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Volkswagen Golf, bestseller in Europe since more than a decade, is also best seller in C-segment.
Citroën C4 Cactus was one among the most successful launches in European C-Segment in 2014

C-segment is a car size classification defined by the European Commission[1] as the third-smallest segment (above the A-segment and B-segment) in the European market. The C-segment corresponds approximately to the Compact Car segment in North America and the Small Family Car in British English terminology.

The C-segment includes only hatchback, sedan and Station Wagon configurations — as the European Commission reserves the M-segment for Multi-Purpose Cars and J-segment for Sport Utility Cars (including Off-road Vehicles), Light Commercial Vehicles, compact Sport Utility Vehicles (C-SUVs), compact Crossover Utility Vehicles (C-CUVs).

As the "segment" terminology became more common in the United States, in 2012 the New York Times described the differences, saying "today's small cars actually span three main segments in the global vehicle market. The tiny A-segment cars include the Chevy Spark and Smart Fortwo. They're extremely short and very light. Slightly larger are B-segment cars like the Ford Fiesta and Chevy Sonic. The A- and B-cars are known as subcompacts. In the C-segment — typically called compacts — are the largest of the small cars. Examples include the Toyota Corolla, a perennial sales leader, as well as the Ford Focus, Citroën C4, Citroën DS4, Chevy Cruze, Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Tata Manza, Peugeot 308 and Peugeot 408 sedan, Renault Mégane and Renault Fluence or Volkswagen Golf and Jetta."[2]

The modern C-segment market in Europe can be traced back to the launch of the Renault 6, the first successful hatchback of this size, in 1968. The hatchback bodystyle was first introduced by Renault with the 1964 Renault 16, awarded 1965 Car of the year in Europe. A review in the English Motoring Illustrated in May 1965 stated: "The Renault Sixteen can thus be described as a large family car but one that is neither a four door saloon and nor is it quite an estate. But, importantly, it is a little different."[3] Even the later similar-sized cars like the Ford Escort, Vauxhall Viva, Austin Allegro and Hillman Avenger were still only available as saloons or estates, although some cars of this size, like the BMC/BL 1100 and 1300 saloons and Italy's Fiat 128 featured front-wheel drive from their launch during the 1960s.

The C-segment was revolutionized in 1974 with the launch of the Volkswagen Golf, a front-wheel drive hatchback, which was hugely successful all over Europe. Within a decade, most cars of this size in Europe were front-wheel drive hatchbacks. These included the Fiat Ritmo (Strada in the UK), Ford Escort (from the MK3 model launched in 1980), Opel Kadett (Vauxhall Astra in the UK), Renault 11, and the Talbot Horizon (originally a Chrysler/Simca until Peugeot took over Chrysler's European division in 1979. Most manufacturers still offered a traditional soon of this size though, with Volkswagen using the Golf as the base for its Jetta saloon, and Ford launching the Escort-based Orion in 1983.

Some carmakers later created the liftback bodystyle like the Peugeot 309, which replaced the Talbot Horizon in this sector at the end of 1985.

Since the mid 1990s, premiums brands normally associated with larger and more expensive cars have entered the C-segment with more affordable hatchbacks and saloon. The first such example was the Audi A3 in 1996. Subsequent cars of this type include the BMW 1 Series and Mercedes-Benz A-Class.

European Market in 2015[4][edit]

The new BMW 2-Series

The C-segment in Europe, following the above definition, is in 2015 the most popular segment in the region (slightly ahead the J-segment), with a 23.0% of the European market.

The C-segment includes the Volkswagen Golf, currently the most popular car in Europe. Basically the Golf, together with other 5 models (Skoda Octavia, Audi A3, Ford Focus, Peugeot 308 and Opel Astra with its Vauxhall twin) make the half of the market. VW Group dominates the segment with a 39% share, covering the market with its brands VW, Audi, Skoda and Seat and mainly with the three top sellers of the segment, including the premium Audi A3.

Luxury brands such as BMW (1-2-4 Series), Audi (A3) and Mercedes (brand-new A-class) are getting more and more popularity in the segment since years, differently from what is happening in other minor segments like A-segment and B-segment.

Also low-cost models like Škoda Rapid and Dacia Logan are eating market share to more generalist models.

Model 2m 2015 Sales
Volkswagen Golf 76,930
Škoda Octavia 33,411
Audi A3/S3/RS3 29,431
Ford Focus 28,216
Peugeot 308 27,325
Opel/Vauxhall Astra 23,352
SEAT León 20,434
Toyota Auris 17,904
Renault Mégane 17,841
BMW 1 Series 17,248
Others 159,752

Other models in the segment includes:

BMW Group FCA Group Geely Group General Motors Honda Group Hyundai-Kia Group Mazda Group Mercedes Group
BMW 2-series Alfa Romeo Giulietta Volvo V40 Chevrolet Cruze Honda Civic Kia Cee’d Mazda3 Mercedes-Benz A-Class
BMW 4-series Fiat Bravo Opel/Vauxhall Ampera Honda Insight Hyundai i30 Mercedes-Benz CLA
Lancia/Chrysler Delta
Mitsubishi Group PSA Group Renault-Nissan Group SAIC Group Subaru Group Toyota Group VW Group
Mitsubishi Lancer Citroën C4 Cactus Dacia Logan MG 6 Subaru XV Toyota Corolla Skoda Rapid
Citroën C4 Nissan Pulsar Subaru Impreza Lexus CT VW Beetle
Citroën DS4 Seat Toledo
Citroën C4 Aircross VW Jetta
Citroën C-Elysee
Peugeot 301

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Regulation (EEC) No 4064/89 - Merger Procedure" (PDF). Office for Official Publications of the European Communities L-2985 Luxembourg. 
  2. ^ "Taking the ‘Cheap’ Out of the Small Car". The New York Times, September 9, 2012, Phil Patton. 
  3. ^ Motoring Illustrated, May 1965
  4. ^ "European car sales analysis February 2015 – models". http://left-lane.com/.