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Guide to the best worst sellers

YOU'VE almost got to wonder, who buys all those cars? To say nothing of the SUVs and commercial jiggers.  Private owners and fleets bought almost 81,500 new vehicles last month. Of course, the usual suspects - Holden, Toyota, Mazda, Ford, Hyundai - do most business among the 50 or so brands on offer. But for every no-brainer buy there's an overlooked, if not unloved, model sitting on the lot.

If you fancy a bit of vive la difference, we've unearthed some hidden treasures whose lack of popularity ought to compel the sales people to do a deal for you.

Alfa Romeo 159
Sales in April: 29
THOUGH a non-starter in the premium sales stakes led by zer Chermans, Alfa's now five-year-old midsize sedan and wagon will be with us for another two years.

Upgrades have seen it shed a bit of lard and get a six-speed automatic that works with it, as opposed to behaving like a transplanted organ the body's rejecting. Most 159s sold now are TI editions with lowered suspension and lustrous, but eminently kerbable, 19-inch alloys.

Hardly the sharpest tool in the shed but, my, isn't she lovely? Gorgeous, actually.  Standard equipment levels are high, so put the acid on the dealer for a good driveaway deal.

* Our choice: 2.4 JTDm auto sportwagon

Citroen C5
Sales in April: 16
Price: $45,990-$72,990

DESPITE its dashing appearance, the driving reality of this almost entirely diesel line-up can be considered exciting only if you accept boules as an extreme sport. It ain't sportif, but that's the point.

What it does, in its Gallic shrugging way, is provide a classically wafty Citroen ride in a package that looks equally at home in Paris, Provence or Parramatta. The 3.0 twin turbo V6 oiler would convert an avowed petrolhead but, in Australia's Third World road conditions, isn't sufficiently superior to the 2.0-litre four potter to justify the price.

* Our choice: 2.0 HDi Comfort

Fiat 500
Sales in April: 25
Price: $22,990-$33,990

THING is, everyone who wants a mini 2+2 convertible goes for, well, a Mini. The irresistible new Bambino now comes with a rag top, in addition to its more stalwart though hardly less cute coupe siblings.

Indeed, how much cute can you cope with? Given its level of kit and customisation options, the 500 is as much a bite-sized luxury car as a city-friendly commuting device.

The current lack of an auto option in all versions across the range keeps sales to niche levels but, hey, this is a compact Italian job. Over there, even the most venerable nonna can handle a stick shift. Anecdotal evidence suggests the Fix-It-Again-Tony days are way behind Fiat.

* Our choice: 1.4 Lounge manual

Honda Civic Hybrid
Sales: 75-80 (since January)
Price: $34,490

WHILE Toyota's Prius is effectively a synonym for petrol-electric propulsion, the cheaper Honda not only looks like a car it drives like one, while returning a potential 4.6 litres per 100km. Sales are down a bit at the moment, as petrol prices are too, but an oil price spike is certain at some point. If you want a green car that doesn't make you look like Clover Moore, act soon.

* Our choice: There is but one

Skoda Superb
Sales in April: 6
Price: From $39,990

MAYBE the long Czech liftback and now wagon is just too close in essence and price to its VW Passat sibling. Maybe we don't yet "get'' big cars with small but highly efficient engines (though there's a diesel and a V6 petrol variant as well). Maybe it's a cold war hangover.

Whatever it is, we're wrong. With a price realignment, the Superb offers better value, more kit, lots of space and lusher feel than the VW. It won Top Gear's luxury car of the year; the previous winner was a Rolls-Royce, for heaven's sake.

* Our choice: Got to be the 1.8 turbo petrol wagon


Year Price From Price To
2010 $7,370 $19,030

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Range and Specs

1750 TBi 1.7L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $5,060 – 7,370 2010 Alfa Romeo 159 2010 1750 TBi Pricing and Specs
1.9 JTD 1.9L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN $5,060 – 7,370 2010 Alfa Romeo 159 2010 1.9 JTD Pricing and Specs
Sportwagon 2.4 JTD 2.4L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $6,710 – 9,460 2010 Alfa Romeo 159 2010 Sportwagon 2.4 JTD Pricing and Specs
Sportwagon 1.9 JTD 1.9L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $5,940 – 8,360 2010 Alfa Romeo 159 2010 Sportwagon 1.9 JTD Pricing and Specs
Paul Pottinger
Contributing Journalist


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