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8 March 2018

Geneva 2018: the cars Australia doesn't get but should

By Matt CampbellMatt Campbell
Geneva has a lot of metal on offer. Some of which isn't sold here. (image credit: Matt Campbell)

If they sold them, we would come. Wait, that sounded wrong...

You often hear that Australia is a saturated automotive market, with too many brands and too much competition.

But there are some brands that don’t play the game Down Under. And of the brands that do, there are some that don’t offer the cars we think they should.

Here is a list of a few of those cars and brands, and why it’s a shame we don’t get them. This was spurred on by some wandering around the stands at the 2018 Geneva motor show, and as such, some are show debut vehicles, others are just cars that would be great to see.

CARS:

Volkswagen up! GTI

  • (image credit: Matt Campbell) (image credit: Matt Campbell)
  • (image credit: Matt Campbell) (image credit: Matt Campbell)
  • (image credit: Matt Campbell) (image credit: Matt Campbell)

If you don’t understand the Volkswagen up! GTI, I don’t think we can be friends.

It’s everything great about the Volkswagen up! - three-cylinder engine, manual transmission, superb packaging, stunning style, low price - but with the added good bits from the GTI portfolio, like more grunt than the regular model (this little guy runs a 1.0-litre three-pot turbo with 85kW/200Nm), more aggression and tartan seats.

Volkswagen T-Roc

  • (image credit: Matt Campbell) (image credit: Matt Campbell)
  • (image credit: Matt Campbell) (image credit: Matt Campbell)
  • (image credit: Matt Campbell) (image credit: Matt Campbell)

Small SUVs are a boom segment, and Volkswagen’s T-Roc model is said to be one of the best examples you can get… it’s a shame, then, that the T-Roc is almost certainly ruled out for the Australian market.

The problem? It’s too popular for its own good. There’s a global surplus in demand, and little markets like ours don’t get as big a say as those where the T-Roc really stands a chance of sales success. 

Kia Ceed Sportswagon

  • (image credit: Matt Campbell) (image credit: Matt Campbell)
  • (image credit: Matt Campbell) (image credit: Matt Campbell)
  • (image credit: Matt Campbell) (image credit: Matt Campbell)

Why would Kia bring it? The brand has the very impressive Sportage for people who want a car slightly bigger than the Cerato, and wagons are selling in such minuscule numbers that there’s no point.

Why should Kia bring it? That’s a different question altogether. The Kia Ceed model range is Euro focused, but we’ll see very similar models in terms of design with the next-generation Cerato line that launches this year. There is no denying that companies can make a fist of it when it comes to selling small wagons - the old Hyundai i30 wagon did pretty well, but was too expensive to import from Europe. Presumably it’s the same case for this car.

Ssangyong Musso

  • (image credit: Matt Campbell) (image credit: Matt Campbell)
  • (image credit: Matt Campbell) (image credit: Matt Campbell)
  • (image credit: Matt Campbell) (image credit: Matt Campbell)

This one could slot under the brands section below, because Ssangyong has disappeared from Australia. It could come back - we’ve heard that may be the case - and I hope they just focus on two models: this new Musso ute and the Rexton SUV that it shares bits with.

The Musso (if you’re wondering, that’s the Korean word for Rhinoceros) dual-cab ute is better looking in this generation, has more up to date drivetrains, and is claimed to be actually able to cope with some weight in the tray: the previous model only had a 400kg payload.

Toyota Yaris GRMN

  • (image credit: Matt Campbell) (image credit: Matt Campbell)
  • (image credit: Matt Campbell) (image credit: Matt Campbell)
  • (image credit: Matt Campbell) (image credit: Matt Campbell)

Another pint-size punchy hatchback makes my list: this time it’s the Toyota Yaris GRMN, which is the Japanese company’s first real hot-hatch in aaaaaages.

It packs a 1.8-litre supercharged four-cylinder engine with 155kW of power and runs a six-speed manual gearbox, sports seats, the same steering wheel as the Toyota 86, and a three-door body. Yum. Unlike a lot of these sorts of cars, the reason we won’t get it is not because it’s left-hand drive only… no, no, there are RHD models being built: they’re just being sold in Japan and the UK.

Toyota Aygo

  • (image credit: Matt Campbell) (image credit: Matt Campbell)
  • (image credit: Matt Campbell) (image credit: Matt Campbell)
  • (image credit: Matt Campbell) (image credit: Matt Campbell)

The Yaris is old. The Aygo is new. The Yaris isn’t that big inside. You can say that about the Aygo, too. 

I like the Aygo - it’s aggressively styled, simple but effective in its execution, and comes powered by a little 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine with modest outputs of 53kW/93Nm. This thing would potentially smash the Kia Picanto on the sales charts if it were to arrive priced at $15,000… but it won’t. Part of the reason is cost, the other is because it doesn’t have a real automatic transmission option, only a five-speed automated manual.  

Fiat 500L

  • (image credit: Matt Campbell) (image credit: Matt Campbell)
  • (image credit: Matt Campbell) (image credit: Matt Campbell)
  • (image credit: Matt Campbell) (image credit: Matt Campbell)

Okay, so what I really want is a new-generation of the Fiat Multipla, but the 500L is essentially that car’s spiritual successor. 

