QOTD: How Small Can You Go?


The ongoing tumult in the small car segment is a shock to the system, though it really shouldn’t be. We’ve seen sales figures drop year after year as buyers gravitate towards larger, more commodious haulers. Haulers with a liftgate and optional all-wheel drive, of course.

To this writer, it just seemed as though there’d always be cheap, small cars. Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself, as the cupboard’s far from bare — and certain automakers will surely keep theirs in production as others vacate the building. Even if the small car becomes endangered, though, it doesn’t mean there won’t be diminutive vehicles on offer in a showroom near you. It’ll just be a crossover.

But how much can a crossover shrink while still remaining viable?

I ask this because it looks like we’ll soon find out. GM Korea, recently (and tentatively) saved from bankruptcy, claims the Chevrolet Spark city car will eventually give way to a small crossover. As the Chevrolet Trax and Buick Encore already clean up in the subcompact space, are we expecting a sub-subcompact? Something in the A-segment?

That’s what Hyundai has in the works. With its own small car sales plummeting, the automaker plans to go big and small in the crossover realm. There’s a new crossover planned for the space below the brand’s recently introduced Kona subcompact, though details remain scarce. Maybe it’s not a good fit for North America, who knows?

We’ve seeing the subcompact field grow even larger with recent additions like the Kona and Ford EcoSport, and Nissan’s Kicks isn’t far off. As small cars slip away, however, pressure mounts on automakers to offer vehicles with a lower price point than their subcompact CUVs. A base EcoSport S already nudges the $20k mark before the destination fee.

Most of us remember a time when you could hop into a Geo Tracker or Suzuki Samurai (or Sidekick) if your lifestyle called for pint-sized off-roading. Bare bones but rugged, those little vehicles enjoyed getting dirty, but space, comfort, and highway prowess wasn’t top of mind. While platforms and technology have come a long way, any new A-segment crossover will have to offer usable interior volume to go with its (often mildly) enhanced ground clearance. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Do you see the American public going for a CUV slotted below the Trax? What about the Kona? Take a gander at the rest of the subcompact field and imagine a smaller sibling for each. Does it work? How small can a crossover become before it essentially becomes useless for the things people buy crossovers for?

[Image: Suzuki]