In the midsize and compact segments, the sales charts are predictably dominated by Honda and Toyota, with some of the domestic brands showing a surprising resurgence in those segments. But in the B-segment (or subcompact, to us Yanks), it's a whole different pecking order.
Nissan, which is a big player in the midsize segment with the Altima, isn't in the top five in compacts, with the Sentra selling only about one-third as many units as the class leaders. But for the subcompacts, the Nissan Versa firmly tops the charts, not only out-selling everything else in the class, but also out-selling its big-brother Sentra. Chevrolet takes a strong second place with the Sonic, with the Ford Fiesta rounding out the top three.
Nissan 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.
Chevrolet Sonic – 7177, Up 25.6 Percent
The Chevrolet 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 Ford Fiesta by nearly 3000 units for January.
Ford 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.
Hyundai Accent – 3495, Down 19.49 Percent
Slightly out of the limelight that the Elantra gets, the Hyundai 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.
Honda 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.
Toyota 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.
Fiat 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.
Kia 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 subcompact 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.
Chevrolet 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.
Mazda 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.