Tales of opposites - Alza's twin, the Passo Sette has to die for Toyota Sienta to thrive
Eric · Jul 20, 2021 01:00 PM
To the average Malaysian, picking an MPV for their family needs mostly boils down to brand and model, with little emphasis paid to whether said MPV has sliding doors or hinged doors.
The same cannot be said for the Japanese market. A hallmark for Japanese market MPVs is the availability of sliding doors. It doesn’t matter if the doors are power-operated or manual, having sliding doors over regular hinged doors is a must for the model to succeed in Japan.
Simple – parking spaces in Japan are tight. Never mind a tiny kei car, MPVs with regular hinged doors will have difficulties opening their doors in tight parking spots – an issue that does not affect sliding door MPVs.
For those familiar with Japanese culture would also know that Japanese instinctively treat doors as sliding, as with the case of sliding doors in their homes. It's all about optimizing available space, as sliding doors take up less space than hinged doors.
Take for example the Toyota Passo Sette (sold here as the Perodua Alza). It replaced the Toyota Sienta in 2008, but due to the lack of sliding doors, sales were abysmal. Sales were so bad that Toyota pulled the plug on the Passo Sette after just four years. Toyota resorted to reviving the Sienta as a temporary measure until the new-generation model came along.
Needless to say, the second-generation Toyota Sienta and its sliding doors proved to be a crowd-favourite in Japan, as it often ranks in Japan’s top-20 best-selling cars every month.
Which other models were less-than-successful?
But it was not just the Passo Sette that was affected by the wrong choice of doors. Hinged door MPVs such as the Toyota Wish and Honda Stream, were outsold and outlived by their sliding door rivals, like the Nissan Serena, Toyota Voxy, and Honda Freed - all of which are still on sale in Japan until today.
These days, if you are in Japan and want a brand-new MPV from Toyota, Honda, Mitsubishi, or Nissan, your only option is a sliding door model. The big-four do not offer any more hinged door MPVs in their line-up.
Malaysians are a weird bunch
As practical as sliding door MPVs may be, MPV buyers in Malaysia are the total opposite. Hinged doors MPVs like the Honda Stream and Toyota Wish are still popular amongst used car buyers in Malaysia, unlike the more practical, sliding door-equipped Toyota Sienta and Honda Freed.
Due to sluggish sales, Honda Malaysia discontinued the Freed in mid-2014, slightly over a year after the facelifted model was launched. The Toyota Sienta also did not fare any better, as Toyota axed the Sienta in 2019, just three years after the model was launched in Malaysia.
Although the Toyota Passo Sette (and its Daihatsu sibling, the Daihatsu Boon Luminas) was deemed as a flop in Japan, its Malaysian derivative, the Perodua Alza, has remained as a popular choice for many Malaysian families.