On the face of things, if you look at what's happening with the small car segment of New Zealand's new vehicle market, you'd think it is in big trouble.
The yes is because the segment is indeed shrinking – not that it particularly worries the car companies or the consumers, because small car sales have simply been replaced by small SUV sales in what continues to be a buoyant new vehicle sales industry, even though things have softened slightly so far this year.
Models now on sale in NZ are already powered by evolved SkyActiv-G 2.0-litre and 2.5-litre engines that boast CO2 emissions well below the national average, and next year these engines will be joined by revolutionary new engine technology called SkyActiv-X, which in a world-first will employ a method of compression-ignition combustion to seriously reduce emissions.
Not only does this 12th generation version feature a new 2.0-litre direct injected petrol engine that is more powerful yet more frugal with CO2 emissions of 139g/km, but the latest range also includes two petrol-electric hybrids that boast very low emissions of 97g/km.
A major motor industry trend throughout the world is development of new small-capacity engines that offer plenty of power and torque thanks to turbocharging or supercharging, but because of their smaller size use less fuel.
Kia's new Cerato is another innovative small car – not so much because of its engines, but because of its overall design.
Could this be the start of something new – a means by which small cars can use both their design and their technical innovation to remain relevant in the face of the market onslaught from SUVs?