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What's my age again? Big sellers from Toyota, MG, Mitsubishi and Mazda that are older than you think beneath their modern-ish skin

Toyota is a specialist in keeping models in production for decades but others are at it too, including Mazda, Mitsubishi and MG.

Australians, it seems, love old new cars.

Our best-selling model might be wearing clothes from 2015, but the bones underneath date back to 2004 – and even further back if you consider how much chassis commonality is shared with the 1997 version.

The same goes for two of our most popular SUVs, which both broke cover in 2009 and remain essentially the same.

So, what gives? That’s easy: money. As in, it costs less and brings more profit in when making and selling an older car that has already had its development costs amortised. It’s how companies like Toyota became so rich over time.

But older new cars don’t necessarily translate to cheaper new cars for buyers. And, of course, besides looking dated inside and out, most lack the latest in safety tech as well as convenience and comfort features found in newer alternatives.

Without further ado, then, here are our most golden new oldies that Aussies love to buy.

Toyota HiLux

Australia’s most-popular vehicle, the Toyota HiLux, sells in massive numbers to companies and governments of all sizes.

Yet despite dating back to 2015 and receiving a facelift in 2020, the current model shares much with not only the seventh-generation series unveiled in 2004, but the one before that launched in 1997.

The 4x2 cab-chassis grades are staples of company and government fleets Australia-wide, dominating the cheaper end of the pick-up/cab-chassis market. Buyers are attracted to the HiLux’s reputation for toughness and reliability – ongoing diesel particulate filter (DPF) problems aside.

It’s not just the Toyota that features several generations of tech underneath. The big-selling Mitsubishi Triton is essentially the same as the 2005 series, today’s Nissan Navara is almost as old under the skin, while even the Australian designed and engineered Ford Ranger’s DNA dates back to 2010.

That still makes it relatively new in HiLux years, though.

Mitsubishi ASX

A stalwart of rental agencies across the land, the ASX’s success is a long and hard-won story that started quietly in 2010.

Dig deeper, though, and you’ll find that its GS architecture dates back to 2005, when the closely-related, next-segment-up, second-gen Mitsubishi Outlander was unveiled. Since then, and over four facelifts, the same 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine has proven itself as the ASX’s (noisy) powertrain of choice.   

Fun fact: Mitsubishi originally created the 2017 Eclipse Cross as the smallest Mitsubishi SUV’s replacement. But as ASX sales just kept growing as the decade wore on, becoming a class favourite in the process, it would have been foolish to pull the plug.

Australians clearly like what they see: keen pricing, above-average interior space, brand reputation and good looks. Which is why you’ll find an ASX at most airport rental outlets.

MG 3

Like Australian speed skater Steven Bradbury’s legendary turn as the last person standing (literally) to win gold in the men's short track 1000 metres event at the 2002 winter Olympic games, the MG 3 is one of the final sub-$20,000 new cars in 2022.

With almost every rival supermini systemically falling by the wayside or pricing themselves out of contention (hello, Toyota Yaris), you can’t buy a cheaper new automatic of this size: the geriatric Mitsubishi Mirage is about to vanish, the Kia Picanto is smaller while the bigger Suzuki Baleno costs more.

Hence MG’s near-40 per cent stronghold on the sub-$25K light car segment. Fetching styling inside and out, plus bags of room, a long warranty and that auto-only spec have sealed many deals.

The catch? Well, the MG 3’s no spring chicken, having launched in its native China in mid-2011, undergoing a facelift in 2013 and again in 2018. Which explain the outmoded four-speed auto, dated driving experience and – most tellingly – absent safety gear like autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and rear-seat curtain airbags as found in most alternatives.

You get what you pay for. But the MG 3 still looks pretty on the showroom floor anyway.

Toyota Prado

Being related to the long-defunct FJ Cruiser and North American-market 4Runner is a giveaway. The current, J150 Prado is well into its third decade on sale, having been launched in Australia all the way back in November, 2009.

