Hidden gems sparkle
Forgotten models get lost among the hype
IN the showrooms and yards of our Far Northern dealerships sit a few vehicles which buyers are ignoring at their peril.
If, buyers look beyond market trends and hype, there are actually super models in the lower parts of the charts.
Our market, regarded as the most competitive in the world, has more than 50 brands and hundreds of models — probably more than 1000 if you include every specification and variant within each model’s line-up.
We reckon some cars deserve a bit more love than they’re getting.
Until lately Ford Australia had forgotten that, apart from the Ranger and Mustang, there are some other great models in their range.
The Mondeo is a superb large sedan or wagon (top right) that’s been ignored for years but in 2016 it emerged from the shadows to record a 47 per cent sales increase.
Finally would-be Falcon buyers finally took a Mondeo for a drive and realised how good it is.
It’s a similar story with the Focus, which has punchy turbocharged engines, frontrow-of-the-grid dynamics and up-to-the-minute safety tech.
Another Ford with A-grade driving, safety and infotainment credentials, the Kuga has been rebadged as the Escape for 2017, which should improve its dismal fortunes in the booming mid-size SUV class.
The Kuga (Cougar) name was always a bit dodgy. Women ran for the exits as soon as they saw it, for obvious reasons.
Mazda builds some of the best quality cars on the market, none more so than the Mazda6, its mid-size sedan and wagon that’s made in Japan. Even at base model level, it’s a beautifully crafted piece, comparable with an Audi in materials, fit and finish, yet sales are going backwards.
Perhaps, as with the Mondeo, Honda’s Accord, Subaru’s Liberty, VW’s Passat and many other family-size cars, it’s been run over by the SUV juggernaut.
There’s a waiting list for the top-spec Ford Ranger 4WD double-cab utes, such as the Wildtrak, even with a price pushing $65,000 on the road. Cashed-up tradies can’t get enough of this truck.
Yet the same ute with a different suit — the Mazda BT-50 (below, far right)— sells fewer than one-third of the Ford’s numbers, despite being up to $8000 cheaper. OK, so the Mazda misses out on a few safety and infotainment features but that doesn’t explain it.
The reason is much simpler. The Ranger looks tough. The Mazda looks too car or SUVlike.
But that doesn’t seem to matter to Tablelanders as the BT-50 is seen on the roads and farms all over the place.
Peugeot’s secondgeneration 308 (right), launched in 2015, is a beautiful car in the finest French tradition.
With a suite of fuel-efficient turbo engines, both petrol and diesel, plus outstanding roadholding and comfort, tidy handling and very chic sheet metal, it should be on every VW Golf buyer’s test drive list.
Yet the Golf outsells it by almost 16 to one.
Jaguar must be disappointed by the lack of interest in its second-generation XF.
A new model is supposed to put a rocket under sales, not send them into reverse, but that’s what’s happened with the XF, a much-improved drive over its predecessor — and, until the new BMW 5 Series gets here soon, arguably the pick of the class.
Skoda makes rebadged VWs in the Czech Republic.
They should be right up any young hipster’s street but the Fabia, Rapid, Octavia and Yeti have always struggled to get on buyers’ radar. That may be because, until recently, Skodas cost similar money to the real VWs they were cloned from, so people just bought the latter.
Still, the Octavia and Superb are fine cars, good value and worth your inspection.
Walk into a BMW showroom and you’ll see the future of motoring, into which BMW poured billions of euros in anticipation that, yes, the time is right and the Era of the Electric Car has arrived. Today.
You’ll first have to weave your way through a heap of shiny new V8-powered X5s and weapons-grade stuff such as the mighty M4 and M5, but eventually you’ll find the sales disaster that is the i3. BMW’s electric wundermachinen has been a dud, not just here but around the world, since its launch in 2013.
Australians bought 92 examples last year.
The wildcard? Citroen’s funky DS3, something different with a sporty engine and chassis. Only 33 sales last year.