Look left and right through the lanes of traffic, and you may find yourself surrounded by a multitude of Mazda 3s, a tonne of Toyota Corollas and Camrys, a horde of Hyundai i30s, and the luxury staple of the Big Three Germans. It can all seem a bit same-same.
It’s not that these cars are boring; they wouldn’t sell so well if they were not anything short of excellent. It’s just that there are so darn many of them, and there are some excellent alternatives that seem to get lost in the sales wilderness.
Are buyers simply taken in by the spiel on the showroom floor, or are we becoming too lazy, too scared, or too blinkered to look outside the popular box?
Checking out the monthly VFACTS vehicle industry sales reports, there are some stunners that seem to be under selling.
In the light car segment, which nabs nearly nine percent market share, the Hyundai Accent has 18% of sales at 5333 so far this year. In comparison, three super-cute, fun and frugal fours are seemingly out in the cold: the Ford Fiesta with 1032 sales has just a 3.4% share, the Renault Clio has 524 sales or 1.7%, and the Skoda Fabia just 1% at 308 sales so far in 2016.
This trio should also be on the super-light shopping list: the Euro-designed Ford Fiesta is getting on (the update is due late 2017) but is still an excellent proposition; the Renault Clio is a fun all-rounder; and the Skoda Fabia is certainly underrated.
Skoda has been back in Oz for almost a decade now, and while the first Fabia had a decidedly quirky styling with its blunt grille and boxy shape, the latest 2015 update looks decidedly sleeker, and not just a little like its cousins the Volkswagen Polo and Golf.
The Fabia shares its underpinnings with the former so the drivetrains are excellent, and while the body and badge are different and the interior in particular is more basic, it still gets radar-based emergency braking and seven airbags for a five-star ANCAP rating; a 6.5-inch touchscreen interface with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity; a tonne of storage, and also comes in a wagon bodystyle for a $1500 premium, something no other light car currently offers. You need to step up to the bigger engine to get an auto, but the base manual with its turbocharged 1.2-litre four-cylinder is still hard to go past at $15,990.
Skoda’s Octavia and new Skoda Superb should also be on the lists of the medium and large car buyers for the same reasons as the Fabia.
In the medium luxury market, the Volvo S60 sits at just 166 sales or 2%, despite its sublime saloon looks, awesome drivetrain, and Volvo recently addressing its innate tendency to tramline (when the wheels want to follow the contours in the road).
Jaguar also entered the medium car market recently with its XE, a $60K ‘entry level’ sedan that’s almost the spitting image of its big brother the XF. Well specced, sleek in design and with excellent drivetrains, the XE has sold 620 units.
In comparison, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class has sold over 2000 and counting, and while it is certainly the benchmark, followed closely by BMW’s 3-Series and Audi’s A4, the Swede and the Brit should not be overlooked.
In the sub-$60K mid-sized arena, the Ford Mondeo is outsold five-to-one by the Camry, and it’s still hard to overlook the Mazda6 for quality and value in this segment.
But the Mondeo’s voluminous dimensions, smart engines and aggressive new face should be on more prospective buyers’ lists. While it will be the biggest benefactor in the Falcon’s demise when it ceases production in October, it is yet to reach 1000 sales in 2016.
In the sub-$70k big sedan class, the Holden Commodore slams the opposition with 76% of the share at 8000 sales. While we are all for buying Australian-made, particularly given the sad demise of the local car industry, there is an underrated Korean which is worth a look.
While sales of 174 cars (1.6%) may reflect our buyer’s hesitation to consider a big Hyundai, the Genesis has lovely styling, a mega feature list and every bit of electronica available. Many of its more expensive competitors will have you ticking cost options boxes for the gear it comes with.
And don’t forget that new Skoda Superb… More resolved looks, cracker engines, expansive legroom and a step up in cabin quality (though this could still be improved) makes it a strong class contender.
These are but a few of the offerings that should get a look-in when shopping for a new car. For an island with a million car sales a year, we really are spoilt for choice with brands and model variants, and should explore all the options – even if, in the end, the sales table-toppers end up in our driveways.