End of an era: Cars facing the axe
Australia's new-car market is one of the most cut-throat in the world, with more than 50 brands competing for a relatively small pool of customers.
Inevitably some models - and sometimes entire brands - fall by the wayside. Often it is more about fashion than the quality of the car.
Here are some well-known cars that are about to become extinct or endangered.
Chances are if you twist a dealer's arm, you'll get a sharp price. One word of warning, though. Resale value won't be as strong so only buy one if you plan to keep it for a long time. If the brand disappears, service and parts supply could eventually become a problem.
Honda dealers were shocked when the brand dumped the Jazz from its local line-up, as it's been one of the most loved city cars in recent memory. An ideal starter car, the Jazz's clever cabin layout and tall roof meant you could fit all sorts of stuff in the back, but still squeeze into tiny inner-city parking spots. Used examples have held their value extremely well, as P-platers have chased them for their reliability and practicality. The engine is underpowered and it doesn't have the safety kit of more modern rivals, but the hatch is well screwed together and solidly engineered. Compared with city SUVs it's a bargain if you can still find one - there's less than a month's stock left.
Citroen C3 Aircross
It's hard to see Citroen lasting long in Australia - the French brand managed just 23 sales in the first two months of the year, and only three of them were C3 Aircrosses. You can still order one but there are none held in stock. That's a shame because the quirky little crossover is a breath of fresh air in a sea of very safe and boring SUVs. Available in a range of funky two-tone paint jobs, the Aircross has a comfortable and airy cabin, decent road manners and a willing 1.2-litre turbo petrol engine. Unfortunately it has a ridiculous price tag of close to $39,000 on the road, almost $10,000 more than our reigning car of the year, the Skoda Kamiq, which is bigger and better equipped. Bargain very hard.
The 308 hatch has found only 13 buyers this year. The brand says it's committed to an all-new 308 next year, but if sales continues to tank, it will be hard to make a solid business case for a local launch. The 308 was voted European Car of the Year in 2014 and there's a lot to like about it, although it's getting long in the tooth. The cabin is clean and uncluttered, its 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbo is a gem and it strikes a good balance between comfort and cornering ability. Unfortunately, the price is a turn-off. At roughly $39,000 for the GT-Line model, it's up against better equipped, newer cars from Mazda and Skoda.
Family sedans are becoming an endangered species these days. Volkswagen says it remains committed to the current generation Passat, but it's only sold 36 in the first two months of this year. The range has been trimmed back and the starting point is the Business model, priced from a substantial $53,000 on the road. Generously equipped and beautifully finished, the Passat has acres of space and a big boot. The 140kW turbo four-cylinder is smooth and punchy, the ride is smooth and composed and the steering precise. In short, it's a lot more fun to drive than a similarly-priced SUV.
The Endura replaced the popular locally made Territory, but failed to make a mark and was axed late last year. Eight were sold last month and if you look hard you can find low-km demos still in stock. The Endura was hamstrung by the fact it was diesel-only and didn't have a seven-seat option. It isn't a bad thing if you don't need the extra row of seats. The diesel is refined and relatively frugal, while the cabin is spacious.
Once a mainstay of the mid-size sedan market, the Liberty has fallen victim to the popularity of SUVs. There's about a week's stock available in dealerships and there will be low-km demos around. Available with a 2.5-litre four-cylinder or 3.6-litre six-cylinder, the Liberty is solidly engineered and has all the necessary driver aids. It's not the most exciting thing to drive - the CVT auto takes some getting used to - but it is competent and comfortable, with the added advantage of all-wheel-drive grip in the wet. It will also hold its value as a used car.
Sports cars have notoriously short shelf lives and the sun is setting on this quirky coupe as Hyundai switches its focus to hot hatches. With a single door on the driver's side and two on the passenger's side, it was one of a kind. Early models were hampered by a lack of power, but the 2019 update brought respectable grunt via a 1.6-litre turbo four-cylinder that produced 150kW. It was no rocket-ship, but it looked good and was reasonably sharp through the corners.
Originally published as End of an era: Cars facing the axe