The B-segment is the second smallest of the European segments for passenger cars between the A-segment and C-segment, and commonly described as "small cars". The term also described the subcompact category widely known in North America, the A0-class in China, and the supermini category for B-segment hatchbacks in Great Britain. B-segment cars may include hatchback, sedan/saloon, station wagon, coupe/convertible, MPV, and crossover/SUV body styles.
In 2018, the B-segment or subcompact cars (excluding SUVs) represented 12.5 percent of total car sales in the global market, a decrease from 12.7 percent in 2017.
The European segments are not based on size or weight criteria. In practice, B-segment cars have been described as having a length of approximately from 3.7 metres (145.7 in) up to 4.2 metres (165.4 in), and may vary depending on the body styles, markets, and era. In some cases, the same car may differently positioned depending to the market.
While the term "B-segment" originated from Europe along with other Euro car segments, the usage of the term is not limited to the European region. It has been referenced by manufacturers during development and marketing, and by journalists in many regions to avoid the usage of other potentially ambiguous terms such as subcompact, small, or compact.
Hatchback is the most popular body style for the segment. With a global sales of around 6.3 million cars, B-segment hatchbacks contributed around 63 percent of total B-segment sales in 2019.
While the majority is equipped with five doors, many European-oriented hatchbacks was offered with both three-door and five-door versions, with 31 percent of European customers opting for three-door B-segment hatchbacks by 2007. The share has decreased to 13 percent in 2016 due to the shift of market preference which is moving towards prioritizing usability and practicality. As the result, by late 2010s, a number of manufacturers had stopped offering three-door versions of its B-segment hatchback models in Europe.
Performance-oriented versions of B-segment hatchbacks may be developed and sold as a more expensive offering. Examples include the Ford Fiesta ST, Hyundai i20 N, Peugeot 208 GTi, Suzuki Swift Sport, Toyota GR Yaris, Volkswagen Polo GTI, among others.
At 3.27 million units sold, around 32 percent of total B-segment global sales in 2019 was contributed by B-segment sedans. Some examples are the Dacia Logan sedan, Honda City sedan, Kia Rio sedan, Nissan Versa/Almera/Sunny, Toyota Vios/Yaris sedan, and Volkswagen Virtus, most of these examples has a hatchback counterpart.
Station wagon or estate body style represented less than 4 percent of total B-segment sales in 2019, with a figure of 360,000 cars. Current examples of B-segment station wagons include the Dacia Logan MCV and Škoda Fabia Combi, while past examples are the Peugeot 207 SW, Renault Clio Estate and Toyota Tercel Wagon.
Current examples of B-segment-sized coupes or convertibles include the Mini Cooper Cabrio/Convertible, and past examples include the Volkswagen Beetle, Peugeot 207 CC, Ford Puma sport compact, and Toyota Paseo.
B-segment MPV (also called mini MPV or B-MPV) are taller and/or longer derivatives of B-segment hatchbacks with an emphasis in interior space and practicality. Some larger models may offer three-row seating and sliding doors. Examples are the Citroën C3 Picasso, Fiat 500L, Ford B-Max, Toyota Roomy, and Renault Modus, while three-row models include the Chevrolet Spin, Honda Freed, and Toyota Sienta.
B-segment crossovers or SUVs (also called subcompact crossover SUV, small SUV, or B-SUV) are crossovers/SUVs that has a dimensions on par or slightly larger than traditional B-segment cars, and often are built on the same platform as B-segment hatchbacks or sedans. B-segment SUVs are usually excluded by analysts from traditional B-segment car sales. 22 percent of SUV global sales were contributed by B-segment SUVs in 2019.
In Britain, the term "supermini" is more widely used for B-segment hatchbacks. The term was developed in the 1970s as an informal categorisation, and by 1977 was used regularly by the British newspaper The Times. By the mid-1980s, it had widespread use in Britain.
In Germany, the term "small cars" (German: Kleinwagen) has been endorsed by the Federal Motor Transport Authority (Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt, KBA) equivalent to the B-segment. The segment accounts for 15.1 percent of total car registrations in the country in 2020.
