10 cars sold in Malaysia that simply refuse to die

CY Foong · Feb 21, 2021 12:00 PM

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Generally, most cars don’t last a lifetime and most people would generally own a car for a few years before replacing it. Still, there are some cars which are still running years or even decades after they were bought new.

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The writer's nearly 20-year old Waja, not exactly a contender for our list

In fact, for this week’s Top Rank, we wanted to focus on the cars that are generally seen as immortal. Some of them might be considered indestructible and can last a lifetime no matter what is thrown in their way. You could even think of them as the automotive equivalent of a Nokia 3310 (go ask your parents if you’re too young to know what a Nokia is).

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Blocky but we found a more modern and reliable Continental car

Many of these can still be found driving on the road. Some of these can be yours for cheap and parts are still relatively affordable. So, let’s begin with a surprisingly reliable luxobarge.

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Mercedes-Benz W124

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Think of an indestructible Mercedes-Benz and chances are you might be thinking of the W123. As much as I’d like to agree on that, it is quite old. Nothing wrong with an old-school Merc but for something a little more modern, may I suggest its successor, the Mercedes-Benz W124?

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The highly durable M104 engine

The Mercedes-Benz W124 was launched in November 1984 before it was given the E-Class moniker in 1993. Just like many Mercedes-Benz models that were developed in the 1980s, it was over-engineered but it doesn’t come with complex baggage unlike say a W140 S-Class.

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This one's done a mileage of nearly 400k! (Credit: Drive Every Day)

Mercedes-Benz perfected the recipe of reliability on the W124 from its predecessor and as such it’s not surprising to see used ones on sale with a mileage that surpasses 200,000 km. It’s no wonder 2.7 million units were built during its more than ten-year run.

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This one's a rare 300E-24 that was featured in an Owner Review

Granted it’s still a German luxury car and depending on which engine you’re getting, you’re either crying over the high road tax and/or the expensive maintenance cost. Still, it is a durable car and one that you won’t regret with its comfort.

Nissan AD Resort

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Station wagons or estates are not well-received among Malaysians. However, there was a time when station wagons were more popular than pick-up trucks. The Nissan AD Resort was one of the last station wagons offered by a mainstream brand when it was launched in 1993.

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In a way, you could call the AD Resort a wagon version of the legendary Nissan Sentra B13 which once tore around the corners of Genting Highlands as taxis. But the AD Resort’s main selling point was its practicality, not its touge abilities.

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The GA16, not powerful but pretty reliable

Plus, the AD Resort was launched around the time when the Sentra B13 was replaced by the Sentra B14. The AD Resort offered in Malaysia was powered by a 1.6-litre GA16 engine paired to either a 5-speed manual or a 4-speed automatic transmission.

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Even though the AD Resort became a favourite for engine swaps later, the stock GA16 engine was pretty reliable and fuel-efficient. In fact, with its large space in the back, you could set one up for a fishing trip with your pals and used ones are cheap and plentiful.

Nissan C22 Vanette

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Before the Toyota Unser introduced the affordable MPV to many Malaysians, the prime choice of a people carrier was a regular van and none were as iconic as the Nissan C22 Vanette. Introduced in Malaysia in the late eighties, the C22 Vanette was sold by Edaran Tan Chong Motors (ETCM) all the way until 2010.

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That's RM 32,633 in 1992 or roughly RM 65,000 in today's money

In fact, while worldwide production of the C22 Vanette ended in 1994, production continued in Malaysia at ETCM’s plant in Segambut. So much so, that few units were exported overseas.

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Believe it or not, this is a 2009 model

Having been sold for a little more than twenty years, the C22 Vanette was one of the longest-producing models in the country. Though there were a few changes in design with the most notable being the front grille, it kept its eighties interior which though dated, was durable especially for a workhorse.

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Powering the Vanette was an equally ageing 1.5-litre A15 engine that produced 82 PS. Despite being old, it worked its purpose. No wonder it is the prime pasar malam van even until today.

Nissan Sunny 130Y

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The C22 Vanette wasn’t the only long-running model sold by ETCM. While it might be acceptable for a commercial vehicle to go on for a very long time, maybe the same couldn’t be said for the Nissan Sunny 130Y.

Before a certain national car was launched, the battle for the most popular car in Malaysia was between the Toyota Corolla and the Nissan Sunny. Most of the time, it was the Sunny that rose to the top and it culminated with the Sunny 130Y in 1982.

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It has state-of-the-art shock absorber bumpers!

The model was a big hit among Malaysians and even when Proton dominated sales, many buyers still went for the Sunny in a bid to resist the local newcomer. So much so that sales of the Sunny continued until 1996, sold alongside 3 generations of its successor which was badged as the Sentra.

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Despite looking as beautiful as a generic home appliance, the Sunny was as durable as said home appliance. Its 1.3-litre E13 engine was fairly simple to maintain and generally trouble-free. Nowadays, it might be called a beater seeing how cheap they are to buy but at least they can last for a long time.

Perodua Kelisa

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The Kancil was the Malaysian people’s car and its affordable price belied the fact that it was essentially worry-free. However, for this list, we would like to focus on the Malaysian Mini, the Perodua Kelisa.

