Honda, Jeep, Chevy enjoy surging sales of new category: subcompact crossovers – Columbus Dispatch

Whether you call it a “mini SUV” or a “subcompact crossover,” this relatively new vehicle
segment is hit.

Sales of vehicles in that category, which includes the Honda HR-V and Jeep Renegade, were up 166
percent this year through April. Automakers that don’t have a subcompact crossover are rushing to
introduce one.

“The nice thing about a subcompact versus other SUV segments is the price and mpg,” said Akshay
Anand, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book. “It really takes a lot of the luster out of the small
sedans that people were just buying for fuel economy.”

The popularity is an extension of what has helped spark sales of crossover and SUV models such
as the Ford Escape and Honda CR-V — features such as a high ride and ample storage space.

“I’m on the road sometimes two hours a day, and I was sick of sitting low to the ground,” said
Gayle Wubbolding, 59, of Pickerington, who bought her HR-V last year. Her previous car was a Honda
Civic.

Her household also has a CR-V, which is about 10 inches longer. “Our CR-V is heavier. This, to
me, is more like a car” than an SUV, she said.

She gets about 38 mpg on the highway, which is better than the model’s official rating of 35 mpg
on the highway and 28 mpg in the city. Those figures are as good as many compact sedans’ gas
mileage.

Honda introduced a preliminary version of the HR-V in 2013 at the North American International
Auto Show in Detroit, calling it the “Urban SUV Concept.” After delays, the model went on sale last
year, assembled at a new Honda plant in Mexico.

Through April, 2016 sales of the HR-V totaled 22,484 units. That is significant but still far
behind the CR-V’s 100,101 units.

The leading subcompact crossover is the Renegade, which is assembled in Italy and based on a
model from Jeep’s sister brand, Fiat. Its sales through April totaled 31,681.

Behind the Renegade and HR-V in sales is the Chevrolet Trax, with 18,237 units. The segment is
home to five other models, none of which cracked sales of 10,000 units.

Sales figures were compiled by Kelley Blue Book, which refers to the segment as “subcompact
SUV/crossover.”

Hyundai is among the brands that say they have a subcompact crossover in the works for the U.S.
market. And yet, several major brands, such as Ford and Toyota, have yet to disclose their plans.
Expect that to change quickly, Anand said.

“The big automakers that don’t have something in the U.S. will probably get something,” he
said.

Interest in and demand for these vehicles have grown in an auto market that has been heavily
influenced by low fuel prices. If prices hit $3 or $4 per gallon again, demand for subcompact
vehicles is likely to rise even more.

dgearino@dispatch.com

@dangearino

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