A lot of people hate it, and I get that. It really shouldn’t have been called the 500L, because despite best intentions it isn’t as cute or loveable as the regular puny 500 hatch. But all that aside, if there’s a brand that should embrace a sense of ‘brand family values’, Fiat is it.

Ford Edge ST

  • (image credit: Matt Campbell) (image credit: Matt Campbell)
  • (image credit: Matt Campbell) (image credit: Matt Campbell)

The all-new Ford Edge won’t be called the Ford Edge when we get it. Instead, it’ll be called the Endura, because Toyota owns the Edge copyright in our country. But it’s not the name I’m sad we’re missing out on - it’s the flagship ST sporty SUV model that I’m sad about.

This thing is set to be a corker: it runs a 2.7-litre turbocharged V6 petrol engine with 264kW of power and 515Nm of torque. Those are huge numbers. But because Ford Australia has - strangely, I might add - decided to go with a diesel-only line-up, the ST won’t be sold here… yes, it won’t be sold in the market renowned for having the highest penetration of performance variants per capita in the world. Go home, Ford: you’re drunk.

Renault Kadjar

  • (image credit: Matt Campbell) (image credit: Matt Campbell)
  • (image credit: Matt Campbell) (image credit: Matt Campbell)
  • (image credit: Matt Campbell) (image credit: Matt Campbell)

The previous MD of Renault Australia didn't think importing the Kadjar was a good idea. He doesn't work there any more. Coincidence?

The fact is that if you have an SUV that can be sold, then you should sell it. The Kadjar is the French company's middle guy, the one that sits above the Captur and below the Koleos. The reason - we're lead to believe - that the Kadjar isn't sold in Australia is one of positioning, but clearly it could carve a stylish niche for itself as an alternative to the Nissan Qashqai, upon which it is based.

Renault Talisman

  • (image credit: Matt Campbell) (image credit: Matt Campbell)
  • (image credit: Matt Campbell) (image credit: Matt Campbell)
  • (image credit: Matt Campbell) (image credit: Matt Campbell)
  • (image credit: Matt Campbell) (image credit: Matt Campbell)
  • (image credit: Matt Campbell) (image credit: Matt Campbell)

This one is a much harder business case cookie to crumble. Mid-size sedan and wagon, minnow brand, probably going to be too expensive... but the straw that broke the camel's back in the case of the Renault Talisman is a lack of right-hand drive production.

Shame. It's a gloriously stylish car. The wagon looks particularly hot.

Polestar 1 Coupe

  • (image credit: Matt Campbell) (image credit: Matt Campbell)
  • (image credit: Matt Campbell) (image credit: Matt Campbell)
  • (image credit: Matt Campbell) (image credit: Matt Campbell)
  • (image credit: Matt Campbell) (image credit: Matt Campbell)
  • (image credit: Matt Campbell) (image credit: Matt Campbell)
  • (image credit: Matt Campbell) (image credit: Matt Campbell)

As I walked up to the Polestar 1 Coupe, I had to wipe the drool away from the edge of my mouth. Never have I wanted a car so much: it’s everything good about the future of cars - mad aero styling with a retro bent (there’s totally a hint of P1800 in that roofline), a high-tech petrol-electric drivetrain, and terrific packaging and safety.

More on the power: plug-in hybrid, with 150 kilometres of claimed electric range, a combined output of 440kW and 1000Nm. You can see why I was drooling, right? There’s a chance someone in Australia might get one, because of the new left-hand drive import laws - and the company has opened up an ordering system, with a huge 6500 potential customers already identified… and they thought they’d only build 1500 total.

BRANDS:

Seat - the entire brand

We heard a few years back that Seat was considering re-entering the Australian market. Yeah, it was in Australia for a little while, and its main claim to fame then was that it was the big prize car on The Price Is Right. Ahhhh, Larry Emdur. What ever happened to you? Hang on, lets get back to Seat. It really ought to return, and I for one would happily offer up some brands that could be excused to make way for it.

  • (image credit: Matt Campbell) (image credit: Matt Campbell)
  • (image credit: Matt Campbell) (image credit: Matt Campbell)
  • (image credit: Matt Campbell) (image credit: Matt Campbell)
  • (image credit: Matt Campbell) (image credit: Matt Campbell)

With VW Group engineering and sexy Spanish styling, the range includes a bunch of really good looking hatchbacks and SUVs - two of the body types Aussies love. 

Dacia - the entire brand

Duster. Logan. Lodgy. No, those aren’t the nicknames of the blokes in the local footy team. Well, they could be. How is Lodgy these days? Haven't seen him in aaaaaaages. Wait, I got distracted. Those names are some of the models that make up the Dacia line-up.

  • (image credit: Matt Campbell) (image credit: Matt Campbell)
  • (image credit: Matt Campbell) (image credit: Matt Campbell)
  • (image credit: Matt Campbell) (image credit: Matt Campbell)
  • (image credit: Matt Campbell) (image credit: Matt Campbell)
  • (image credit: Matt Campbell) (image credit: Matt Campbell)
  • (image credit: Matt Campbell) (image credit: Matt Campbell)

Of course there’s also James May’s favourite, the Sandero, but it’s the Duster that I think could be a great addition to Australian roads. It’s like a budget-focused previous-generation X-Trail - literally and figuratively. In Europe, these cars start at very low prices, and they lack some stuff. But you get what you pay for, and in my mind you’d be getting a bargain, no matter which model you chose. 

Would you buy one of these cars if it were sold here?