The five best cars you’ve never considered
Not every car is destined to sell in large quantities. Some don’t deserve such a fate. Others, such as Rolls-Royces, Ferraris and other exotica, aren’t meant to. But there’s another kind of automotive in-betweener: a car with decent sales ambitions and the talent to back it up but which, for some reason or another, hasn’t made the big-time. Here are five of the brightest lights to fall under a bushel in 2016.
Škoda Fabia, from $15,990
Only 778* Australians had bought this light-sized Škoda in 2016, a paltry number when compared to the leaders of the class such as the Mazda 2 (12,691). It’s an even more cruel fate when you factor in Volkswagen’s Polo, which had 7416 buyers over the same period. The Fabia is based on that car, has the same drivetrains and much of its technology plus standard autonomous emergency braking, something you have to pay extra for in its VW cousin.
Ford Focus, from $23,990
This Ford’s 2016 sales tally (6190*) looks pretty healthy until you factor in the other small car leaders such as the Toyota Corolla (37,403), Hyundai i30 (34,937) and Mazda 3 (32,966). The Focus isn’t unequivocally the best car in its class – given a recent retreat from the cutthroat $20k price point of the segment, it isn’t even trying to set sales records – but it’s right in the fight with its excellent drivetrains, benchmark driving qualities, up-to-date tech and solid value credentials.
Peugeot 308, from $27,990
This premium-flavoured small Peugeot clocked up 1158* sales in 2016, a drop in the ocean compared to its chief rival, the VW Golf (17,891). The 308’s grasp of the small-car spectrum might not be quite so laudable as the benchmark Golf’s but it runs close with engaging driving, a refreshing cabin vibe and a brilliant three-cylinder petrol engine that underpins the range. Perhaps the recent range reshuffle and general specification upgrade will boost its fortunes in 2017.
Citroën C4 Grand Picasso, from $44,990
Just 119* Australians bought this Citroën people-mover in 2016, barely a blip on the radar of a segment that has seen 4447 sales go to Kia’s Carnival during the same period. The Grand Picasso retains too many traditional Citroën qualities to ever be a mainstream choice (ie, out-there styling, left-of-field details everywhere you look) but deserves to do better based on its thrifty diesel engine, six-year warranty and the seven-seat cabin’s unique lounge-suite atmosphere, ample smarts and user-friendliness.
Kia Sorento, from $40,990
Here’s a Kia that isn’t cutting through with Australians as well as some of its siblings, racking up 3825* sales in 2016. It’s one of the best large seven-seat SUVs with its sharp value, practical cabin, rock-solid driving credentials, choice of petrol/diesel power and seven-year warranty/fixed-price servicing combo... yet nearly three times as many buyers have put their money behind Toyota’s Kluger (10,970), a very decent large SUV, for sure, but one that also shows up some key deficiencies when compared to this Korean contender.
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Sales figures: Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, VFACTS Report, November 2016
* at the time of writing