Tales of opposites - Alza's twin, the Passo Sette has to die for Toyota Sienta to thrive

Eric · Jul 20, 2021 01:00 PM

Tales of opposites - Alza's twin, the Passo Sette has to die for Toyota Sienta to thrive 01

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.

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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.

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But why sliding doors over hinged doors?

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2.9 meters is considered as wide by Japanese standards. Image credit: Hamanigreen

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. 

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Typical Japanese sliding door. Credit: Flickr

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. 

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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.

Also Read: Designed for women? How the Toyota Passo Sette turned from flop into the Perodua Alza?

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Top: Honda Freed, Bottom: Toyota Sienta

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?

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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.

Also Read: Poor door choices are what killed off the Toyota Wish and Honda Stream

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Clockwise from top left: Toyota Roomy, Toyota Alphard, Honda Freed, and Toyota Voxy

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

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Malaysians still love these hinged door MPVs

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. 

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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.

Also Read: Toyota Sienta discontinued in Malaysia as new model launched in Thailand

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Funnily enough, used car prices of the Sienta and Freed continue to hold strong, indicating that there are people shopping for used versions of these MPVs. 

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Facelifted Toyota Sienta pictured

Despite the discontinuation of these sliding door MPVs in Malaysia, they still live on overseas. 

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Taiwanese Toyota Sienta pictured

Within this region, the Sienta is a slow seller in Thailand and Indonesia, but in countries like Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore, the Sienta is a very popular choice.

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As for the second-generation Honda Freed, it remains as Japan-only affair. 

Also Read: Cars like the Honda Freed are freeing people in Hong Kong from the travel ban

A flop in Japan, but still welcomed in Malaysia

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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.

Also Read: Perodua Alza – Just how old is it again?

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Now in its twelfth year of production, the end is nearing for the current-generation Alza as Perodua is already working on a replacement model. 

Considering that the cost to develop sliding doors isn't cheap and the lack of potential buyers here in Malaysia, sliding doors are unlikely to be found on the next-gen Perodua Alza.

Also Read: Next-gen 2022 Perodua Alza to get 6 airbags and AEB

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