Able to give as much as others but cheaper, urban models tailored to become the cars of the crisis was said. Worn by the contemporary trend in downsizing (but powerful enough smaller engines, but reduced size record habitability), the “small is beautiful” would also allow general builders, so the French brands, to redress the balance.

It seems that things are not so simple. The latest statistics indicate that the diffusion of small car segment A (Renault Twingo, Peugeot 107 …) caps. As for those of segment B (Renault Clio, Volkswagen Polo, Ford Fiesta), which weigh 30% of the European market, they have, according to research firm IHS cited by Les Echos, plunged 19% between late 2010 and late 2012.


At the same time, the entire European market only lost 9.7%. These figures reflect a tad nervous French firms. Launched just last year, the Peugeot 208 has not achieved its objectives. Renault Clio 4, appeared in fall 2012, seems to please, but it is premature to talk about success.

And if there was a problem with small cars? “We suffer from measures scrapping, whose disappearance depresses the market,” argues Lawrence Fox, director of Renault range.

The middle classes, main clientele of urban models are affected by the loss of purchasing power (disadvantaged groups, they no longer have access to the new market). For their part, the wealthiest buyers moderate purchases of second vehicle home.

The French brands, yesterday, held the upper hand, are now facing fierce competition with the arrival of Japanese urban models (Toyota, Nissan) and Korean (Kia, Hyundai). Even the German specialists high-end broke. In short, they hustle on a segment in decline.


The crisis of the small car is also the legacy of a lack of creativity. Certainly, the “premium” brands (Mini, Audi) reached impose the idea that an urban model can be chic and expensive, while Fiat has cleverly espouse the cause of nostalgia and reinvents his 500. For the rest, we can not say that in recent years, the imagination took power.

Design side, most small urban strive to resemble the model closer to the top end. As overwhelmed by the challenge, the designers first seek not to offend. “For years, the idea that we did not have the right to be wrong with a strategic model tends to favor very consensual choice, admits Laurent Renard at Renault. With the new Clio, we decided to a divisive car. ”

In fact, we like it or rejects the fourth generation of the small Renault. Ditto for what the Ford Fiesta facelift. The Peugeot 208, on the contrary, prefers cut corners. This tendency to conformism also refers to the difficulty out of the hegemony of the sedan. Instead of midsize cars (Golf, Megane) which have long and successfully undertaken varied body launching MPV breaks or false 4 × 4 (SUV).


In the family of small urban, however, transplantation mini MPV has never really taken small breaks are too few and the crisis was due to the way the little roadster.

Aware that it is nevertheless necessary to expand their territory, Renault and Peugeot have, simultaneously, the same intuition. In the coming weeks, the two brands will market respectively Captur and 2008, two mini-SUV to urban uses derivatives Clio and 208.

So far, among the French brands, only Citro?n was really out of the box, with the DS3, the Mini rival. Bruno Mo?ta in charge of looking at the firm to double chevron, firmly believes in the future of urban models. “The true modernity of the cars of tomorrow will fit in the wake of urban cars. Provided they are available at the right price and fit in women’s values.”

Small cars more practical, more original and resolutely empathetic style. Who would ignore the growing aspiration of most buyers to stand out.

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