The term supermini, which precedes the B-segment term emerged in the UK in the 1970s, as car manufacturers sought a new design to surpass the influential Mini, launched in 1959, and journalists attempted to categorise such a vehicle. The car which is widely regarded as the first modern supermini is the Fiat 127, launched in 1971. This was initially sold only as a two-door saloon, but it became available as a three-door hatchback the following year and within a few more years the hatchback version had eclipsed the saloon from which it was derived. The Fiat 127 was followed by the Renault 5, VW Polo and Honda Civic, which are similar in concept and size.
These supermini or B-segment cars was considered to feature better comfort and convenience, with the safety and surefootedness of the Mini’s front-wheel drive/transverse engine package. That meant the addition of a hatchback and folding rear seats, and a vastly more comfortable driving position. The oil crisis in the 1970s was also argued to increase supermini market share.
In 1976, Ford launched the Ford Fiesta which became popular for its fun-to-drive aspect, versatility, and low running costs. The segment began to be more popular in the 1980s. By the mid-1980s, the term supermini had become established as a formal car classification term, eventually being adopted in European Commission classification as the B-segment.
The 1990 Renault Clio and 1994 Fiat Uno were significant models in the supermini or the B-segment, being the recipients of the European Car of the Year award. The Clio replaced the long-running Renault 5, although the latter remained in production until 1996. In 1993, the Nissan Micra (K11), became the first Japanese car company to be receive the European Car of the Year award. In 1999, the Toyota Yaris received the European Car of the Year award, and was noted for its high roof which allowed for improved interior space. Another notable model is the Opel Corsa, which was the best-selling car in the world in the year 1998 thanks to its extensive international presence, being assembled in four continents and sold under five different marques of General Motors. It recorded a global sales of 910,839 units that year, in which 54 percent were contributed by its European sales. It took the world number one spot from the Toyota Corolla which stood at 906,953 sales.
Safety features has gotten increasingly better for vehicles in the segment. In 1995, both petrol and diesel B-segment vehicles had only around 40 percent of the listed safety options installed (side impact bars, driver/passenger airbag, side airbag, ABS, electronic braking system, stability control), whereas by 2010 they were averaging over 90 percent. It represents a significant improvement on vehicle safety over the period, despite petrol and diesel B-segment vehicles averaged an inflation adjusted price of only 6 percent and 15 percent respectively.
European sales of B-segment cars were down 25 percent in 2020 to 2.24 million units.
|Year||Models and ranking|
In South Korea, B-segment-sized cars are described as "small cars" (Korean: 소형차, romanized: Sohyeongcha), while A-segment-sized cars are known as "light cars" (Korean: 경차, romanized: Gyeongcha). "Small cars" are defined as cars longer than 3,600 mm (141.7 in), as vehicles that are shorter than 3,600 mm are categorized in the "light car" category which received benefits such as tax reliefs, and discounts on highway tolls and parking fees.
In 2016, B-segment cars held a market share of 23.7 percent in India.
In China, the B-segment is widely known as the A0-class, which occupies the space between the smaller A00-class (city car) and the larger A-class. These classes originated from Germany, since Volkswagen entered the market early during the 1980s. Vehicles belonging to this class have a wheelbase between 2,300 mm (90.6 in) and 2,600 mm (102.4 in), a body length between 4.0 metres (157.5 in) and 4.3 metres (169.3 in), and an engine displacement between 1.0-litre and 1.5-litre.
The segment saw considerable growth after Honda and Toyota released B-segment sedans in the region as a cheaper alternative to the popular C-segment sedan. Honda revived the City nameplate for an entry-level sedan below the Civic based on the older fourth-generation Civic. In the same year, Toyota introduced the Tercel-based Toyota Soluna in Thailand in 1996 in response to stiff competition from imported South Korean cars. These models are made in Thailand as the production base.
Brazil has traditionally been a large B-segment market. B-segment vehicles counts for 40 percent of total vehicle sales in the country for the Q1–Q3 2018 period, a decline from 42.3 percent in 2012.
These are car platforms used by B-segment vehicles that is named after, or referencing the B-segment or A0-class terms.
- B-segment Modular Architecture (Geely)
- Ford Global B-car Platform
- Groupe PSA BVH1 platform
- Hyundai-Kia TB/JB/PB/GB platform
- Renault–Nissan B platform
- Renault/Dacia B0 platform
- Renault–Nissan CMF-B
- Toyota B platform
- Toyota NBC platform
- Toyota New Global Architecture: GA-B platform
- Volkswagen Group A0 platform
List of vehicles
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