Browse over 9,000 car reviews

Are we missing out? Should cheap cars from Honda, Nissan and Daihatsu, and the 2024 Toyota Prius hybrid car, be offered in Australia? | Opinion

The Nissan Note, Toyota Prius, Honda N-Box and Daihatsu Taft are cool and affordable. But would they work in Australia?

Australia has a relatively small population for the large number of automotive brands that operate here.

So the question has to be asked - do we really need to add any more new brands or even new models to an already heaving market?

The answer is probably no, but where is the fun in that?

At the risk of sounding like one of those insufferable people that recently got back from an overseas holiday, I recently returned from an overseas holiday, in Japan to be specific.

And while it was not my first time there, it was very clear that while we do have access to a lot of brands and models in Australia, there are so many more that we don't get. And some of them seem like a great fit for our market.

So in a desperate bid to stretch out my holiday adventures as much as I can, here is my list of models that I would love to see on Australian roads.

Some are ‘kei' cars - a category of car exclusive to the Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) that are the smallest road-legal cars in the country - and unlikely to get a green light for the Aussie market, but maybe they should? That's a topic for a whole other article. But for now, here are some of the coolest JDM cars we don't get.

Nissan Note

Launched in late 2020, the Note is in its third generation now in Japan and, boy, is it a looker!

Now this is a model that could easily be added to Nissan Australia's line-up - if, of course, the business case stacked up.

Launched in late 2020, the Note is in its third generation now in Japan and, boy, is it a looker!
Nissan Australia's sales strategy is squarely focused on SUV and light-commercial vehicles these days, leaving the Leaf EV and Z coupe as the only traditional passenger cars in its local line-up.

The Note Aura is even sexier, and there is a Nismo version!

It's a shame, because given Nissan's brand equity here, the Note could be a sales winner. Granted, light hatchbacks have increased in price by quite a bit lately, but if Nissan could bring it in somewhere between $25,000 and $30,000, it would surely win some fans.

In the metal, the Note is striking. It has that EV-esque Nissan front end design, lovely boxy tailgate and sleek tail-lights. The Note Aura is even sexier, and there is a Nismo version! And the Note is an e-Power hybrid-only proposition too, offered in two or all-wheel drive, so it's fuel efficient. Please, Nissan!

Daihatsu Taft

There is a real need for more affordable new cars here now that many established brands have abandoned the cheaper end of the market.

Ok, I know this is a long shot, BUT LOOK AT THIS THING!

Daihatsu had a long history in Australia, selling small, affordable cars for about 40 years until parent company Toyota Australia pulled the pin in early 2006.

There is a real need for more affordable new cars here now that many established brands have abandoned the cheaper end of the market, chasing profits with pricier models. MG and the like are dominating that end of the market now, but Daihatsu could do well here once again!

The key issue would be safety. The Taft, and really any ‘kei' car, is unlikely to get a high safety rating, which could spook buyers.

Taft is a moniker that dates back to the 70s and Daihatsu used it for a little off-roader. Taft stands for ‘Tough and Almighty Four-wheel Touring Vehicle'. Amazing. Obviously there would be no off-roading in the current Taft, but is it not the absolute cutest?

Honda N-Box

Aside from the frugal sub 1.0-litre powertrain and sizeable interior, the N-Box was also the best selling car in Japan last year.

If you don't want to take up too much space on the road, or you're after something easy to park, but you need ample interior space, then beg Honda Australia to import the N-Box.

The tiny tallboy hatch has the most space out of any models in its class, according to Honda, and the rear seats fold completely flat for even more storage space. The front seats also fold almost flat.

Aside from the frugal sub 1.0-litre powertrain and sizeable interior, the N-Box was also the best selling car in Japan last year.

Toyota Prius

To say that in the metal, the new Prius is the most striking, successful design on a Toyota model in decades might be an understatement.

Ok, so this is not a JDM car, in fact it's a global model. Purely based on design, it's fair to say that Toyota Australia's recent decision to skip the latest fifth-gen model is a big mistake.

To say that in the metal, the new Prius is the most striking, successful design on a Toyota model in decades might be an understatement. Every time I saw one I gasped. It's so sleek and given how all over the place the design of the fourth-gen car was, this makes up for it in a big way.

It’s so sleek and given how all over the place the design of the fourth-gen car was, this makes up for it in a big way.

Hybrids are huge in Australia and people are more design-focused than ever. Yes, you can get a Corolla or Yaris or Yaris Cross Hybrid these days, but that doesn't mean people won't buy a dedicated hybrid like the Prius.

Please, Toyota Australia, reconsider.

While you're at it, have a look at the Harrier and Crown too, please and thank you.

Subaru Levorg Layback

Basically it’s a jacked-up WRX wagon, and there is nothing wrong with that.

Subaru what now? Yes, the Levorg, known in Australia in its second generation as the WRX Sportwagon, has spawned a new version dubbed the Layback.

Basically it has 55mm more ground clearance than the regular Levorg/WRX Sportwagon, and would slot into the line-up somewhere between the Impreza and the larger Outback.

So basically it's a jacked-up WRX wagon, and there is nothing wrong with that. I saw one at one of Tokyo's many shopping malls and it looks very cool in the metal. It was also getting a lot of interest from punters.

Given Subaru seemingly can do no wrong here, maybe this should also be on the local radar? We wish...

Tim Nicholson
Managing Editor
Calling out the make and model of every single car he saw as a toddler might have challenged his parents’ patience, but it was clearly a starting point for Tim...
About Author

Comments