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Seen as the bigger brother to the Kancil despite both cars being based on the Daihatsu Mira, albeit different generations, the Kelisa was powered by either an 847-cc ED-DE or a 989-cc EJ-DE. Both Daihatsu engines were generally reliable.

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This Kelisa has been with the owner since his childhood. You can read his review here

But what sets these engines from the rest was that they were also very preppy; revving these puppies was not a problem. While the manual transmission did offer a smile on your face with every gear change, the automatic transmission puts a smile on your wallet with its fuel-sipping capabilities.

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It’s no wonder the Kelisa held up its value well in the second-hand market. It’s a wonderful little car for anyone, whether you’re seeking a simple city runabout or a revvy pocket rocket.

Proton Iswara

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Just like the Sunny 130Y, you might consider the Iswara as a beater but with a little more charm. The Proton Iswara was generally seen as a facelifted Proton Saga with a more original Malaysian design but in a way, it has generally improved on Malaysia’s first national car.

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The Iswara was launched in 1992 and kept the Mitsubishi-sourced powertrains in the form of a 1.3-litre (4G13P) or a 1.5-litre (4G15P) Magma engine. However, unlike the original Saga which saw a few powertrain upgrades during its tenure, the Iswara kept the same powertrains until it was replaced by the Saga LMST in 2003.

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That being said, despite using the same powertrains throughout its ten-year production, the Iswara is still a reliable car and parts are still fairly cheap. As most of the parts are mechanical, it’s fairly easy to maintain. Like the saying goes: If it ain’t broke, why fix it?

Proton Wira

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Unlike the Iswara, the Proton Wira was offered with various engines from a 1.3-litre 4G13 engine all the way to a 2.0-litre 4D68 diesel engine. While some of these engines were rare or just highly coveted for their performance, a common theme among them was how reliable they truly were.

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Proton produced 952,216 units of the Wira from 1993 to 2009 but we wouldn’t want to call it a beater just because they’re priced fairly cheap in the used car market. Generally, the Wira is hassle-free to own and parts are still available.

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The 1.6-litre 4G92 engine as seen in a Wira

However, out of the many engines available, we might suggest the 1.6-litre 4G92 as the safest and most balanced out of the powerplants. The 1.8-litre 4G93 is a hearty performance hero but if you wanted a hassle-free everyday kind of car, it’s the middle engine option.

Toyota Corolla SEG AE101

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The Japanese Bubble Era not only produced some weird and legendary vehicles but the period also produced quite possibly the most indestructible Toyota Corolla ever. When the seventh-generation Toyota Corolla, widely known as the Corolla SEG in Malaysia, was developed, it was supposed to be a mini-Lexus.

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Sure, it might look grey but it'll last forever

So not only was it a comfortable Corolla, it was touted as an everyday luxury car. But since we’re talking reliability, it was this generation of the Corolla that became the poster child.

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The SEG was powered by a 1.6-litre 4A-FE engine and though it wasn’t as highly coveted as a 4A-GE, it did come with remarkable reliability. This engine was generally loved by Toyota fans for its easy maintenance and near-flawless durability.

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It’s no wonder then that these Corollas are still on the road with a growing fanbase and support. When was the last time you see one lying abandoned by the road? Probably never.

Toyota Hiace

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Our second commercial vehicle on this list and a lot larger than the C22 Vanette, the Toyota Hiace is the definitive van here in Malaysia. Not counting the numerous Chinese copycats, the Hiace is superbly reliable when it comes to long-lasting engines.

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What a high-miler! (Credit)

We couldn’t simply choose a specific generation of the Hiace, unlike the others. Even the current generation that’s on sale here is pretty reliable seeing that one went viral for reaching a million km on the odometer.

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It’s no surprise that most of these were used as delivery vans which lead to many getting huge mileage on their odometers. The Hiace is powered by numerous engines but the Malaysian units were mainly powered by either a 2.5-litre diesel or a 2.7-litre petrol engine, though the petrol engine is no longer offered here. 

Toyota Hilux

At the turn of the millennium, a trio of child-minded middle-aged men who were hosts of a little motoring show on an island in Europe demonstrated the indestructibility of a plucky Japanese pick-up truck on their program. That was how the legend of the invincibility of the Toyota Hilux began.

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It was even acknowledged by Toyota themselves which started calling the Hilux in the UK as the Invincible. Just like the Hiace, we can’t simply focus on a specific generation of the Hilux for this list.

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While the Hilux that was destroyed on Top Gear was an early model from the eighties, Toyota managed to keep the recipe of reliability even up to the current generation. It has grown from a commercial workhorse to a conqueror of the urban jungle.

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Whether the powerplant is a 2.4-litre turbodiesel or a 2.8-litre turbodiesel, robustness is the Hilux’s specialty. However, as the latest Hilux Rogue shows, reliability and modern features such as safety and convenience can go hand-in-hand.

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Those are the ten most reliable cars that were (and some of them still are) sold in Malaysia. Even though these cars are generally seen as reliable, it still takes proper care and maintenance for them to run smoothly and maybe even forever and ever.

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CY Foong

Writer

Traded advertising for a career that fits his passion for cars. Enjoys spotting cars during his free time and has a soft spot for Japanese Kei cars but drives a thirsty manual sedan.

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