There are numerous factors for these models’ eventual exit or demise even though they were very popular. We’ll take a look at a few of them, detailing their rise in popularity and eventual downfall. We’ve already written an obituary on the Jazz so we’ll instead begin with a model that gave rise to a Malaysian hero.
The Mitsubishi Lancer is recognised more with an Evolution badge by fans. Way before it became an inspiration for Wira and Inspira owners though, the regular Lancer was highly sought after among Malaysians.
The Lancer was first brought into Malaysia in 1974 by the Cycle & Carriage (C&C) Group as the Colt Lancer but its popularity peaked with the second-generation Lancer EX. Interestingly enough, the rear-wheel-drive (RWD) Lancer EX was sold alongside the front-wheel-drive (FWD) Lancer F that was sold by another distributor (C&C sold the EX while United Cycle sold the F).
The Lancer F would eventually spawn into the Proton Saga which ended the Lancer’s presence in Malaysia. Though there were recond models brought over (mostly Evolutions) in the nineties, Mitsubishi Motors Malaysia’s (MMM) return into Malaysia would see the Lancer make a second comeback officially.
The eighth-gen Lancer would be among the first models launched by MMM in 2005 but the true renaissance for the nameplate would come from its boxy successor. For the first and only time, that ninth-gen Lancer was sold officially with two designs, the regular sedan and the sleeper hot hatch Lancer Sportback.
But this second wave of popularity would be cut short. First by the Proton Inspira which would undercut the Lancer’s price and spawn a conversion movement and next by Mitsubishi’s own financial issues.
The Lancer would be discontinued in every market around the world in 2017 with the exception of Taiwan. With Mitsubishi focusing on electric vehicles and SUVs, it’s unlikely that we’ll see the Lancer making a return at least as a sedan.
Perodua’s partnership with Daihatsu might sound like a perfect match but before the whole second national car project was tabled, Daihatsu was already winning fans in Malaysia. This rang true, especially among first-time buyers and nothing represented them more than the Daihatsu Charade.
The Charade was sold in Malaysia for 4 generations from 1979 to 2002. During those 4 generations, the Charade grew from a humble and fuel-efficient runabout to a trendy little number.
Advertisements for the first two generations of the Charade mainly harped on the impressive fuel economy, rated at 19 km/L for the first-gen and 22 km/L for the second-gen. That and the affordable price made it a massive hit among urban dwellers and fresh grads, especially the ladies.
The third-gen which was called the Charade Aura helped to continue the hatchback’s popularity in the mid-to-late-eighties.
However, as the nineties rolled in and Perodua was introduced, Daihatsu’s presence in the passenger car market took a back seat. The Charade Espri that was introduced in 1994 might look like a favourite among city slickers but it’s simply not as popular as its predecessors.
After 2002, Daihatsu Malaysia only focused on commercial vehicles while its passenger car market was taken over by Perodua. In a way, the Charade's spiritual successor is the Myvi but the latter's popularity is simply leagues ahead.
Though the Mitsubishi Pajero is the quintessential father of modern SUVs in Malaysia, its popularity back in the day was usurped by the Isuzu Trooper. Both models were launched in Malaysia in 1983 but the Trooper would outsell the Pajero for the first few years.
The Trooper initially arrived with only a 3-door body style but it wasn’t a short-wheelbase model like the early Pajero. So, it became quite a hit among government officers with the police, army, agricultural, and road works departments using the Trooper in their fleet.
Eventually, those same governing bodies would add the Pajero to their arsenal but the fight between Isuzu and Mitsubishi in the Malaysian SUV Wars of the 1980s was tight. This would continue into the 1990s with both second-generation models introduced.
In a bid to “expand” its line-up, Isuzu would introduce higher variants of the Trooper with different names. First, those higher-grade models were called the Citation before they were replaced by the Bighorn. Both models are powered by a V6 petrol engine - 3.2-litre in the Citation and 3.5-litre in the Bighorn.
By the time the new millennium came, the old-school big and bulky SUVs were seen as outdated as buyers began to embrace more compact crossovers. The Isuzu Trooper would eventually be replaced by the MU-X many years later but it couldn’t match the Trooper’s popularity and was discontinued here.
The Toyota Corona might have an unfortunate name that is associated with watered-down beer for the racing family an ever-evolving virus but it laid the blueprint for the Corolla’s long-running success.
Though the Corona was first introduced in 1957, it would take another 7 years for the model to truly find its footing with the third-gen T40. This Corona would help revolutionise Toyota and the image of Japanese cars from there on out.
The Corona was a popular model in Malaysia too with it sitting above the Corolla in terms of pricing. It was also assembled locally (CKD) all the way up till the ninth-generation and would be replaced by the Toyota Camry in the early nineties.
The Corona continued being sold in other markets until the 11th-generation in 2001. Despite being an important model that shaped Toyota, the Corona’s story ends there with an anonymous-looking generation.
A couple of Malaysian past masters
Though Proton is currently on a positive turnaround, its execs must be wishing they had the same dominance from 25 years ago when the Malayan Tiger held a major foothold in the country’s automotive sales.
