B-segment cars ready to ride that extra mile

Kathmandu, July 19:

The B-segment cars are often termed to be exciting subcompacts that deliver style and space, fun-to-drive and fuel efficient. It is changing its gears and slowly moving ahead characterised by small size, big economy, affordable price tags and distinctive styling.

Natural progression is the root cause for the creation and success of this segment. Through ongoing evolution many cars originally known for their diminutive sizes have grown bigger like Honda Civic, which is now the size of a previous-generation midsize Accord. Toyota’s Corolla has bulked up, as has Nissan’s Sentra.

Enter the B-segment with its prime-time players- the Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, Nissan Versa, Scion xB and Scion xA and Suzuki SX4 they are all poised to fill the void at the bottom of the chain.

So, a B-segment vehicle is a part hatchback, part liftback, part minivan hybrid, part mini-SUV crossover and part some other tuck under, bend over or blend together vehicle that has style, convenience, is environment-friendly fuel-efficient and a low-cost buy-in. In a world where auto sales are falling off, the B-segment is expanding and as long as fuel prices remain volatile this trend would continue.

The founder of the segment in America is the Scion xB. Known as the b-B in Japan, this mighty-mite became a popular player in the Japanese auto industry. It was badged a Scion and brought over to America as an entry-level vehicle aimed at the style conscious urban youth. While the car was popular with the urbanites and the tuning crowd, it also seemed to click with baby boomers, who wanted to roll in something small, efficient and hip-not their father’s Oldsmobile.

Honda’s Fit is derived from the Japanese market car dubbed Jazz. Since Hondas, in general, are popular in the America tuning scene, there was a lot of buzz surrounding its introduction in April last year. Then the Yaris and Versa joined the league and a new segment was born.

Checking in late in the race is the Suzuki SX4, which was introduced in 2006 as a 2007 model. The SX4 is more of a mini-crossover SUV with its all-wheel-drive system and higher centre of gravity, which may or may not be an advantage. Historically the Suzuki brand has lacked the aftermarket support that is widely enjoyed by Honda, Toyota and Nissan.

Although the B-segment was created with the allure of youth and aftermarket appeal, it has a much broader appeal. Further, it was created with Japanese imports but there are other vehicles that share the attributes of the big B-segment players. The MINI Cooper and Chevrolet Aveo5 make the grade. There is also a Korean contingent. Hyundai’s Accent GS 3-door is the price point leader while the Rio5 is Korea’s five-door offering. All these cars measure up in other decidedly B-Segment categories overall length, wheelbase and small-displacement four-cylinder engines. The question is do they have the intrinsic values, interior versatility, quality and a tuning market that make the B-Segment the hot commodity.

The mantra of B-segment is ‘entry-level price without entry-level compromises.’ All the entries come with air conditioning as standard fare. Most B-segment offerings come with all the niceties with the Fit leaving transmission preference as the only option. Eight of the ten B-segment vehicles deliver 34-mpg highway or more. The quality of interior materials in most B-segment cars defies the term entry level as do other more intuitive talents such as interior noise abatement, audio system performance, driver/passenger comfort and overall convenience.

Beyond features and talents, B-segment cars primarily made up of hatchback, liftback or SUV-esque models, tend to act big. As far as their Zen philosophy goes, these ubiquitous B-segment offerings can change themselves from within. Their interiors can

be transformed, contorted and folded into themselves to accommodate any number of cargo scenarios, challenging the laws of physics in the process.

But it’s not all about cargo people benefit from this morphing feature. Despite their outwardly slim silhouettes, ‘it’s big inside,’ is a common comment from proud B-segment owners. Legroom to headroom, front seats to back seats, logical design has given rise to surprisingly spacious cabins.

Simply put, the versatility of these cars goes a long way in reversing a shortcoming of the econobox.