Yet even that was a comprehensive revamp and redesign of the 2003 J120 series, so we’re talking a long time here.  

Australians don’t seem to care. Year to date, the Prado is the best-selling large SUV in Australia by a massive margin (11,400 versus the second-placed Toyota Kluger’s 4551 units), and third most popular SUV in Australia overall, after the Toyota RAV4 and Mazda CX-5 mid-sizers.

And it isn’t just the body-on-frame Prado’s reputation for robustness and dependability (again, DPF issues notwithstanding) that keeps consumers coming back for more. Somehow, it has managed to move upmarket, sitting above similar rivals like the Australian designed and engineered Ford Everest, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport and Isuzu MU-X.

So much so, in fact, that Toyota has been able to slip in the cheaper, HiLux-derived Fortuner from Thailand underneath, to give it blanket coverage of the big three-row SUV market.

We’re expecting the next-generation Prado isn’t too far away, though. And this one promises to be more like a shrunken LandCruiser 300 Series if some overseas reports are to be believed, so expect prices to keep rising in unison with this Japanese-made social climber’s ever-expanding aspirations.

Nissan Patrol

Created primarily for the Middle Eastern market, the big, body-on-frame Y62 Patrol launched overseas in early 2010, but took nearly three years before it arrived in Australia in late 2012.

Early sales were disappointing, due to high pricing and lack of diesel engine availability, but through the last decade, Nissan improved the value proposition and implemented some clever updates to start attracting consumers.

Of course, the pandemic also worked in the Patrol’s favour from 2020, as it tapped into soaring interest in recreational 4x4s as consumers were forced to take their holidays locally. Seemingly endless waiting lists for the Toyota LandCruiser and Prado also sent buyers Nissan’s way.

When the Patrol’s eventual replacement arrives is not yet known, but it can’t be too far away. The series has run continuously since 1951 and over six generations, is sold in North America as the Armada, and has spawned an Infiniti version known as the QX56/QX80. Oh, and the Patrol Warrior isn’t too far away at all.   

Mazda 6

Has it really been 10 years since Mazda launched the current 6 mid-sized sedan and wagon?

Though strikingly styled, with a long-wheelbase sedan aimed at North American buyers and an 80mm-shorter wagon designed for European tastes, no amount of smart design or quality engineering could save it or any other medium-sized passenger car from the SUV onslaught.

Which explains why almost all of the 6’s contemporaries since 2012 have vanished ­– including the Ford Mondeo, Honda Accord Euro, Subaru Liberty and Holden Commodore.

So, it’s ironic that one thing that has probably helped keep it in production is the 6’s architectural commonality with the closely-related, highly popular CX-5, CX-8 and CX-9 SUVs.

It’s also worth noting that Mazda has continuously evolved the 6 over the years, with a much higher-grade cabin presentation, improved dynamic capabilities and a concerted effort to raise refinement levels while lowering noise, in line with the Japanese brand’s premium aspirations.

What we’re saying is, unlike every other car on this list, the 6 has blossomed with age. It’ll be a tragedy to lose it. Let’s hope Mazda does follow up with a worthy replacement.

Toyota LandCruiser 70 Series

This should come as no surprise.

Not even attempting to hide its age, the 70 Series LandCruiser range is only two years shy of its 40th birthday, and there’s no end in sight for these wildly popular workhorses-cum-recreational off-roader vehicles.

Toyota has been steadily updating the range over the decades, releasing new offshoots like 2007’s 76 Series wagon and even a raft of safety upgrades for this year, but there’s a direct line to the 1984 original.

Nowadays, like all LandCruisers, there’s strong demand for the 70 Series. With the original Land Rover Defender long gone (2016) and stocks of the full-sized Mitsubishi Pajero (2000) finally dried up, buyers see this as either the most authentic or most chic new 4x4 on the market.