Europeans continue to buy more small cars than any other body type, but sales have been hit by the rapid rise of SUVs and are forecast to carry on sliding despite a slew of new models arriving this year.
The key model for 2019 is the new Renault Clio. The current car was Europe’s best-seller through October last year, outpacing the Ford Fiesta and the Volkswagen Polo, according to data from JATO Dynamics.
The fifth-generation Clio, which will debut at the Geneva auto show in March, will have big changes to the interior, Renault Design Director Laurens van den Acker told Automotive News Europe. One example is that the new Clio will offer an even larger infotainment touchscreen on top versions. Van den Acker said he is glad he won his fight with management to equip the fourth-generation Clio with its vertical touchscreen – a move that Renault made before the first-generation Apple iPad was launched – because the system has been very popular with car buyers.
Another key launch this year is the replacement for the Opel/Vauxhall Corsa, which sits on a new small-car platform called CMP developed with parent PSA Group. The Corsa was the No. 6-selling model last year through October. The platform will be shared with the new Peugeot 208, which is expected to be the third big launch in 2019 in the small car sector. The 208 was last year’s No. 4-selling small car through October.
These three new models won’t have it easy. The VW Polo, Ford Fiesta and 10th-placed Seat Ibiza have all been replaced within the last 18 months.
Despite this surge of launch activity, analyst firm LMC Automotive doesn’t believe sales in the segment will grow this year. It estimates the final tally will be 2.71 million for the year, down from an estimate of 2.80 million for 2018, which was below the 2.82 million small cars sold in 2017. “The general trend is negative,” David Oakley, Europe analyst for LMC Automotive, told Automotive News Europe.