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Australia's best worst sellers: The Mazda, Ford and SsangYong cars and SUVs that might be off your radar, but deserve consideration | Opinion

Though well received by critics, some cars just don't seem to score the sort of sales that their glowing reviews suggest.

Some of life’s most beloved artists or feats of engineering took years if not decades to be widely appreciated.

Consider that Vincent van Gough died a pauper or how the Eiffel Tower was reviled by many when opened as a temporary structure for the 1889 World’s Fair. Sometimes it just takes time to be appreciated.

The same often applies to cars. Many gain stellar reviews or stand out for being special, only to end up underperforming in the market.

We’ve identified seven magnificent sales losers that deserve to be far more popular in Australia than what their measly numbers suggest. 

You never know: like David Bowie’s initial flop The Man Who Sold the World (1970), some might even end up as future classics.  

Ford Fiesta ST

This one's definitely a puzzle.

The remaining version of Ford’s once-popular European supermini series, the Fiesta ST is widely regarded as one of the sharpest handling, hungry-for-corners runabouts in the business, putting sublime steering and sheer driving pleasure above all else.

Coupled with a brilliant six-speed manual gearbox, firecracker performance from a terrific three-pot turbo, a decent level of standard kit and a big personality to boot, Australia’s only German-built pocket rocket represents outstanding value.

Yet, with just 321 buyers to date in 2021, the Ford must struggle to justify its existence. Neither the more buttoned-down dual-clutch-only VW Polo GTI from South Africa nor Japan’s searing Suzuki Swift Sport possess the frenetic charm of the Blue Oval belter. The ST defines what a small hot-hatch should be.

Maybe the MY22 facelift due out soon, with its raft of updates, might improve things.

Peugeot 3008

Acknowledged as the model that catapulted Peugeot from perennial millennial loser to the power player behind global giant Stellantis, the 3008 is a rare thing – a mainstream SUV with gorgeous design, stunning interior, excellent dynamics, family-friendly practicality, real refinement and oodles of personality.

But while it remains the local outfit’s most popular model, a paltry 861 sales in the first nine months of 2021 does not reflect the Peugeot’s perennial appeal. It’s earned the right to be considered alongside far-more popular premium SUVs like the Audi Q3, BMW X1, Lexus NX and Volvo XC40.

The 3008 is a renaissance model sharing little more than a name and an engine block with its fish-faced predecessor. Time Australian SUV buyers take notice and reel this beauty in.

Mini Clubman

Quick! Can you name another six-door wagon?

The Mini Clubman is a breath of fresh air against a barrage of boring SUVs, offering something genuinely uncommon and delightful – unbridled Britishness, BMW brains and bonkers packaging.

Yet it seats five, skates along like on rails, packs plenty of turbo punch and feels expensively engineered throughout. That’s due to the German platform smarts below.

A modern Shooting Brake that somehow sidesteps the unrelenting twee retro silliness of its siblings, the Clubman is the coolest new Mini, and the best proportioned. But managing only 282 registrations this year, why isn’t it a success? In a world where BMW shifts ten times more of the similarly-priced 1 Series, that’s one of today’s great motoring mysteries.

SsangYong Korando

Regular readers will know how underrated we believe the SsangYong Korando is, so here’s a reminder.

We lived with a mid-range ELX turbo for a few months last year, and grew fond of its balanced styling, decent interior space, excellent all-round vision, comfortable seating, functional dash, generous equipment, reasonable economy and grunty performance.

Coupled with a seven-year warranty, a better value medium-sized SUV is hard to find. Kia warranty meets Toyota RAV4 packaging for Yaris Cross money makes this suave Korean a conspicuous bargain. Certainly, enough to overlook the overly light and lifeless steering – a foible only really obvious driving hard on a winding road.

But do consumers listen? Evidently no. Just 268 Korandos found homes to the end of September, against nearly 5000 MG HS and almost 30,000 RAV4s. The SsangYong is a far, far better family SUV than those numbers suggest.

Peugeot 508

Like the closely-related 3008 SUV, the 508 is somewhat of an overlooked supermodel, offering a striking and stirring alternative to more mundane sedans like the VW Passat and Honda Accord on the mainstream side, and BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe and Mercedes-Benz A-Class sedans on the other.

Razor sharp in detail, both the liftback or wagon bodies usher in a low-slung sleekness that makes the Peugeot look, feel and drive like a sports sedan, backed up by frameless front doors, sumptuous seating and a cockpit-like dash ensconcing the driver.

There’s agility and athleticism to back the good looks up as well, but with just 89 sold in Australia this year, it’s clear midsized sedan buyers just aren’t interested in non-German Euros. And that’s a pity. The 508 merits a far sunnier fate.

Alfa Romeo Giulia

Enzo Ferrari is famous for saying that when you purchase a Ferrari, you buy an engine and he throws in the car for free.

Now, granted, that early Giulias from 2017 suffered from haphazard quality and a profusion of glitches – and Alfa lovers are doubtlessly sick of hearing this same old story ­– but in 2021 the old rubbish multimedia has been updated, they’re built with better materials and a raft of improvements have been made the Series II facelift the model it should always have been.

Result? If you live for driving, the Giulia is like the wild lovechild of Idris Elba and Cate Blanchett – an otherworldly ingenue with streaks of dynamic genius, in a class that already possesses brilliant but somewhat obvious over-achievers like the latest BMW 3 Series. Which, by the way, is sitting at 3000 sales this year while the (admittedly stock-affected) Italian barely cracks 250.

The beguiling Giulia is one of the greatest sports sedans of all time. Period.


The Mazda6 is a lesson in self-improvement.

Like its other standout Class-of-2012 alumni – Tesla’s Model S – the Japanese sedan still looks incredibly slinky and sexy nearly 10 years after launch, highlighting the underlying rightness of a great design. Yet underneath is a substantially evolved vehicle.

Which is a great thing, because the Mazda mid-sizer seemed half-finished back then, suffering from too much noise, a drab interior and terse ride. Ongoing updates since have fleshed the ‘6’ out to the point that it’s a polished, sophisticated and rewarding experience. Age has not wearied it anywhere as much as you might think.

Still, buyers abandoned sedans yonks ago, leaving the remaining handful to dwell on the fringes. Once they commanded nearly 30 per cent of all sales; nowadays that number is at a historical low of 1.7%, with the Toyota Camry taking 74% of all volume, snaring 10,213 registrations year-to-date. And the Mazda6? It’s in second place at 1200 units for an 8.7% piece of the party pie.

Folks, you don’t know what you’re missing out on.

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