shore bound small cars. I'm particularly excited about the 500, the Fiesta, and the iQ. I wish I had a big enough garage (and bank account)!

D2M said...

I've seen the bB and I still can't figure out what Toyota was smocking when they decided not to bring it over. It's a great car and would have done well here.