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Where's Wally? The shocking gaps in Ford, Mazda, Toyota, Nissan and Subaru's Australian line-ups

The Ford Territory is an example of a series that should have been replaced but wasn't, despite the ute-based Everest's arrival.

There’s an age-old truism in the car industry that everything comes down to “product, product, product!”

Countless examples abound of once-struggling brands turning things around with just one successful release – and vice-versa. A classic Aussie example was how the original Magna of 1985 saved Mitsubishi’s Australian manufacturing operations – while its 380 replacement 20 years later turned off the lights.

So, it comes as a shock to learn that, even in Australia’s booming car market, major manufacturers seem to willingly have obvious product gaps in their ranges.

There’s no rhyme or reason why, and no consistency across brands. Just the glaring holes that would surely make their lives – and not to mention their associated dealers – happier if filled with the right models.

Here are the makers with conspicuous gaps in their product portfolios.

Where’s… Subaru’s Mazda CX-3 rival?

Subaru is synonymous with crossovers. Think the earliest Leone 4WD wagons of the 1970s and the larger Liberty-based Outback from 1996 that really kicked things off for the brand.

The seminal Forester that followed from 1997 is regarded as a landmark midsized SUV, the once-quirky Japanese company has never gone down the smaller or light SUV route. Strange.

Subaru has been making crossover wagons since the mid-1970s, as this early Leonie pic proves.

It hasn’t had to really, since the Impreza small-car-derived XV (now known as the Crosstrek) has really carved a healthy slice of the sales action as a high-riding crossover hatchback right around the globe.

While the Subaru Crosstrek is classed as a small SUV, it is clearly an Impreza hatch on stilts.

We cannot help wonder, though, whether Subaru doesn’t look at actual small SUVs like the Mazda CX-3 or Hyundai Kona as an as-yet untapped torrent of sales and revenue.

Where’s… Nissan’s Kia Cerato rival?

Back in 1966 as Datsun, Nissan helped propel Japanese small cars onto the international stage with the first 1000/Sunny, which morphed into the hugely-successful 1200/120Y series and, after that, a rollcall of sophisticated front-wheel-drive Pulsars.

A low price and high reliability were their calling cards and some even became bestsellers. Nowadays, a vibrant enthusiast base reflects their blossoming classic status.

So, with this sort of legacy and fan base in place, it’s perplexing that Nissan Australia was one of the first volume manufacturers to drop out of the small-car class back in 2017.

The 1966 Datsun 1000 set Nissan on the path of loveable and reliable small cars.

It’s as if the company forgot how to build a proper Toyota Corolla competitor once the Pulsar was replaced by the widely derided Tiida in 2006, especially after low quality sullied the succeeding 2013 Pulsar, just as small-car sales started contracting against stiff small-SUV competition.

In the first three months of 2024, however, sub-$40K small-car sales are up a whopping 53.5 per cent year-on-year, dominated by the Corolla, Kia Cerato, Hyundai i30 and Mazda3. And history proves Nissan knows how to design and engineer a great alternative.

The latest Nissan Note looks pretty good to us!

Where’s… Toyota’s Hyundai Venue rival?

Toyota needs a proper light SUV.

Yes, the Yaris Cross is a likeable and highly-successful evolution of the Japanese giant’s supermini series, creating a mini-wagonoid hybrid crossover niche the brand should be proud of.

For many consumers, the latest, hybrid-only Yaris Cross is priced out of contention. Bring on the Raize!

But not all consumers can afford the just-revised 2024 Yaris Cross hybrid-only range starting from $31K before on-road costs. And Toyota loyalists deserve something more attainable, much like the spirited Hyundai Venue from $22,500 is.

The fact is, such a Toyota already exists elsewhere. Badged as the Raize, based on the Daihatsu Terios and built in Japan where it’s been a huge hit, this four-metre long by 1.7m wide by 1.65m high runabout has the moxie to make Australians take notice – especially as an entry-level proposition into buyers’ favourite brand.

The Toyota Raize would be an ideal baby brother to the evergreen RAV4 in Australia. But why isn't it sold here?

C’mon Toyota, don’t be greedy. As you’ve proven, brand loyalty needs to begin at a young age, so Raize the stakes!

Where’s… Ford’s Toyota Kluger rival?

