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by Tim Beissmann

The exodus from passenger cars to SUVs may have reached record heights, but one segment in particular has bucked that trend in 2015.

Sales of light cars have increased 11.0 per cent so far this year to 36,578, making it one of only two passenger segments not to lose ground compared with 2014 (the other is the medium segment, which is up 6.0 per cent).

In recent times, the light car segment has been overlooked by many buyers, falling awkwardly between the sub-$15,000 micro class and the dominant $20,000-plus segment controlled by the likes of the Toyota Corolla, Mazda 3 and Hyundai i30.

But the arrival of a host of all-new and significantly updated models over the past 12 months has given new life to the underperforming light car segment, and has undoubtedly pulled buyers up out of micro cars (down 42.2 per cent) and down from small cars (down 7.9 per cent) in the early months of 2015.

2014 Toyota Yaris HB ZR

Leading the way is the new-generation Mazda 2 that arrived in November, sales of which are up 5.3 per cent to 4975. The baby Mazda is building momentum too, with sales up 15.2 per cent last month to 926 units.

Ranking a close second is the Toyota Yaris, which was heavily upgraded in September. Sales are up 17.0 per cent this year to 4853, and it was the segment’s top seller in April, recording 966 registrations.

Filling the final step on the podium but losing ground is the ageing Hyundai i20, which is down 7 .0per cent this year to 4180. Sales were down 43.8 per cent in April as buyers clearly looked to newer and more appealing offerings.

Despite also now showing its age, the Suzuki Swift has enjoyed a resurgence in the early months of this year, rising 63.7 per cent to 3812 units to the end of April.

honda-jazz

Honda’s new-generation light cars have also delivered that brand a much needed boost this year. The Jazz, released in July, currently ranks fifth this year, with sales almost doubling to 2934. And while less impressive in terms of raw numbers, sales of the City sedan, which launched two months earlier, have almost tripled in 2015 to 871 units.

The City’s key rival, the Mitsubishi Mirage sedan, trails with 515 sales, though it’s performing better than expected, accounting for a third of total Mirage sales this year.

One of the biggest movers in the segment has been the Volkswagen Polo, which arrived with sharper prices and higher equipment levels in August, and was topped off with the updated Polo GTI last month. Polo sales are up 38.7 per cent this year to 2858, and almost doubled last month to 829 to give it a rare podium finish.

volkswagen-polo

Next is the Hyundai Accent, which has enjoyed a 14.0 per cent sales boost this year to 2347. The Renault Clio has been another quiet achiever, claiming 881 sales and rising 31.5 per cent.

A number of other big names have failed to fire this year, however. Ford Fiesta sales are down 25.3 per cent to 1793, leaving it trailing the Holden Barina, which itself has dropped 8.5 per cent to 2115.

The Kia Rio, refreshed in January, hasn’t caught on with buyers either, falling 28.5 per cent to 1823. The Toyota Prius C, which arrived a month later, is also lagging 25.0 per cent behind last year’s numbers at 438 sales.

mini-cooper-5-door

The Mini Cooper (including three-door, 5 Door and Clubman variants) has claimed a 45.0 per cent share of the premium end of the light segment so far this year. Buoyed by the arrival of the 5 Door in October, sales have increased 132.0 per cent to 826.

It’s so far easily outgunning the Audi A1, which is down 23.0 per cent at 549.

The only other significant player in the premium segment, the Peugeot 208, is up 9.9 per cent to 311 units.




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