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Baby come back! The sales flops from Suzuki, Honda, Ford, Jeep and others that should return right now due to their leading affordability and efficiency

With fuel economy rising to the fore, it's time for more affordable and economical models to return to Australia.

Cars, just like any other product, can often struggle in the marketplace because they’re ahead of their time.

But no matter how low the price, bold the design or advanced the engineering, sometimes it’s the buying public that isn’t ready to accept them.

Maybe they were outshone by glitzier rivals; perhaps their makers didn’t know how to properly promote them; or – most likely – it could have been because times were different back then. 

But if we've learned one thing over the past few years, it's that the world keeps changing and evolving. Today we need more economical and affordable new cars than ever before.

So, without further ado, here are a few of the sales failures that we’re now missing and would like to see return to Australia.

Honda Jazz

It’s remarkable that Honda Australia pulled the once-popular Jazz in 2020, just as three things were happening that might have affected the esteemed brand's management's decision to do so.

Firstly, the all-new, fourth-generation, GR-series Jazz/Fit we never ended up seeing in Australia actually heralded a return to form. 

Secondly, the entire reason why Honda’s ultra-versatile supermini was discontinued in this market – soaring prices – has since applied to every other quality rival like the Toyota Yaris, Mazda2 and now VW Polo anyway.

And, thirdly, rocketing fuel prices and ever-more-expensive small SUVs and crossovers are making hyper-economical small cars with exceptional packaging relevant again.

Even from $28,000, a well-equipped Jazz would make sense in Australia. And the e:HEV hybrid – which can drive like a pure EV around town – would find ready buyers seeking a stylish, high-quality petrol-electric hatch from Japan.

Highly engineered and thoughtfully designed, the latest and some say greatest Jazz represents the very essence of Honda.

Ford Focus Mild Hybrid

Save for the high-performance ST, Ford discontinued the Focus in Australia during last year, ending an 80-year run of continuous mainstream small-car representation in this market. 

Despite superb driving capabilities, a punchy three-cylinder turbo-petrol engine and glowing reviews, sales had been dismal and the German hatch struggled to match the class leaders.

The MY22 facelift, however, aims to rectify that with fresh styling, an improved interior and the introduction of a mild-hybrid powertrain. The latter would catapult the Focus as a fuel-economy leader, since it manages around 5.5L/100km, while providing an affordable and highly-engaging entry into Ford ownership.

After all. Not everybody is obsessed with SUVs, so why not have access to one of the best small cars the world has to offer?

Renault Clio

The previous Renault Clio from 2013 to 2020 was a handsome, spacious and refined supermini with excellent handling and keen pricing.

However, that was precisely the time that the French runabout also fell out of favour as light SUVs started taking hold, even though the RS hot-hatch version remained one of the best performance bargains on the market.

The completely redesigned version released in Europe in late 2019 brings improved high-efficiency turbo-petrol engines, along with hybrid options, without diluting any of the design or driver appeal of the earlier iterations.

The Clio is an icon and Australian buyers are all the poorer for not having it as an option.

Daihatsu Rocky

In the recent past, we’ve advocated the return of the respected Daihatsu brand in Australia – it was discontinued in 2005 – for entry-level new-car buyers seeking reliable, frugal and affordable Japanese motoring.

Given that Toyota now completely controls Daihatsu, we think a light SUV priced well under the $30,915 before-on-road costs of a base C-HR would resonate particularly strongly with consumers who realise what they're actually buying, and this is where the latest Daihatsu Rocky steps in.

The one-time Suzuki Jimny/Sierra 4x4 pint-sized off-roader with body-on-chassis construction has evolved into a modern, monocoque-constructed city SUV with punchy engine options (including a 1.0-litre three-pot turbo), front- or all-wheel drive availability and advanced driver-assist safety tech like AEB, for a five-star safety rating. All while underpinned by faithful Toyota engineering.

Chunky and charming, the Rocky would be a smash-hit with Australians – even more so than the ‘80s original. Time for a comeback! And failing the Daihatsu brand returning to Oz, how about the rebadged Toyota version, dubbed the Raize? 

Suzuki Alto/Celerio

Can you believe that as recently as 2018, Australians could buy a new five-door hatchback offering ample space for four adults, six airbags, stability control, air-conditioning, Bluetooth and more for $12,990 – or $13,990 for the auto version?

Yes, the Suzuki Celerio only managed a four-star safety rating, but at that price in today’s inflated market, it would compete against decade-plus old used rivals, often with over 100,000km on the odometer.

There were a few of these sub-B hatchbacks available for similar money in the mid-2010s, including the Nissan Micra, Holden Spark and Mitsubishi Mirage, but the Japanese-engineered, Thai-built Suzuki punched above its weight with a likeable combination of sprightly performance, great fuel economy, practical packaging, an attractive interior, excellent vision and a fun-to-drive driving attitude.

Sadly, however, Australians ignored it completely, especially after the more appealing Kia Picanto arrived in 2016.

Nowadays, with Picanto and ageing MG3 prices rising steadily and the Toyota Yaris kicking off from nearly $25,000, now’s the time for the completely redesigned and noticeably larger Alto/Celerio series for 2022 to return to a market hungry for affordable, frugal and reliable motoring.

With sales of the creaky old Mirage (starting from $14,990) up nearly 300 per cent last year, surely that’s all the proof required that Aussies are ready to give the newly-attired and sharply-priced Suzuki a second chance.

Jeep Renegade

Hear us out here.

The Jeep Renegade arrived five years too early in 2015, since there wasn’t so much call for small SUVs with real (or perceived) off-road capability.

But the Pandemic and its consequences have made adventure-lifestyle vehicles extremely relevant and popular in more recent times, exacerbated this year by surging petrol prices.

Offering a gutsy 1.3-litre three-pot turbo petrol powertrain (with available 4x4 and multi-terrain modes on the off-road focused Trailhawk), improved interiors, better safety and higher-quality fittings, the facelifted Renegade Series 2 would be perfectly poised to step up as one of the few SUVs combining economy with impressive go-anywhere flexibility.

The smallest Jeep’s time has finally come.

Would you give it – or any other of the former flops mentioned above ­– a second chance? Let us know in the comments below.