Ford wasn’t first to the big three-row car-based SUV game when the original, Falcon-based Territory launched in 2004, but its accompanying acclaim and popularity made it famous for being the best of the breed for an inordinately long time.

The Ford Territory is an example of a series that should have been replaced but wasn't, despite the ute-based Everest's arrival.

The end of Australian full-vehicle manufacturing ended that particular series’ career – making it our only Aussie SUV ever, sadly – but rather than follow in its footsteps with the conceptually similar current-gen Ford Explorer out of America, Ford instead handed that market to the also-US-made Toyota Kluger and Nissan Pathfinder, as well as the Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe.

The car-based Ford Explorer from America would have been an ideal Territory replacement.

The company points to the popular Everest as the Territory’s successor, but that’s a heavy, diesel-only powered and (Ranger) ute-derived truck with packaging and efficiency compromises compared to what similar, car-based seven-seater SUV wagons offer. Especially the hybrid ones.

Yet, once upon a time, with nearly 180,000 made right in Melbourne, the leader used to wear the Blue Oval badge. Will we ever see its like from Ford in Australia ever again?

Where’s… Mazda’s Subaru Outback rival?

If you look at the new-car price list, only a small handful of midsized contenders remain, in a class that – in the 1980s – accounted for nearly one-in-four sales. Thanks very much, SUVs!

So, it’s a surprise that one of the midsized segment survivors, the Mazda6, hasn’t raised its hems and donned some wellies in the same way that Subaru’s now-defunct Liberty did decades ago, to transform into a crossover, Outback-style. This is doubly perplexing given that there’s already a 6 wagon to work from.

The original Subaru Outback was just a grade of the then-popular Liberty wagon back in the mid-1990s.

After 45 years of continuous representation as one of the Hiroshima brand’s design and technology leaders starting with the 1979 626, perhaps raising the stakes is the only way the series will live on: a raised 6 Crossover, possessing the style, quality and driving dynamics that should make the existing, dozen-year-old model still a compelling contender, instead of the bygone-era curio it’s become.

The current Mazda6 wagon has been around for a dozen years, but it's still a classy drive.

Maybe that’s a job for the next-gen 6 replacement, rumoured to be all-electric.

Where’s… Honda’s Suzuki Swift rival?

Honda knows how to make ground-breaking superminis.

The first Civic of 1972 – already a more-complete, durable and reliable Mini alternative – became the world’s first mainstream low-emissions vehicle, forcing change that has saved countless lives.

This is the fourth-generation Jazz/Fit that Australians sadly miss out on. Why, Honda?

Since then, Australians hadn’t really witnessed the scores of other brilliant baby Hondas offered overseas, until the Jazz of 2002 reimagined and subsequently elevated what city-car engineering and packaging could mean. It and subsequent models effortlessly achieved what the original two Mercedes-Benz A-Class versions could not – set higher benchmarks for the masses.

Sadly, Australia misses out on the fourth-gen Jazz/Fit launched in 2020, and looking at Honda today, even with the world-beating Civic Type R hot-hatch in tow, it’s as if something is missing from the local line-up. Like Superman without Clark Kent or Stranger Things without Eleven.

The essence of Honda, in other words.

Byron Mathioudakis
Contributing Journalist
Byron started his motoring journalism career when he joined John Mellor in 1997 before becoming a freelance motoring writer two years later. He wrote for several motoring publications and was ABC Youth radio Triple J's "all things automotive" correspondent from 2001 to 2003. He rejoined John Mellor in early 2003 and has been with GoAutoMedia as a senior product and industry journalist ever since. With an eye for detail and a vast knowledge base of both new and used cars Byron lives and breathes motoring. His encyclopedic knowledge of cars was acquired from childhood by reading just about every issue of every car magazine ever to hit a newsstand in Australia. The child Byron was the consummate car spotter, devoured and collected anything written about cars that he could lay his hands on and by nine had driven more imaginary miles at the wheel of the family Ford Falcon in the driveway at home than many people drive in a lifetime. The teenage Byron filled in the agonising years leading up to getting his driver's license by reading the words of the leading motoring editors of the country and learning what they look for in a car and how to write it. In short, Byron loves cars and knows pretty much all there is to know about every vehicle released during his lifetime as well as most of the ones that were around before then.
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