It's no hidden secret that SUVs are taking over the automotive space globally and have even eaten into the market of traditional body styles like sedans, hatchbacks and even station wagons. The popularity for SUVs is only going to grow further and manufacturers are working in overdrive mode to develop new, compact and smarter utility vehicles that not only command higher volumes but are also more advanced than before. But, just how much has the compact SUV segment grown in the recent years? Well, a survey report by UK-based car comparison and automotive market research firm - Jato - concludes that the global growth of SUV demand is all set to multiply with no signs of deceleration.
For markets like the US, Europe and China, sales for SUVs grew by 11 per cent, 23 per cent and 13 per cent between January-April 2018. Whereas SUV sales in India and Brazil, two of the fastest growing automotive markets, grew by 29 per cent and 35 per cent respectively. The boost in sales comes from the popularity of compact SUVs globally, and the subcompact SUV segment or A-SUVs are touted to be the next big thing.
(The Creta has been best-seller in the compact SUV segment,along with the new Jeep Compass)
The strong SUV sales trend has been boosted by more models, more sub-segments, and better global economic conditions. And a big part of this growth has been the success of compact SUVs or B-SUVs including the Hyundai Creta, Renault Duster (Dacia Duster in Europe), Nissan Juke, Ford EcoSport and the likes. In markets like Europe, India and Brazil, B-SUVs accounted for 37 per cent, 75 per cent and 69 per cent respectively of the total SUV sales. Compact SUVs are more affordable and cheaper to maintain over traditional SUVs, making them easily attainable than the conventionally sized models.
In markets like India, compact SUVs have managed to eat into the market share of C- and D-segment sedans, with the latter being the most affected. The Renault Duster headed the onslaught in 2013 kick-starting this segment, while offerings like the Hyundai Creta and Jeep Compass have only attained more popularity in recent years. In fact, the premium compact SUV like the Compass managed to garner over 25,000 bookings within a year of launch, while the Creta manages to sell over 10,000 units every month. Both products retail in the ₹ 15-20 lakh price bracket in India.
(The Vitara Brezza dominates the subcompact SUV segment in India at present)
But with the compact SUVs being so popular, where would the subcompact SUVs or A-SUVs fit in? The Jato report further suggests that the next generation of B-SUVs are all set to grow in dimensions as they make way for compact, tall and affordable runabout vehicles. With the idea to create more room, quite literally, the next set of B-SUVs are expected to grow between the 4250-4300 mm range globally. At present, an average compact SUV in Europe measures a length of 4192 mm.
Meanwhile, the upcoming slew of subcompact SUVs will be plying in the 3900-4100 mm length range. Obviously, you can cap that at 4000 mm for the Indian market, to meet the small car standards. While the global A-SUV boom is some time away, we have had a very real glimpse of what the segment has to offer in India. The Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza falls under this category and has been a runaway success with over 2 lakh vehicles sold in two years; and so has the rather new Tata Nexon in this space with sales exceeding 25,000 units.
The Ford EcoSport is a global offering of sorts in this segment and remains one of the older and more popular models in the A-SUV space. It's also interesting to note most of the compact and subcompact SUVs for the world are manufactured and exported from India. This includes the EcoSport, Compass, Vitara Brezza, Nexon and even the Creta.
Beyond the set of Indian manufacturers, global carmakers are also working to introduce small SUVs for the urban customers. Renault is reportedly working on an SUV positioned below the Captur (Euro-spec), while Volkswagen has already showcased the T-Cross A-SUV. Peugeot, Citroen are also working on their respective iterations. Hyundai too is working on a subcompact SUV offering and showcased the Carlino concept at the 2016 Auto Expo. More recently, Jeep announced that it will spawn an A-SUV below the Renegade for global markets. The upcoming subcompact SUV has been confirmed for India and will be produced at the Chakan facility, according to the company's global plans announced earlier this month.
Given the kind of volumes the Vitara Brezza, Nexon and Creta have garnered, the subcompact SUV segment is here to stay and possibly co-exist if not overshadow other body styles. The sheer practicality that this segment has to offer works well for car makers and customers too that want one car that does-it-all.