Still, for all the flack that the first national carmaker was getting, it did make some icons during those “glory” days. The Proton Satria and Proton Perdana are some of those iconic models that still resonate with fans.
The Satria was Proton’s successful attempt at attracting youthful buyers with its modern and curvy looks that were hip and trendy in the nineties. The hatchback opened up plenty of tuning and engine swapping opportunities as well as producing Malaysia’s first hot hatch.
Though the Satria Neo lacked a GTi model, it kept the Satria’s mantra. While the initial CamPro engine was more of a hindrance, later updates to the unit revealed the potential of Proton’s VTEC. Like its predecessor, the Satria Neo also received praises from reviewers and tuning opportunities.
Meanwhile, the Perdana was Proton’s entry into the more exclusive D-segment. As Proton’s flagship, it was packed with features that aren’t even found on more expensive rivals. Initially offered with a 2.0-litre 4-cylinder unit, that was soon to be replaced with the more powerful and iconic 2.0-litre V6 engine.
The Perdana would later evolve from a Mitsubishi Galant/Eterna-based model to becoming a rebadged Honda Accord. Called Accordana by the press and Malaysians in general, the second-gen Perdana would continue serving high-ranking Malaysian government officials much to the chagrin of some.
Sadly, as iconic as these Protons were, it is unlikely we’ll see a successor for either model. Proton already has one hatchback in its line-up which is struggling in sales and even though the Geely Preface could preview the next-gen Perdana, it might not come to Malaysia as sales of D-segment sedans has been dwindling.
Nissan’s fall from grace is a sad and cautionary tale but the brand is slowly trying to claw itself back with some great-looking cars. Even so, it will never climb back to those glory days in Malaysia.
Though the previous-gen N17 Almera was popular, it wasn’t well-liked by most Malaysians unlike its long-running predecessor, the Nissan Sunny. First introduced here in 1970, the Sunny would top the country’s best-selling list for over a decade until the Saga was introduced.
Due to the Sunny’s popularity, it would be reduced to being a budget model in ETCM’s line-up until the mid-90s. Along the way, its replacement would be badged as the Sentra and its legend was etched in stone by Genting taxi drivers who would speed up and down the hills putting some drivers to shame.
The Sentra would continue for five generations in the country and would be replaced by the Sylphy. In spite of the Sylphy’s great levels of comfort, it would only last for two generations in Malaysia as ETCM focused more on crossovers and SUVs.
Another Nissan sedan that won’t make a return here is the Teana. It too only lasted for a few generations but its predecessors were beloved by its numerous owners who still keep them in their car porches.
Though the Cefiro would grow out from its drivers’ oriented RWD set-up for a more sedated and conventional FWD layout, it became a favourite among Malaysians who wanted a taste of luxury combined with reliability and affordability.
But even before the Cefiro, there was another Nissan D-segment sedan that offered similar levels of luxury in a wallet-friendly combo. The Bluebird complimented the Sunny as a more upmarket model in ETCM’s Datsun/Nissan line-up and competed against the Corona.
Yet, the Bluebird would not last as long as the Sunny/Sentra in Malaysia and its final generation was sold here as the Bluebird Altima which was sold until the mid-1990s. The Altima was discontinued and subsequently replaced by the A32 Cefiro which would be the default ‘unclemobile’ at least until the XV30 Camry.
Even though the Ford Laser and Ford Telstar were essentially rebadged Mazdas underneath, both models would definitely stir up the hearts of some of our older readers.
Of the two, the Ford Laser wasn’t just more revered, it was also among the country’s most popular cars. The Laser was a rebadged Mazda 323 but it had one cool-sounding variant that seemed to be out of some 80s sci-fi film.
Back in the days when hot hatches were mostly European and expensive, the American Blue Oval offered what sounded impossible among Malaysians when the Laser TX3 was introduced. Here was a hot hatch that can be afforded by aspiring boy racers and as a result many were wrecked by those racing wannabes too.
The Laser would continue into the 1990s as the Lynx. Though the TX3 would be dropped, Ford wasn’t quite done with putting some performance into its cat with the Lynx RS that was powered by a naturally-aspirated 2.0-litre engine (140 PS/192 Nm).
As for the Ford Telstar, it was essentially a Mazda 626 underneath but was more popular in Malaysia (and Australia) than its Japanese twin. Like the Laser, it too came with a sporty-ish variant called the TX5 which was simply a 5-door hatchback.
Since the Telstar was targeted at more upmarket buyers, comfort and luxury were the main selling points. Nothing represented those traits on the Blue Oval quite like the Ghia badge which was placed on the highest variants of the Telstar.
However, the Telstar would not continue into the new millennium, unlike the Laser. Sales of both models would eventually end not just in Malaysia but overseas as Ford decided to unify its global line-up as one under the One Ford initiative.
Those are some of the legendary models that were once popular in Malaysia. Most of these names will never make a return or perhaps they might be revived for an entirely different model. After all, even the Jazz name was used on a completely different model altogether.