As the Honda Jazz leaves, we check out 12 legendary models that were once popular in Malaysia

CY Foong · Dec 11, 2021 04:00 PM

As the Honda Jazz leaves, we check out 12 legendary models that were once popular in Malaysia 01

  • These models are still highly regarded and missed by Malaysians.
  • From the popular Nissan Sunny to the infamous Proton Satria.
  • How many of them do you recognise?

The Honda City Hatchback’s recent launching marked the end of the Jazz in Malaysia. Malaysia's favourite tall hatchback follows the line of countless other models that were once regaled among Malaysians.

As the Honda Jazz leaves, we check out 12 legendary models that were once popular in Malaysia 02

Can the City Hatchback achieve the same success as the Jazz in Malaysia?

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.

Also read: Goodbye Honda Jazz, it’s been a great run

The one that led an Evolution

As the Honda Jazz leaves, we check out 12 legendary models that were once popular in Malaysia 01

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.

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RWD Lancer EX (top) and FWD Lancer F (bottom)

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).

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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.

Also read: The Saga continues: Proton Saga, 1.8 million units later

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Performance-enhanced Lancers, Evo X (top) and Lancer Sportback (bottom)

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.

Also read: From RM 33k, the Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback is a forgotten gem of a hot hatch

As the Honda Jazz leaves, we check out 12 legendary models that were once popular in Malaysia 05

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.

Also read: Used Proton Inspira for RM 20k! This or the Mitsubishi Lancer?

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Though it's considered a tenth-gen model, the Taiwanese Grand Lancer is mostly redesigned from the ninth-gen

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.

Also read: More Mitsubishi hybrids planned for ASEAN, Xpander Hybrid by 2023

This little car was a hit, way before the Kancil

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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.

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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.

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Second-gen Charade advertised

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.

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The third-gen which was called the Charade Aura helped to continue the hatchback’s popularity in the mid-to-late-eighties.

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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.

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Unlike in Indonesia, Daihatsu Malaysia only sells commercial vehicles like the Gran Max

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.

Also read: 4 months wait list for 2022 Perodua Myvi AV facelift, deliveries to speed up in 2022

An SUV that’s more popular than the Pajero?

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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.

Also read: The first Mitsubishi Pajero - from Paris Dakar Rally champ to progenitor of family SUVs

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Isuzu Bighorn shown

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.

Also read: All-new 2021 Isuzu MU-X is more than just a D-Max with 7 seats

What’s the predecessor to the Camry?

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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.

Also read: 50 mil cars later, here are 12 reasons why the Toyota Corolla remains strong

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The third-gen Corona set a benchmark for modern Toyotas and Japanese cars

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.

Also read: German cars are better? Korean cars are bad? Here are top-5 myths on German vs Japanese/Korean cars.

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6th-gen T130 Corona shown

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.

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The 9th-gen T170 Corona that some Malaysians might be familiar with

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

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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.

Also read: Proton sales surpass 100k units third-year running – More than 4,000 X50s delivered in November

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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.

Also read: It’s time to stop using the term national cars to describe Proton and Perodua

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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.

Also read: Top Rank: 12 rare and unique Proton Satria and Satria Neo models

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The Satria Neo R3 Lotus Racing Edition might be a mouthful but it's the ultimate Satria Neo

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.

Also read: Your first 'dating' car, Proton Satria Neo from RM 10k, how much to fix?

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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.

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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.

Also read: Proton Perdana 'Accordana' for RM 50k; Proton price for Honda reliability?

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Next Perdana? Don't hold your hopes up

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.

Also read: Can Geely's new Proton Perdana revitalise the D-segment? Or is it too little too late?

Nissans that were and still are highly regarded

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Clockwise from top left: Sunny, Sentra, Bluebird, and Cefiro

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.

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The 120Y Sunny, Malaysia's best-selling car in the 1970s

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.

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The infamous "Genting taxi" Sentra

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.

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The last-gen Sentra that was sold here

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.

Also read: RM 17k buys you the most comfortable C-segment sedan, the Nissan Sylphy

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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.

Also read: Buying a used Nissan Teana (L33) - a supremely comfortable sedan, from RM 55k

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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.

Also read: 6 reasons why the Nissan Cefiro A31 is more than just an affordable drift machine

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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.

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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.

Also read: Review: The Toyota Camry (XV70) is the sports sedan old minds will refuse to acknowledge

Which American brand was a success in Malaysia?

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Laser (top) and Telstar

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.

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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.

Also read: Favoured among playboys, the Mazda Astina is a headlight-flipping 90s icon

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This generation of the TX3 was also known as the sampan

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.

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Europe had the Mondeo ST, Americans had the Taurus SHO, Malaysians were blessed with the Lynx RS

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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Can you guess our favourite generation of the Jazz?

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.

Also read: The Honda Jazz was once sold as an Isuzu SUV as part of a one-sided partnership

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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